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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 1965
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to recess, in room 356, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. W.J. Bryan Dorn (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Dorn. The subcommittee will come to order.
We are meeting this morning to resume our hearings on service-connected compensation legislation which has been introduced and referred to this subcommittee for action.
We will hear today from the following representatives of veterans organizations: Mr. Harry Schweikert of the Paralyzed Veterans Association.
Go right ahead.
STATEMENT OF HARRY SCHWEIKERT, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
OF THE PARALYZED VETERANS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA Mr. SCHWEIKERT. Mr. Chairman, during the years past, members of this committee and Congress have been both understanding and sympathetic to the specialized needs of our group, and many members have asked that their gratitude be expressed at this time. There have been some areas of concern, however, and we appreciate this opportunity to present them to you.
The group we are mostly concerned about are the quadriplegic veterans who are paralyzed in all four extremities and require the services of another person to assist them with all functions of daily living. In addition to feeding and toilet, they must be lifted in and out of bed, in and out of wheelchairs, in and out of cars. There must be someone in attendance, or within hearing range, 24 hours a day. The quadriplegic must be turned periodically to prevent pressure sores and guarded against suffocation should anything become lodged in their windpipe or throat.
More than anything in the world this group wants to be a part of their family and a part of society outside the hospital environment. He who has the least chance is the quadriplegic who has no family or friends, or whose family may not be able to care for him. Without the assurance of constant attention he cannot leave the hospital; 24-houra-day vigilance, 7 days a week, is far beyond his economic means. More fortunate, at least for the present, is he who has a wife, parent, or some other member of the family to care for him. For them he can
utilize his aid and attendance allowance to hire a part-time nursing aid to relieve, and to compensate to some small degree, in some manner, those who tend him so faithfully and so constantly. There is a threat to this situation, however, in the problem of aging which must ultimately prevent parents and wives from doing so much for them, at which time a full-time attendant must be hired.
The costs of nursing and attendant care are not cheap in today's market even when they can be located. It has proven quite difficult to locate personnel who could or would serve our quadriplegics as aids at prices the veteran could afford. There are also many demands upon them besides the personal needs of the veteran. He must be able to cook and clean. In today's economy, costs of an attendant range from $35 per week, plus room and board, to $6,000 per year. While these figures may seem to be high, it must be pointed out that this type of care must be maintained on a 24-hour-a-day basis with occasional holidays at which time someone else must be in attendance. Today's allowance for aid and attendance barely meets the minimum requirements.
We believe the rules defining peacetime and wartime disability compensation rates to be archaic and that the distinction between them becomes decreasingly rational in the light of world events today. We strongly urge the adoption of a single rate of compensation for our service-connected, totally disabled veterans. There is also the inalterable fact that our veterans are growing older and their needs becoming more acute. Thanks to the world of medicine, our spinal cord injured can look forward to longer periods of living than were assigned to them immediately after World War II. But this severe injury and the extent of internal paralysis extracts a high price through a more rapid deterioration, than normally, of all physiologic function. There is no doubt that this will shorten the span of life for the spinal cord injured, but, because medical progress in post-World War II paraplegia is still phenomenal, it has yet to be measured with any degree of accuracy.
It has been pointed out that since 1933, veterans' compensation has increased 126 percent, cost of living 139 percent, and Federal pay raises 172 percent. Both industry and the Government have built-in devices to correct wages and salaries according to cost-of-living increases. Our economists believe that a gradual inflation is a desirable means of providing a hedge against recession. This creates a constant rising need among those who are without the ability to engage in competitive employment-or any employment at all—and who lack the economic weapon of the strike. To us, it becomes an eroding factor of an income which, at best, provides only the basic necessities of life. The totally disabled experience the same cost-of-living increase that all other citizens do, so their compensatory adjustment should be no more, and no less, than is reflected in the escalator clauses of industry. The extra, and excessive, expenditures of the severely disabled must be duly noted, however.
