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sumptions covered by the amendment. On the contrary there is much evidence to indicate that the incidence of diseases now included in the presumption provisions of the law, as well as those which would be included under the amendment, is not at all peculiar to warfare and is very close to the normal incidence which may be traced throughout the civilian population of our country.
As to those veterans suffering with diseases now presumed to be of service origin, it would seem unwise to make any change which would adversely affect their economic affairs. They have adjusted themselves, having in mind the beneficial provisions of the statute, and it would be unfair to take any action which would disturb them. It is questionable, however, as to whether the Congress should go further at this time and place additional veterans on the rolls at rates payable for service-connected disabilities, simply because past Congresses have heretofore extended to veterans suffering with certain diseases the benefit of a presumption of their disabilities having been incurred in the service. I believe the bill would be improved structurally by consolidating the two provisos relating to presumption of service origin. The ease with which this could be accomplished, as well as its desirability, is obvious.
One of the arguments advanced as to the necessity for this amendment is the fact that many men are suffering with conditions which in all probability are connected with the service but concerning which they have not been able to produce any evidence which would show acquirement in service. Certainly, some way should be found to take care of these cases. The amendment in this bill to section 5 of the act requiring a more liberal evaluation of lay and other evidence will probably go far to take care of some of these cases. It might be well to create a special board or court with authority to grant relief beyond the limits of the present law in border-line cases where necessity for relief is shown, even though evidence of acquirement of disability in service may not actually exist. Beyond this it would seem unwise to go without a complete study of the needs of all disabled veterans. The Government has always recognized the distinction in its obligation as between those men who acquired disabilities in the service and those men who acquired disabilities subsequent thereto. These former certainly have a greater right to look to the Government for relief, both at an earlier date and in a greater amount. This amendment, if adopted, would commit the Government to a policy of paying an equal amount to a certain group of ex-service men suffering with disabilities not acquired in the service as is payable to veterans who did acquire their disabilities in the service, leaving to a future Congress the adoption of relief measures for those other veterans with disabilities not acquired in the service and not covered by the amendment. The time has come, it is believed, when the Congress should give consideration to treating all veterans equally, grouped into two general classes: (1) Those who acquired their disabilities in the service, and (2) those who acquired their disabilities subsequent to service. Certainly, as to the latter class, we should give some consideration to the question of need in the individual cases. Unless this is done Congress is simply creating more inequalities and the ultimate task of placing all veterans on a parity becomes more difficult, if not impossible, except by allowing the present rates of compensation to stand for nonservice-connected disabilities and raising the rates for service-connected disabilities. In this connection there should be considered the question of whether this Government can afford the cost of such legislation.
So far as making the presumption of service origin conclusive for paralysis, paresis, blindness, and those cases of men permanently helpless or permanently bedridden, these conditions in many cases are the result of misconduct diseases, and while they are probably the most pitiful of all cases because of the usually hopeless prognosis and sociological problems involved, it would seem highly inconsistent for the Government to compensate these men for these conditions, the result of diseases, the acquirement of which in the service was a court martial offense. Further, it has always been contrary to the policy of the Government to compensate or pension men for diseases which may be said to be the result of their own vicious habits.
The cost of this amendment has been estimated by the bureau to be approximately $156,548,000. However, it should be understood that in estimating this cost only the disallowed claims on record in the bureau have been considered. It is impossible to estimate the number of additional claims which would be filed. Based upon the experience of the Pension Bureau and increased to include temporary cases, it is estimated that 765,000 veterans might be eligible for compensation at an annual cost of $458,148,000. It is believed that the first figure can be considered the minimum cost and the second figure the probable maximum cost. The true cost of the amendment will fall somewhere between the two estimates. There has not been included in this estimate the cost of administration of such an amendment. The adoption of the amendment would necessitate a review of approximately 600,000 disallowed claims and the adjudication of such cases incident to the reviews. It would mean the examination or reexamination of thousands of men and the work in connection therewith. There is no question but that the cost alone of administering this one provision would be approximately $5,000,000.
