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TO AMEND THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT OF 1924
MONDAY, MAY 5, 1930
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10 o'clock a. m., in Room 312 Senate Office Building, Senator Reed Smoot presiding.
Present: Senators Smoot (chairman of subcommittee), Shortridge, Bingham, Walsh of Massachusetts, and Thomas of Oklahoma.
Present also: Representative John E. Rankin, of Mississippi.
to order. General Hines, you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF GEN. FRANK T. HINES, DIRECTOR UNITED
STATES VETERANS' BUREAU, WASHINGTON, D. C.-Resumed
General HINES. Mr. Chairman, the next section is section 11 of the bill, which amends section 201 of the act by changing the date of determination of dependency from the first of each year to the anniversary date of the original award. (This amendment has for its purpose the distribution of the work incident to review of cases over the entire year.) This amendment was recommended by the bureau as an administrative measure.
I doubt if there is any objection on the part of anyone to it.
Section 11 of the bill also amends section 201 of the act by providing for the payment of burial and funeral expenses, and transportation of the body to the home, for those veterans who die in national military homes. At the present time these expenses are paid when a veteran dies in a Veterans' Bureau hospital. This section also amends the law by authorizing the furnishing of a flag to drape the casket of any veteran of any war regardless of the cause of death.
The first amendment would seem to be justified in view of the fact that the Government has already recognized its obligation to pay similar expenses where the veteran dies in a bureau hospital. The second amendment also would seem justifiable. At the present time the Government is furnishing money for a flag for those men who die and who leave insufficient assets for their burial, and in certain cases is furnishing money for a flag irrespective of assets. The furnishing of a flag to drape the casket of a deceased veteran should not be on the basis of his indigency, but should be on the basis of his having served his country honorably. So far as the first amendment is concerned it is impossible to estimate the exact cost. However, it will add something to the present cost in connection with burial and funeral expenses. It is estimated that the second amendment will cost $40,250 for the fiscal year 1930, and, of course, it is a continuing expense.
Section 12 of the bill amends subdivision 3 of the section 202 of the act by providing additional compensation of $25 per month, independent of any other compensation which may be payable, to persons who suffered the loss of the use of a creative organ or one foot or one hand or both feet or both hands in the active service in line of duty between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, with a proviso that if such disability occurred while the veteran was serving with the United States military forces in Russia, the dates herein stated shall extend from April 6, 1917, to April 1, 1920.
The CHAIRMAN. What will the cost of that be?
General Hines. We estimated, for the whole section there, $1,000,000.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean section 12?
However, it would seem that this differentiation between members of the United States military forces in France and members of the United States military forces in Russia, is hardly justified.
This amendment is a recognition of disabilities incurred during actual hostilities as a preferred class. While it may be justifiable to recognize an additional obligation on the part of the Government for disabilities incurred during actual hostilities as contrasted with disabilities incurred subsequent thereto, there can be no justification for preferring one group of men which so acquired disabilities over another. There are thousands of men who were just as badly disabled during the period mentioned but who are not covered by the amendment. For example: Those men who suffered severe facial injuries, including destruction or the loss of a nose, ears, and so forth, and those men who suffered severe shrapnel wounds of the body. Also, it should be appreciated that while many of these disabilities were acquired during actual hostilities, they are not what might be termed battle casualties." Further, the date of November 11, 1918, is an arbitrary one. Many men were badly disabled following the Armistice and before being returned to this country from the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Surely, they are entitled to consideration. Here arises again the question of whether the Government is going to put all veterans on a parity. The cost of this amendment is estimated at approximately $1,000,000 per annum. This does not take into consideration the cases of “loss of use of one or more hands or feet”, but it is impossible to accurately estimate this cost.
We suggest that that be carefully considered, Mr. Chairman, with the suggestion that certain amendments be made to that section.
