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troller rules not only on auditing questions but on questions of law and of medicine. The comptroller says that the proper construction of this section of the law is that the man must have had active tuberculosis, from which results arrested tuberculosis, in order for him to get the $50 a month.
That particular decision of the comptroller has caused tremendous dissatisfaction throughout the country where these tuberculosis men are in the hospitals. It is eminently unjust and unfair.
The director also the other day, in testifying on the amendment to section 210, which is the section making retroactive the payments of compensation, stated that that would cost $42,000,000. Now, the comptroller has ruled in favor of that particular section.
Senator WATSON. Where is it in this bill?
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. It is pretty hard to find it, because most of the amendments are in the nature of provisos. I think you will have to look it up. It is pretty hard to put your hand on these amendments.
Senator Couzens. I think it is on page 25, Senator.
Mr. TAYLOR. What I was pointing out, Senator, was the fact that we would like the comptroller removed from the Veterans' Bureau so far as legal and medical opinions are concerned, and confine his activity to auditing, which Congress intended him to do. I stated the other day, when the director was here, that he agreed with the comptroller in one instance and disagreed with him in the other; and I am now pointing out the one in which he disagreed with the comptroller Both the comptroller and the Attorney General ruled that in accordance with the law these payments should be retroactive. That saves the Government $42,000,000 a year. As a matter of fact, we are in agreement with him; but I just pointed out those two inconsistencies, as we consider them, so far as the attitude of the bureau itself with regard to the comptroller is concerned.
We believe that this section should be put back into the law, and that the comptroller should confine his activities to questions of auditing, pre and post auditing.
The CHAIRMAN. But that is not the duty imposed by Congress upon the comptroller. He has to go into every detail of the law. He has to pass upon all those matters before he O. K's the payment. That is his duty.
Mr. TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, the Veterans' Bureau has a thoroughly competent legal and medical staff. They go into these questions of the legality of these cases, and the evidence and testimony that has been submitted in proof of them; and the law itself, the veterans' act itself, provides the final authority in the Director of the Veterans' Bureau to pass upon these cases so far as the question of proof is concerned.
Our understanding was, so far as the duty of the comptroller was concerned, that he is to see that the payments are in strict accordance with the legal decision of the Director of the Veterans' Bureau; but, instead of doing that, he reviews the legal opinion of the Director of the Veterans' Bureau both as to law and as to medicine, and upsets the Director of the Veterans' Bureau. We ask that the Director of the Veterans' Bureau be permitted to review those cases rejected by the comptroller, and pass upon them favorably if they have already been passed upon.
The CHAIRMAN. All right; we understand it. Mr. Taylor. The House provided, in its amendments to section 19, that the period of time within which suits may be brought upon insurance contracts shall be extended one year following the approval of this amendatory act; and Director Hines in his testimony opposed this amendment. We hope this committee will include that, and grant these men that extra year so far as suits on insurance are concerned.
This insurance is something that they bought and paid for. It is a contractual relation. The man should not have his rights imperiled through the setting up of an arbitrary date of limitation after which the question of the right to payment may not be considered by the courts. I think it is a sort of reflection upon the courts themselves. I think the courts have courage enough to pass upon these cases adversely if they think the merit is not in the case; and, just as Senator Bingham pointed out the other day, there are a great many people who are not aware of their rights so far as insurance is concerned, and they should have the right to bring suit.
The argument was raised the other day that attorneys had gathered in a great many of these suits, and were prepared to file suit in case of extension.
Senator Watson. As I understand, you propose an arbitrary period yourself of one year?
Mr. Taylor. We ask for an extension of a year. As a matter of fact, we have repeatedly asked that the date of limitation be taken out of the law entirely. The other day, though, the argument was raised that attorneys had gathered a lot of these cases. The fact that attorneys have been unscrupulous in gathering cases is no reason why the veteran himself should be deprived of his rights. Suppose they have: There should be some rules or regulations respecting the attorneys who are handling cases which will at least give the men a right to bring suit.