Now, Mr. Chairman, this one clause is the clause of the bill that has caused the greatest discussion, and probably is the one that should be given the most careful consideration. It started, undoubtedly, based upon the conditions of those men in our hospitals, particularly for tuberculosis, who are uncompensated, aggravated by the situation, it is true, and which will probably have to be met, of men in need of hospitalization which the Government offers to them, being unable to take advantage of that form of relief, because of no means by which their families could be cared for while they are taking advantage of the Government hospitalization. I feel sure that there must be a middle ground that we can take on this provision. I believe that the service organizations, themselves, while they could not oppose taking all of those men in, would be satisfied with something less; that is, a degree of disabilities which we might conclude, in a number of cases, that their disabilities might be due to service, or aggravated by service. We refer here to a number of disabilities that are indicated on our rating table. I think I should at this time call the committee's attention to the fact that the rating table for compensation, itself, at least creates in the veterans' mind a feeling that they are not all being equally cared for. That is, we have built this table under the act of June 7, 1924, under which there is considered the pre-war occupation, and a man's ability to carry on, in that occupation and that table results, in many cases, in two men with the same disability drawing a different amount of money. I have frequently used the example of a bookkeeper and a structural iron worker, both having served in the war, and lost a limb at the middle thigh. In the case of the bookkeeper, where we are taking into account his pre-war occupation, he would draw a compensation of $39 a month; while the structural iron worker, who has a greater handicap because of his pre-war occupation, and his inability to carry on in that work, draws $89 a month.
Now, the two veterans not being expert in the law, it is with great difficulty that they understand why one gets $39 a month and the other $89 a month. In the mind of the public it is ridiculous. And I know that there are many Members of Congress that have no idea of the intricacies of our present law. It is very complicated, and requires careful thought and great care.
Now, we have a problem before us, of course. I know that the Congressmen who advocated the bill that took in the men in all hospitals, Congressman Rankin, was appealed to by this group of men I first mentioned; that is, those men that are in the hospitals and in beds alongside of men who are drawing compensation. They have the same disability. They have been taken into the hospitals, and their buddies have been taken in, and they can not understand why we are not paying them compensation like we are paying to their buddies.
That is undoubtedly the reason for this agitation which has carried us so far as to take in all these up to January, 1925. Some of them have shown disabilities which may be rebutted. The bureau will have that duty to rebut them. It is not a pleasant task to rebut evidence against a veteran. For that we will be criticized as much as for not taking them in, thinking it is a matter of doubt. So it is not a scientific measure. And I have provided a measure setting up a group of disabilities, and that is a group of disabilities which the American Legion included in their platform at their last convention, and that will take in a group of veterans who are undoubtedly entitled to some consideration. There is sufficient doubt in that group to cause you to think that some may be due to service. They can not be taken in now simply because the medical evidence must be had to show a 10 per cent degree of disability, and that evidence can not be found, and we can not find it. So that it can not be cured by presumption. And when you do that, you are doing away with the service connection, and we should face it that way. So it seems to me the problem-we can talk about the disability, and the one over the other, but when you come down to the one man, it is a question of how far are you going to go at this time in doing away with the necessity for showing service connection for disabilities of the war veterans.
The CHAIRMAN. General Hines, when you open that door, where are you going to stop?
General Hines. You will start on a pension system, dressed up in compensation clothes. The first system I have mentioned. That is, treating the veterans at a certain stage of disability, or inability to carry on; or when they reach a definite age, they get so much. Now, our compensation is built on an entirely different system, and my hope has been that we would not embark on a pension through compensation; that we would adhere strictly to the essentials of this law, and compensate men for disability, and then when we had reached the other group, on the pension system, as we had taken other groups that had preceded them. I have always felt that when you take in the other group, that the factor of need must be given consideration.
Now, I do not mean by that that it is necessary to pauperize veterans. That is not the limit, but there is a limit to which the Government can go when we take into consideration the large numbers we are now dealing with. Mind you, through all our previous experience we have not dealt with such numbers. We had 2,000,000 men in the Civil War; 400,000 men in the Spanish-American War; now you are dealing with four and a half million men, which is going to be quite a different problem.