Section 12 of the bill also amends subdivision 5 of section 202 of the act by removing the necessity for showing the constant need of a nurse or attendant where claim for nurse or attendant allowance is made. This amendment is to overcome a ruling by the bureau which authorizes the payment of this allowance only in those cases where it can be shown that an attendant is needed at practically all times. The class of cases particularly affected by this amendment are those men who are on what is known as home treatment and who, while bad cases, are able to be "up and around” for short periods of time during the day. It would seem that this amendment will be helpful in assisting these men to effect a recovery, if possible, by assuring them of an allowance for a nurse or attendant which, it is realized, in many cases is needed. The cost of this amendment is problematical, but undoubtedly it will result in an increased cost. We do not oppose that section, Mr. Chairman.
Section 13 of the bill amends subdivision (7) of section 202 of the act so as to discontinue payments in all cases of hospitalized insane veterans who have no dependents where their estates equal or exceed $3,000. The amendment was recommended by the bureau and will result in a saving of millions of dollars to the Government which would otherwise be paid into the estates of those veterans to fall eventually into the hands of distant relatives who have no right to look to the veteran for support or bounty. The immediate saving to the Government by the enactment of this provision can not be estimated.
Section 13 of the bill also amends the act by providing a $50 statutory award for all cases of arrested tuberculosis irrespective of whether active tuberculosis can be shown between the date of entrance into the service and January 1, 1930. Heretofore the bureau has paid only cases of arrested tuberculosis where activity existed between the dates specified.
This amendment must be considered in the light of the amendment to, section 200 which removed the necessity of showing active tuberculosis for the presumption of service origin, although its undesirability does not hinge on the enactment of that amendment. As a result of the adoption of this amendment every man who can show arrested tuberculosis between the date of entrance into the service and January 1, 1930, will be held to have acquired his tuberculosis in the service and will receive $50 per month for life. In considering this amendment it must be remembered that sound medical advice indicates that at least 75 per cent of the entire population is or has been infected with tuberculosis, but due to immunity and physical resistance the condition does not become active or disabling in the majority of instances. It is also agreed that unless preceded by a more or less extensive period of activity the condition diagnosed as arrested or cured tuberculosis is not in itself seriously disabling either from a medical or industrial standpoint. There are certain portions of the country to a great extent populated by persons having such diagnosed conditions, and the manner in which such localities have thrived industrially is one of the best proofs of the statement made above.
When it is considered that thousands of men entered the military service without any notation of these arrested conditions and completed their military service without any adverse effect on such conditions, it does not seem that the Government, by reason of the inclusion of several presumptions in the law, should provide compensation to these men at the rate of $50 per month for the remainder of their lives. Such as provision is essentially a pension measure based on other than actual disability, and in view of the fact that the Government to date has not recognized any obligation to pay compensation for disabilities not acquired in the service, it does not seem just to prefer these men over all others, particularly when many of the others are disabled to a far greater extent.
If a veteran had active tuberculosis in the service or prior to January 1, 1925, and that active tuberculosis has since become arrested,
there may be justification for placing that veteran on the rolls at the rate of $50 per month, but certainly beyond this the Government should not go until such time as it is prepared to provide for all veterans. The adoption of this amendment would in reality be the paying of a bounty of $50 per month for a diagnosed condition of which the veteran in all probability would never have been aware had it not been for the medical examination to which he was subjected by the military author ties or the bureau.
The cost of this amendment is estimated at a minimum of approximately $4,000,000 per annum. However, this estimate is based on presently disallowed claims, and in no sense is the true probable cost as the result of additional claims which would be filed under such an amendment. Also, it does not include the cost of examining and reexamining the veterans affected, and the rating and adjudication of the cases. The adoption of the amendment would entail a tremendous administrative responsibility on the bureau, and would no doubt result in endless controversies concerning the existence or nonexistence of arrested tuberculosis in individual cases.
I would like to call the committee's attention, Mr. Chairman, to our experience so far with arrested tuberculosis. We originally estimated to the Congress, when that amendment was put on, that the probable number of cases would be between 18,000 and 20,000 We have reached over 40,000.
