Page images
PDF
EPUB

Columbia, because it would take me too long, as I have only had two years in high school. The State law requires four years high schooling. Therefore I would have to complete to the satisfaction of the State board my high schooling. I do not need that other education which I would have to have were I to become an optometrist. I just want to become a salesman for all kinds of optical goods in the capacity of traveling salesman.

That required knowledge I can secure at this American Institute of Optometry. It is a recommended school, according to many practicing optometrists in this city. This school can equip me in the shortest possible time for the position that is open for me. I am unemployed, awaiting compensation and training.

GEORGE E. MARTINS. Mr. WICKERSHAM. These cases and similar cases are, in general, the same class of subjects that we had in mind at the conference in December. I would like to suggest for the committee's consideration two remedies, first, that the work of the War Risk Bureau, the Vocational Training Board, and the Public Health Service, so far as it affects service men, be combined in one bureau or one department of the Government. In that way you eliminate a certain amount of duplication or waste and the red tape. As I have said already, there are some cases where a man has to deal with the Bureau of War Risk Insurance and with the Federal Vocational Training Board and perhaps with the Public Health Service, and he gets mixed up. He can not carry the distinctions in his mind and does not make any distinction in his mind. He is thinking of the Government, and that is all.

The CHAIRMAN. You heard Senator Smoot the night to which you referred a little earlier. He makes the suggestion of the decentralization of the War Risk Insurance, giving the compensation end to the Pension Bureau and the insurance feature to the Post Office Department, and the rehabilitation matter was not there discussed, but the allotment and allowance to continue with the Army and Navy. That would be quite different from your suggestion here.

Mr. WICKERSIAM. My information was that the Senator afterwards changed his mind. I am not sure about that. He did not tell me so himself. But I heard afterwards that he had changed his mind on that exact point.

In the first place, the disadvantages of the system are that half the time a man does not know who he is dealing with. Secondly, we are unable to get the further advantages that I am about to suggest in the scheme of having all the work combined in one bureau er one department, and that is that that bureau shall have branch offices in every State.

The CHAIRMAN. That was, then, the recommendation of the former commission here, the Hughes Commission.

Mr. WICKERSIAM. That the branch bureaus or branch offices in each State shall have full authority to act and to act at once all cases that come before them under general rules established by the central office before they refer the particular case to Washington.

The CHAIRMAN. That is your recommendation for eliminating some of the red tape that you mentioned a while ago?

Mr. WICKERSIAM. Precisely.

In addition to the branch offices, local boards, perhaps this could be worked out through the local posts of the American Legion: I do not know, perhaps not, but that local boards be constituted similar to what I am told is the crganization in England. I have not been

in England since it went into effect and I do not know of my own knowledge, but my information is that local boards are constituted in small communities composed of two or three responsible persons and that the men go before them. They know the men personally, anyway, and know all about them. Personal contact is established. The board has a fund at its disposal from which it can draw at once without waiting for any further authority.

After disposing of a man's case and giving him such compensation as he needs and arranging for such training as he needs, the board then forwards to the central office the forms and receipts for the payments to the men together with the certificate of what they have done to the central office in London. That is, instead of making a man wait for all his money while the performance is gone throughthat is, of course, necessary to the central office—the local board is given authority, within certain limits, I suppose, to help the man out immediately, and then draw against the central office on the man's receipt or his certificate as the case may be.

The CHAIRMAN. In that case, the local office would have its business with the central office, just as it is now, rather than with the Government itself?

Mr. WICKERS HAM. Yes.

The CHAIRMAN. In other words, the Government must deal with the central office. The Government itself could not know the local office.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I think the way they worked it out was to have commissioners—I do not know whether they call them commissioners or not, but representatives of the central office through the country to find out-and these representative persons in the particular communities had authority to appoint them as the local board to deposit the necessary funds against which they can draw. Now, of course, that is very much easier to do in a country of small territory like England than it is in this country, but perhaps it could be worked out through a State branch office of the bureau.

