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1953 LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMS OF THE AMERICAN LEGION, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS, DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS, AMERICAN VETERANS OF WORLD WAR II, AND UNITED SPANISH WAR VETERANS
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1953
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C.
The committee met at 10 a. m. in the committee room of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Hon. Edith Nourse Rogers (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will please come to order.
I regret very much that there are some who are obliged to be away because they are making Lincoln Day addresses. They expressed very great regret, Mr. Commander, that they could not be here today, but it was considered advisable to hold the meeting because I know the country, as well as the veterans, wants to know what you recommend regarding the welfare of the veterans.
It is a great pleasure to have you with us today, Commander.
I wish the Members of Congress from California and elsewhere would sit in the vacant seats here on the rostrum. We have a number of distinguished Congressmen here.
We are very glad to welcome back to the committee on which he served so diligently and well the very able Member from California, Mr. Scudder. While I regret that I cannot make the encomiums here for the Californians on the presentation of the national commander of the American Legion, I know Mr. Scudder will do a far better job. Mr. Scudder.
Mr. SCUDDER. Mrs. Rogers, gentlemen of the committee, and friends, I have a distinct pleasure today to present a Californian who has risen high in the ranks of veterans and who has done a marvelous job during those comparatively few years of active service. He was elected department commander of California and served with distinction in that position. Then nationally he was recognized and was the national vice commander, and then last August he was given the high honor of being made the national commander of the American Legion.
This man has given unselfishly of his time. Since taking office, he has traveled an average of about 25,000 miles a month in the interest of veterans. Last fall he made a trip that took almost a month, going to the Far East and there seeing first-hand conditions which exist among the men who are now defending our philosophy in Korea and in the Orient.
We are always proud in California to welcome those who desire to come to our State, but we are doubly proud of our native sons whose parents saw the light many years ago and came to our far western State.
You know, across the front of one of the large departmental buildings in California there is a slogan which has been embedded in stone which says:
Give us men to match our mountains.
We are proud of the majestic mountains of California. When you elected a man as national commander, you elected a man who matches our mountains. I know that he will continue to do big things in veterans' work, and as time goes on we will recognize one of the greatest commanders in the history of the American Legion.
It gives me a great pleasure today to be privileged to present Lewis K. Gough, national commander of the American Legion. Commander Gough.
STATEMENT OF LEWIS K. GOUGH, NATIONAL COMMANDER, THE AMERICAN LEGION, ACCOMPANIED BY T. 0. KRAABEL, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REHABILITATION COMMISSION; CHARLES W. STEVENS, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REHABILITATION COMMISSION; DR. H. D. SHAPIRO, SENIOR MEDICAL CONSULTANT, NATIONAL REHABILITATION COMMISSION; AND CLARENCE H. OLSON, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION
Mr. GOUGH. Madam Chairman, members of the committee, Hubert, thank you so much for that introduction.
History seems to repeat itself. I recall in 1950, when you presented me to the members of your community in Eureka, when I was State commander of the American Legion. At that time you gave me a glowing obituary, the same as you have this morning. I am deeply appreciative, You have now qualified me as an expert, an expert in how to live out of a suitcase.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Commander, my understanding is that you would prefer to make your statement without interruption; is that correct?
Mr. GOUGH. If I may.
The CHAIRMAN. In order that it may be all together.
Mr. GOUGH. A written statement has been prepared.
I will be very happy, of course, to elaborate and answer any questions I can. A written statement has been prepared and presented to you. With that is a summary of the American Legion resolutions from our last convention last August in New York City, which furnished the basis of the legislation which we have prepared and which has been presented to the 1st session of the 83d Congress.
(The information is as follows:)
STATEMENT OF LEWIS K. GOUGH, NATIONAL COMMANDER, THE AMERICAN LEGION
Madam Chairman and members of the committee, when the House of Representatives established your committee, it was performing a positive action to give specialized and continuous attention to the manner in which the Federal Government handles veterans' benefits and services.
Indeed, I am only following an accepted tradition when I, as national commander of the American Legion, begin my statement regarding our legislative program for this session of Congress by voicing my personal and official opinion that your committee has ever conducted its business for the general welfare of the Nation with special attention to veterans' affairs in a manner that fully justifies the action of Congress in creating your committee.
Particularly do we renew our statements of respect and admiration for the new chairman, who has had a vast experience in studying and considering the problems which are common to you and to us; and we have only the highest regard for her associates of the committee, whose experience has proved so valuable in the work of the group.