Mr. MOORE. Forty-one thousand five hundred and eighty-one.
General Hines. Forty-one thousand five hundred and eighty-one cases of arrested tuberculosis. This whole amendment is brought about primarily by a decision of the comptroller in certain cases where he indicated that unless activity was shown in service, or in the presumptive period—that is, up to January 1, 1925—-the compensation for arrested tuberculosis could not be paid. We had some men on our rolls who had been diagnosed in the early days, when they were in pretty much of a hurry and under considerable pressure, as having tuberculosis. Further review of the cases and more careful study indicate in some cases that they had no active tuberculosis, although scars may be found of arrested tuberculosis. Of course, the theory is that if they have scars of arrested tuberculosis at this time they must have had activity at some time. It is difficult to determine whether they had it before they came into the service or afterwards, but we feel that where they had it afterwards we have taken in those men by the existing law.
The CHAIRMAN. There were double the number that you first anticipated?
General Hines. Yes, sir. We feel that that has been administered liberally.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. In a single sentence, tell us just what is the change in this section from the present law.
General Hines. It just contemplates that we will presume that those men have had active tuberculosis if we find arrested tuberculosis at this time. There is no telling how many of such cases we will find.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts. There is great difficulty in determining a case of active tuberculosis, is there not?
General HINES. In the early days it is difficult to determine it accurately, in the incipient stage, but I feel that with the modern methods of observation, the X ray, and all that sort of thing, that difficulty no longer exists. In the early days there may have been some question.
Senator WALSH of Massachusetts. When tuberculosis is arrested, is there a scar or something left that is observable?
General Hines. The extent of the scar all depends upon the duration of the activity. It usually leaves some marks.
Senator WALSH of Massachusetts. So that it is proposed to argue back from a condition of arrested tuberculosis, that there was once an active case.
General HINES. Yes; and that, of course, is safe to assume. But you could not, under any broad assumption, assume that they were all acquired in the service. It may have been acquired in the early days. I have present, if the committee desires to go into the technical questions of tuberculosis, two men of the bureau who are expert on that.
Section 13 of the bill also contains an amendment directing a 25 per cent minimum rating to be included in the bureau rating schedule for arrested tuberculosis. At the present time after two years of arrest the rating schedule provides no per cent for these cases. The purpose of the amendment is to insure that where a man has a compensable disability in addition to his tuberculosis, the rating of the two may be combined and compensation paid accordingly. In view of the fact that those men who have only arrested tuberculsosis are paid $50 under a statutory award, it would seem that this amendment is only fair. The medical council of the bureau some time ago advised that persons with arrested tubreculosis which follows a period of activity have a minimum industrial handicap of 25 per cent. The cost of the amendment is estimated at $8,000 per annum. This figure, however, is based upon the cases in which service connection has been established under the existing law. The cost of the amendment does not comprehend cases which would be brought in as a result of the amendment to section 200 previously discussed; that is, by broadening the presumption.
Section 14 of the bill adds a new provision to the law authorizing payment of compensation to the dependents of veterans hospitalized for nonservice connected disabilities, when the veteran files an affidavit with the commanding officer that his annual income is less than $1,000, at the same rate as is payable to dependents of veterans when the veteran dies from disability incurred in or aggravated by the military service. The purpose of this amendment is to take care of the dependents of those men who, by reason of the ravages of disease necessitating hospitalization, are unable to provide for themselves. The disabilities of these men have no connection whatever with the military service.
The discrimination which would result from the adoption of this amendment is apparent. As to those men who are hospitalized, we are now spending approximately $120 per month for their hospitalization. The amendment would add to this payment the amounts which would be payable to their dependents. However, it is known that the present hospital facilities of the Government are not sufficient to hospitalize all men suffering from nonservice connected disabilities. Certainly the Government should not give to those men who are fortunate enough to procure hospitalization further relief and deny that relief to those men who, due to lack of beds, are unable