Senator WATSON. What difference would that make in the number?
Mr. Taylor. The number of men who might bring suits?
Mr. TAYLOR. I do not know how many there would be; but, no matter how many there are, this is insurance that the man bought and paid for. He ought to have a right to bring the suit; and if it is a question of his heirs bringing the suit, they ought to have the same right.
I do not think, just because some attorneys or groups of attorneys have been unscrupulous, that the right should be denied the man himself.
Senator COUZENS. Is there any limitation in the law as to the fees these attorneys can get?
Mr. Taylor. Not in insurance cases, sir. I think they get 10 per cent; the courts may award 10 per cent.
Senator Watson. But not more?
Senator Watson. There is no limitation in the insurance cases; is there? Mr. TAYLOR. The court may award 10 per cent. Senator WATSON. Is that in the law? Mr. TAYLOR. Yes, it is in the law. Senator Watson. I did not know there was any limit.
General Hines. Pardon me, if I may cover that point for you: It means that in a $10,000 suit the court may award $1,000; but most of these run to about thriteen thousand three hundred and some dollars commuted value, and the court would be permitted to award 10 per cent of that, which would be a maximum fee of thirteen hundred and some dollars.
Senator COUZENS. Of course it is perfectly obvious that the more attorneys go into these things, the more lawsuits the Government has, just the same as the ambulance chasers.
Mr. Taylor. Why not regulate the attorney by fixing the fee? Senator COUZENS. I am not objecting to that.
Mr. Taylor. The important section, of course, as far as we are concerned, is section 200.
Section 200 in the Johnson bill as it is, the department has estimated, would cost $76,000,000. It was estimated that the bill would cost $89,000,000, although Mr. Johnson on the floor of the House, after receiving some figures from the Pension Bureau, said that it might run up as high as $400,000,000; but if you take the $76,000,000 that section 200 of the Johnson bill costs, which eliminates the question of diseases and inserts the word “disability, and substitute for it section 200 of the American Legion bill, which brings up to 1925 as a presumptive date certain constitutional diseases, about 20 of them, that reduces the cost $12,500,000, and makes the total cost of the bill somewhere between $25,000,000 and $30,000,000.
Senator Watson. This whole bill?
Mr. Taylor. The whole bill, by substituting section 200 of the American Legion bill for section 200 of the present bill. Section 200 of the American Legion bill brings certain constitutional diseases, about 20 of them
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. What are these diseases?
Senator Watson. Do you mean, then, that by making that substitution, the maximum cost under this bill would not exceed $25,000,000?
Mr. TAYLOR. That is what the director testified to. It would be less than $30,000,000.
Senator Watson. Is that your view, General?
General HINES. No; there are some other changes that would be necessary; but, speaking of section 200, the committee probably had better consider that as a unit, and then you will get the picture of the total cost.
Under the Legion amendment put in place of the Johnson bill as it was reported out, where that section 200 would cost $76,000,000, the Legion bill provision, substituted for that provision which cost $76,000,000, would run $12,500,000.
Mr. Taylor. The total cost of the bill, it was testified, would be $89,000,000. $76,000,000 from $89,000,000 leaves $13,000,000. $13,000,000 and $12,500,000 makes $25,500,000. It would be less than $30,000,000.
This is a question which has come before the American Legion repeatedly—the question of the extension of the presumptive periodand the Legion, acting upon its best medical advice, recommends that these constitutional diseases be brought up to January 1, 1925, and that presumptive date of January 1, 1925, was put in the law by this committee.
Senator WALSH of Massachusetts. But for other diseases?
Senator COUZENS. Many telegrams are coming in here concerning the putting forward of the presumptive date.
Mr. Taylor. The extension of the presumptive period to January 1, 1930.
Senator COUZENS. And you are opposed to that? Mr. TAYLOR. We recommend the substitution of our section 200, which brings constitutional diseases up to January 1, 1925; yes, sir.
Senator COUZENS. So you disapprove of bringing them from January 1, 1925, up to January 1, 1930?