We are conscious that this meeting with you is our first major appearance before a new Congress in an administration which has changed its political complexion since last we were before you. If it is not improper, we should like to express a word of welcome to the new Members. We know the tenor of the legislative thinking in this new administration only in the broadest general outline. We are with you in the hope that ways may be found to increase efficiency and to reduce costs in the operation of the Federal Government.
Beyond that point we have not had the opportunity to learn how your committee and the Congress will act upon specific programs that are placed before you for consideration,
We would like to be permitted to suggest that this hearing is for the purpose of presenting the American Legion's general plan of legislation as it will come before your committee during the current session of Congress. We appreciate the fact that, were we here on any one specific bill, we would naturally expect to go into exhaustive detail and offer substantiating data. For that reason, and also appreciating the fact that the other major veterans' organizations are presenting their respective programs this morning, we have refrained from going into very much detail on any of our specific recommendations.
WE THINK IT IS TIME FOR A POSITIVE COURSE OF ACTION
In recent years there has been a steady deterioration in the confidence of the public, of some segments of the Congress, and to a greater or lesser degree of the executive branch of the Government, in matters pertaining to veterans' affairs. Committees of Congress and commissions created by authority of Congress, such supported in large part by private organizations and by the public press, have conducted one campaign following another against the manner in which veterans' affairs are conducted in the Federal Government.
It seems to us that all interested parties have now had an opportunity to study the results and recommendations that have come from these official and quasi-official groups. In some instances Congress has written new legislation, particularly in the fields of veterans' insurance and veterans' education and training, as a result of such investigations.
Above and beyond the legislation to which I have just referred, there have been found instances in which individuals and groups have loosely administered the duties and responsibilities assigned to them in the Veterans' Administration. In view of the great number of employees who have handled veterans' affairs and the great number of individuals and institutions which have sought benefits from the principal agency handling veterans' affairs, it is gratifying to note the small percentage of defections.
Without in the slightest degree condoning the faults of those who have been found wanting, it should be a comfort to all concerned to know that no investigating group has found any major compromise with the laws that Congress has provided for the distribution of benefits and service to the veteran.
We think, therefore, that the time has come for the adoption of a positive attitude in dealing with veterans' affairs.
Our organization is committed to the simple, unadorned statement of principle which says that the cost of veterans' affairs is a direct, if delayed, cost of war. The fact that the costs of veterans' affairs is a direct, if delayed, cost of after the guns of war have been stilled should not confuse any thinking American as to the origin of such charges.
It is a popular thing to say that the veteran population is becoming too large and that therefore there should be a reduction in the number and amounts of benefits and services to the veterans.
Such a position overlooks the fact that our veteran population rises in direct proportion to the increase in our military commitments and actions. The costs
of caring for the disabled and their dependents have not increased disproportionately to the rising cost of war, to the rising cost of civilian living, or to the increasing income of our Nation.
If it is trite it is nevertheless true to say that our veterans didn't start the wars. They only fought them.
If it is trite it is nevertheless true to say that those who begrudge the cost of benefits and services to veterans would have lost the right to make any statement if a nation rich and strong and powerful as is ours had not been preserved by those who are our veterans.
It was gratifying to hear our new President, in his message on the state of the Union, reveal his views; and at this time I would like to include in my statement this portion of his speech:
“I repeat that there are many important subjects of which I make no mention today. Among these is our great and growing body of veterans. America has traditionally been generous in caring for the disabled and the widow and orphan of the fallen. These millions remain close to all our hearts. Proper care of our uniformed citizens and appreciation of the past service of our veterans are part of our accepted governmental responsibilities."
THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION CAN BE IMPROVED
In every office where the Veterans' Administration is functioning there is a representative of the American Legion performing day-to-day services for the veteran and his dependents.
No day passes without some suggestion going from the American Legion for the administrative improvement of the operations of the Veterans' Administration. While we approve the retention of the Veterans' Administration as the single Federal agency to handle veterans' affairs, we are at no time completely satisfied with the manner in which that agency functions.
We have studied the reports of the various groups which have reported adversely on the Veterans' Administration. We have seen the defects in the recommendations which would have dismembered the Veterans' Administration. We have presented to the Congress the result of our thinking in such matters. We know there are bills already presented to the 83d Congress which would renew such proposals of dismemberment. We doubt that your committee would be a party to the reintroduction of such proposals. At the proper time and place we shall place before Congress our objections to such proposals.