The CHAIRMAN. The question that would arise in my mind immediately would be whether there would be any uniformity of the findings of the section in New York with the section down in Texas or in San Francisco, or whether there would not be a great variety of findings as to the eligibility for training. Mr. WICKERSHAM. It certainly would not be any greater than ex

The CHAIRMAN. Your suggestion is worth looking into, I am sure, and we are very glad to have it.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I am very glad to answer any questions that occur to you in connection with this, because I have asked the chairman of the national legislative committee of the American Legion, Mr. Thomas W. Miller, to prepare a bill along those general lines. I had not taken up with him the English feature but the feature of combining the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, the Vocational Training, and the Public Health Service, so far as it protects the service Inen or women in one bureau or department, so as to establish first a chain of responsibility.

The CHAIRMAN. Are you acquainted with the Canadian system?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I am not; no, sir. With a branch office in every State with authority to act on cases under general rules estab

its now.

lished by the central office and within each case the War Risk Insurance duplicate records of the men who live in that State, so that when the man wants to find out something about his insurance his inquiry does not have to go into Washington into a great mill where there are thousands of employees, and many rooms, and thousands, and perhaps millions of files, with the consequent delay.

Mr. Sears. Right there, would you avoid that delay if you put it into the direction of War Risk Insurane, because they have thousands and thousands of names that will never take vocational training. Would it not perhaps be more complicated? If I recall, there has been a bill introduced ?

Mr. WICKERSHAM, The Wason bill.
Mr. SEARS. To let the Pension Bureau take care of them.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. There are two bills, the Wason and the Rogers bills.

Mr. SEARS. Let the Bureau of Pensions do it because of their many, many years of experience along those lines to take care of the allotments, they call it now, pensions, whatever name you desire to give them, and in that way cut down the overhead expense and let the men really get the money instead of paying it out in salaries. You realize that in vocational training, whether we agree or not, some of the young men have not agreed with the gentleman in charge, it takes a man pecularily fitted for that work. I think you will agree to that statement and you would still have to do it for these men if you put it in any other bureau. I am wondering where you would cut your red tape if you put it into a large bureau.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. One difficulty, as it seems to me, with the present organization, is lack of responsibility.

Mr. SEARS. That may be true. Dr. Fess touched on it there. The committee, as you no doubt know, went extensively into this matter and we had before us the Canadian experts who had made a study of it. They had three years' experience and I will say that they had many, many difficulties just like this committee is going through now because it was something new. We did that with the hope of trying to iron out some of this before we struck them. It seems that in many cases we have not succeeded but if it were changed to the new system, making a radical change, the question is, Do you really believe it will accomplish more for the wounded soldiers?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I think you will if you can make a system which will result in personal contact with the applicant, the wounded soldiers and the official who has the authority to pass on his case.

Mr. Sears. I do not mean to criticize but I happened to be chairman of the committee when these hearings were up. Dr. Fess was ranking member and ably assisted me and we had quite a fight along these lines. There were some who insted upon keeping the wounded soldier in his charge and we wanted to get away from that as far as possible.

Perhaps we did not do that. I believe in the personal touch myself, and I was wondering if your suggestion would help it or not.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. There seems to be a feeling among the men to whom I have talked, including wounded and disabled men, that

something could be done, so that, as I have said, the personal contact could be established between the disabled man and the officials who are going to determine his case, so that very much better results would be obtained. Now, take the present situation in New York, acording to the lists of assistant vocational officers that I have here and which were announced last September, and I do not know what changes have been made in this respect since then, but what I am saying now is based upon information at that time, District No. 2, comprised Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, with one office, and that office at New York City. How is a fellow living up in Lawrence County in the northern part of New York to get personal contact even with the district vocational officer? In most places, he can not do it.

As many men left the hospital and were discharged from the service before the Vocational Board had reached them, these men are against it.