Mr. TAYLOR. In this bill; yes, sir.
If there is any reason why I should go into any more detail on that I shall be glad to do it; but that is the situation.
The CHAIRMAN. I think we understand it.
Senator COUZENS. May I ask a question? The witness refers to “we” all the time. I am only asking for information: How many are included in the "we"?
Mr. TAYLOR. What is the membership of the American Legion? Senator CouZENS. No; but of course it is quite apparent that all of the members of the American Legion can not pass on these various technical questions and matters of law.
Mr. TAYLOR. No.
Senator COUZENS. When you say “we," how many actually know what you propose?
Mr. TAYLOR. That is a pretty difficult question to answer.
Senator WALSH of Massachusetts. The legislative committee, I suppose.
Mr. Taylor. Oh, no; not at all.
The posts of the American Legion that are interested in these problems pass resolutions, which resolutions go to their department conventions, their State conventions. They are either approved or disapproved. Those departments send those resolutions which are approved to our national convention, which is composed of some 1,200 delegates. At that convention a man from every State thoroughly skilled in this subject-a man who has devoted the last 10 or 11 years to it-is a member of the convention rehabilitation committee, to which come some three or four hundred resolutions touching every phase of amending the World War veterans' act; and these are men who are just simply soaked up with information about this subject.
That rehabilitation committee, of which Watson Miller is the chairman, goes into deliberation on these questions, and devotes days and days to them, with expert testimony. They come to certain conclusions, and they recommend those conclusions to the national convention itself on the floor, where they are discussed, and the national convention either approves or disapproves them; and, so far as this is concerned, this is what the national convention has approved. It is the only democratic way in which we can get the expression of the million and a half people who are in the Legion and the auxiliary.
Senator COUZENS. So that when you say “we”, you mean that the national convention have fixed January 1, 1925, as the last date of presumptive disease?
Mr. TAYLOR. Yes, sir.
Senator Couzens. But out of your million and a half membership, it is quite possible, as in the case of a national election, that 30,000000 would be on one side and 15,000,000 on another; is not that true?
Mr. Taylor. It is not quite so with the Legion; no, sir, because in the case of these questions the very men who are most vitally interested in this subject, those directly affected by it, are the men who get on this committee and who work year in and year out from the hospitals—who get on this rehabilitation committee, or appear before it to present the point of view as they see it-and it is rather a more positive expression, I might say, than our national elections.
Senator WATSON. At what particular convention was this?
Senator WATSON. Was there a prolonged discussion of this whole subject--this particular subject?
Mr. Taylor. Not of this particular section. This thing is the most important thing to the Legion, and these men sat day and night for a week.
Senator WATSON. But there must have been some discussion.
Mr. WATSON MILLER. It was unanimous so far as the convention were concerned, and unanimous so far as the committee action was concerned, so far as I know.
Senator COUZENS. Let me ask a question at that point.
It appears that many departments of the American Legion have varying views The witness, being an expert economist on the Brookhart bill
Mr. Taylor. Do not say that, Senator. [Laughter.]
Senator COUZENS (continuing). Says that the American Legion are opposed to the Brookhart bill; and yet I receive many, many letters and telegrams from American Legion departments of States approving of it; and I am concerned about the matter. I am not joking because the witness is an economist.
Mr. Taylor. Do you mean departments, or individuals who write on post stationery? So far as this amendment that we are talking about here is concerned, section 200, there is only one department of the American Legion that has gone contrary to the national organization since this question came up- just one.
Senator COUZENS. I am not speaking about this; I am not familiar with it. What I am trying to get is that there seems to be a great diversity of opinion among these departments, and I have wondered how much difference of opinion there was on the provisions of the pending bill. Do you know?
Mr. Taylor. Even on the Brookhart bill it is not a question of difference of opinion among the departments; it is a question of difference of opinion among individuals. For instance, the department of Michigan is not for the Brookhart bill, and yet there are certain individuals in Michigan who are for it.