As a part of our program to secure a positive approach in the matter of dealing with veterans' affairs, we should like to call your attention to a series of recommendations proposing a reorganization of the Veterans' Administration included in a monograph presented to the public by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs.
It is the thinking of the American Legion that this positive set of recommendations has been too long delayed. Nevertheless, the proposed reorganization is in line with our idea that now is the time for positive action.
Most of you have seen this monograph, which was announced by the Adminis trator of Veterans' Affairs last November 26. These recommendations of the Administrator have these positive values:
This would mean mak
1. They can be placed in operation administratively. ing use of the authority previously granted by the Congress to the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs.
2. The recommendations have the advantage of being a comprehensive acceptance of the things which can be done for the good of veterans' affairs within the framework of the existing Veterans' Administration.
3. The Congress, the public, and other groups of citizens would thus have the opportunity to see a reorganization tried in practice and without the disruptive experience of tearing down old agencies and creating new ones at greater cost to the American taxpayer. If definite improvement is not achieved through placing such recommendations in effect, then it would be possible to correct the existing defects by other action.
4. The proposed reorganization has the advantage of selecting from the investigatory reports made since 1947 these recommendations which seem to portend the greatest group of administrative improvements.
5. We hope that your committee will find it possible to give the greatest consideration to these administrative recommendations of the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs. For too long such an official has considered it unethical to
make recommendations regarding veterans' affairs. We are glad to see this tardy correction of such an attitude.
Our own staff has studied the Administrator's reorganization plan. Along with our study of this plan we have given some consideration to the changes that are already being placed in effect in the operation of the Veterans' Administration. We disagree with the Administrator regarding some of the details of the plans. We want to give further study to others. But in broad general principle we can see that they will build a framework on which the agency itself can go forward in a positive manner.
The Administrator already has the value of our thinking with regard to this proposed reorganization of the Veterans' Administration. If, as we hope, the plan is given whatever final authority is necessary so that it can be placed in operation, then we hope there will be a holiday from consideration of other legislative and administrative proposals which would have the effect of lessening the chance for success of the current Gray proposals for an administrative reorganization. This is not to say that we oppose further changes in the plan, nor to suggest that it is ever improper to question the operation of any public trust. We do reiterate our suggestion that it is time for positive action, for an abandonment of suspicion and distrust, and for restoration of confidence in those public officials who are sincerely working for the best interests of all concerned.
FEDERAL BOARD OF HOSPITALIZATION
Experience has taught that errors have been made in the location and in the number of certain types of hospitals constructed for the Federal medical and surgical care of the disabled veteran.
It is our considered opinion that there should be created a Federal Board of Hospitalization with sufficient authority to prevent the repetition of such errors in the future.
There is no secret in the knowledge that greater emphasis must be given the medical and surgical needs of the mentally disturbed, of the tuberculous, of those suffering from the catastrophic diseases such as cancer and arthritis, and of the chronic illnesses among the aging veterans.
Attention can be given these factors insofar as the authorization of further Federal veterans' hospitals is concerned through a strong Federal Board of Hospitalization.
We shall continue to oppose the efforts of those who submit proposals for a Federal Board of Hospitalization which have as their purpose the desire to create a superagency controlling the administration of the Veterans' Administration Department of Medicine and Surgery.
STABILIZATION SHOULD BE PROVIDED FOR VETERANS' PROGRAMS
In the past the Veterans' Administration has been critically assailed for policies not under its control. The Veterans' Administration has been given no credit for the fact that, while almost every other public agency has operated at increased cost, the cost of veterans' benefits and services has declined by 38 percent since 1947, while the veteran population has continued to climb.
That is no mean accomplishment. Those who view the future costs of veterans' benefits and services with such dark pessimism might well give consideration to this officially recorded fact.
To the extent that your committee's jurisdiction covers the questions involved, we would ask and urge that you do what you can to see that a stabilized plan of operation is granted the Veterans' Administration by the Congress.
These factors we consider important; and the pertinent changes are, in our opinion, desirable:
1. If the Veterans' Administration is to be harshly criticized in public for its shortcomings, then such roadblocks as the nonprofessional control of medicine and surgery as practiced in the slide-rule consideration of medical and hospital programs by protected employees in the Bureau of the Budget should be removed.
2. It is imperative that the Veterans' Administration, now practicing medicine and surgery second to none, be given adequate funds to operate the beds that have been provided by the Congress.
Every American family which has had to pay for hospital and surgical treatment within the past 2 years knows the high cost of such care and treatment. How inconsistent it is to maintain, day after day, month after month, year after