Mr. SEARS. Before we passed a bill that was another hard feature.

Mr. DONOVAN. 132,000 of them.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I am really through now. Those are my recommendations.

The CHAIRMAN. I think the committee would like to ask you some questions along the line of your observations. Is it necessary for you to leave now?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I really ought to be in New York to-morrow, but if it is going to be too much of an inconvenience to the committee

The CHAIRMAN. We will keep the committee a little while now, unless there is an urgency for an adjournment.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I am very much obliged to you.

Mr. VESTAL. It seems to me that the suggestion from the witness relative to the work in the hospital is the strongest suggestion that has been made. It seems to me that, as I understand it, your suggestion there is that men should be in these hospitals to take care of these boys before they get out of the hospital. I think if that was done, we would eliminate a whole lot of this trouble. I did not know but it was being done more than intimated by Mr. Wickersham.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. They might have done that more than they did before December, when I took this up with Mr. Lamkin. I do not know what the existing situation is. That seemed to me at the time to be a crying need, and I do think the board would not have had so many of these cases if they had done it from the beginning.

Mr. V'ESTAL. I am of the same opinion. Mr. WICKERSHAM. But this development now is different from when the work started. Here are some 70,000 men who are undoubtedly entitled to training who are not getting it; 60,000 anyway, a very large figure, a substantial part of the total number of men entitled to training, which these men have lost. The problem is how to get at it.

Mr. SEARS. I have been rather interested in Mr. Wickersham's statement. I simply want to emphasize the fact that this committee and, I think, the Vocational Board, wants to get the money to the boys. Whether this system of establishing in each State a branch would accomplish it or not, the committee would be glad to go into very carefully. In my State, for instance, there has been practically no complaint along vocational lines, but a great deal of complaint about allotments and ratings and disability. They get 10 per cent disability one month and the next month get 40 and the next month 15. So I think you will find throughout the country a great deal depends upon local conditions. If you care to, I would like for you to go further into it, and also read the hearings of the joint committee of the Senate and the House last year, was it not, Dr. Fess?

The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. SEARS. In which we had these experts called before us.
Mr. WICKERSHAM. I would like to read that very much.

Mr. PLATT. There is a certain amount of rehabilitation work not for the purpose of vocational training, but for security purposes, done in the hospitals, is there?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I believe there is, but I do not know very much about it.

Mr. Platt. I know there is in some hospitals. Have you ever considered the question of whether laws should have been so framed as to leave the whole matter to the Surgeon General's Office!

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Yes; I have.

Mr. Platt. One of the foreign countries has done it that way. I do not know whether it is England or France.

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I do not know that
Mr. Platt. Would that not have been a better plan?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. I think it would. I fear you would again run into the difficulty of the split in the authority of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance and the Surgeon General, if the Surgeon Gen#ral were to have that work. I am very much in favor of putting all the work in one bureau.

Mr. Platt. Is there any reason why a bureau organized to insure ships should have been given the insurance to soldiers?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Not that I know of.
Mr. PLATT. I am glad to hear you say so.

Mr. Donovan. Is there any better reason of putting it in a bureau that is primarily a bureau of insurance after being started as a bureau for the insurance of ships?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. So far as I can say I can offer no explanation for that.

Mr. Donovan. I was interested in your statement relative to the English system and that was pretty extensively gone into by Mr. McMurtie' before the Committee on Rules and it has certain features that seem to be appealing, but, of course, the beginning of the establishment of the benefits of this law to the crippled men or the injured men, I take it, must first be arrived at after the physirian has made his diagnosis and prognosis and reported. That is true, is it not?

Mr. WICKERSHAM. Yes, sir.

Mr. Donovan. Dr. Fess asked you whether or not you thought the plan as suggested of the English system would work with having a representative in the several towns and that representative have charge of the local bureau, or a prominent man, and I would assume that one of those prominent men especially would have to be the prominent physician of the town.

« PreviousContinue »