Now, I know none of us is going to argue for a moment whether or not the Government has an obligation. We have a moral obligation to take care of these men, if in need, when they have served their country faithfully. But I do not believe that these men, themselves, expect to get anything from the Government simply because they have served, unless they are in need. I can not feel that that is the spirit of the men. I feel and believe that this agitation has been brought about by the large number of uncompensated veterans who are in need, not those who are not in need; and they are backed up by those veterans who have been taken care of.
And, necessarily, the veterans' organizations can not help but be on the side of further enactment; but I believe they will agree with me that we can not do all of this and still feel that it is due to disabilities brought about by service; that when we depart from the principles of the World War veterans' act, much as we may dislike to say it, we are adopting not a system of compensation but a pension system. And you can not avoid the issue.
Now I have drafted a bill that the committee could very well consider, that takes in a certain number of these chronic disabilities.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean as an amendment to this bill?
General HINES. Well, it is a substitute for the entire bill. It follows very closely this bill, excepting in this provision and another one, which is exactly in the same category so far as a pension system goes.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the estimate of the cost, General?
General Hines. The estimate of the other bill is $20,000,000, and of that section of this bill is $12,000,000.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. To get that straight, General, the additional cost that would follow in the amendment we spoke of just before this one, namely, the one that gives compensation for disability as a result of misconduct, that is included in the whole cost?
General Hines. I have bunched it all together.
Now, there is a difference between Mr. Rankin's bill and Mr. Johnson's bill, but it is brought about by that rebuttable feature of the estimate which we overlooked in giving the figures to you before, but which will come in. That is the death cases. I do not believe we mentioned this at all; but, of course, if you carry this presumption to January 30, you are going to bring in all the men now in our hospitals. They will all be service connected, because they were in there on January 30. And when you start to reviewing some of the other claims, you will find veterans who have died in the presumptive period by the extension of the presumptive period, and, manifestly, their widows and dependents would be included, so we have included in this cost that item. But taking the minimum, assuming you take simply Mr. Rankin's bill, the principles are exactly the same.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, General Hines, from the statement you have just made, I take it for granted that this pending amendment here is opposed by you; the Veterans' Bureau is opposed to it?
General Hines. We can not recommend it, for the reasons I have given.
The CHAIRMAN. Splendidly given, too. I would like to ask Mr. Taylor here what is the attitude of the organization as to this proposed pending amendment?
Mr. TAYLOR. Section 200 of the bill as it passed the House, that is the one we are in favor of.
General HINES. Then you agree with me?
Mr. TAYLOR. I agree with you, for the substitution of section 200, if the bill is passed.
Senator WALSH of Massachusetts. Will you offer that for the record now?
General Hines. Yes; I will put it in the record right now.
Senator Bingham. What will be the cost of that now? Is that the one you just spoke about?
General INES. Yes; this section will cost $12,000,000. The whole bill will run about $20,000,000.
The CHAIRMAN. I want the entire bill to go in. You may give me a copy of the proposed bill, and I will have it printed for the use of the committee.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. I would like to hear the opinion of the representative of the Disabled Veterans.
Mr. Kirby. Mr. Chairman, speaking for the Disabled American Veterans, our organization has taken the position that we would ask the committee to consider chronic diseases up to the first of this year.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. We will hear you later on that then.
Mr. KIRBY. That is just generally speaking, that is how we differ in the date. The American Legion has said January 1, 1925, and our plan is to go to the 1st of January of this year.
General Hines. Mr. Chairman, if I may ask him this question: Then, as I understand, you are in favor of the disabilities in the American Legion's program, but brought up to the date in Mr. Rankin's bill, January 1, 1930.
Mr. KIRBY. Yes; but we are willing to have that rebuttable clause put in, so that a man that had his leg cut off last Christmas, it could be rebutted as not war incurred.
The Chairman. I think this is a good place to adjourn. The committee will stand adjourned until 10 o'clock on Monday morning.
(Whereupon, at 11.45 o'clock a. m., the committee adjourned to meet on Monday, May 5, 1930, at 10 o'clock a. m.)