For one in a wheelchair there can be no do-it-yourself house painting or landscaping. There can be no automobile, plumbing, or electrical repairs. Every call for maintenance requires the services of another. There must be extra clothing purchased because of prosthetic and other unusual wear. There must be extra bedding and more cleaning because of incontinence. There must be more for transportation, whether it be public or private. Insurance on home, car, and family is obtainable only by substandard rates because carriers have less confidence in the lifespan of the disabled than does medical science.
· There are many other areas, essential and nonessential, in which the veteran must pay a higher price for being disabled. And there are the intangibles such as reduced earning power, because of employer prejudice, and loss of earning capacity, because of the extent of the disability. There is also loss, to a great extent, of society and companionship, among other things.
The totally disabled veteran is being submerged under an everdecreasing purchasing power. The erosion continues, and every few years the veteran must testify to an admitted policy which is common knowledge, as if he, by some miracle, is unaffected by the common malady. We are forced to begin to question the sacrifice when veterans' benefits come under attack while nonfriendly nations glut themselves on this country's largesse. We become appalled to learn that compensation for disabilities incurred in military service more and more is being equated with a welfare program while we continue to fight the effects of our war every living day.
In 1612, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the first veterans' benefit law in this country "to provide for him who was maimed in the defense of the colony.” The Veterans Administration placed Lincoln's sentiments on their building. Congress in the past has generously provided to continue the philosophy expressed in eloquent terms. We are confident that this Congress will prove as faithful in the discharge of their responsibilities.
Thank you very much.
Mr. KORNEGAY. I know of no questions at the moment, but I would like to take this opportunity to compliment Mr. Schweikert on his very fine statement and I am sure he knows of our very great interest in this matter.
You know this committee recognizes the tremendous sacrifices that those whom you represent made, and we are constantly aware of it, and want to, at all times, do anything and everything we can to make life easier, as easy as possible under the circumstances.
Thank you very much.
Mr. FINO. I would like to thank Mr. Schweikert for his fine statement and expressing the views of his organization so well.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. I, too, have no questions. I can do no more than express the same feelings of Mr. Kornegay and Mr. Fino, and I would like to associate myself with their comments.
Mr. DORN. Thank you, Mr. Schweikert. If you desire to submit any additional information for inclusion in the record, it will be inserted in the record immediately following the testimony you have presented today, if there is no objection.
Mr. SCHWEIKERT. Thank you. (Mr. Schweikert subsequently submitted the following letter:)
PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA, INC.,
Washington, D.C., May 4, 1965. Mr. OLIVER MEADOWS, Staff Director, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Hlouse of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. Meadows: I am sory to be so late in replying to your desire for an opinion on the recent survey we had of service-connected members in our organization. I had not had sufficient time previously to put into the project, and only recently came to the conclusion that I could not possibly get much more infor. mation without keeping the questionnaires a longer time. I am hopeful that you have received the batch of questionnaires I left for you in Mr. Patterson's office. Following are my impressions on some of the statistics gathered :
The recent survey by the Paralyzed Veterans of America left something to be desired. The layout of the questionnaire was far from professional and may not supply you with all the information you desire. You will note, for instance, that using the word "combat” as a form of injury was misunderstood. To the subject it meant, in most cases, injury in a combat zone from any one of a dozen causes not including penetrating wounds from shrapnel or gunshot. Some of the statistics revealed were interesting to me, in any case, who thought he knew most of what was supposed to be known about paraplegia.
Realizing the aversion most of our members have toward surveys and questionnaires, we utilized the offices of our service officers who conducted personal interviews. A couple of chapters made a general mailing to all members and an appeal went out in our national publication urging all members to complete and return the questionnaires. We have no knowledge how many were circulated, but we received 345 completed returns which represents approximately 18 percent of our service-connected membership. Breakdown on source of injury is as follows: Paraplegia: Combat..
16 Miscellaneous traumatic
345 1 Six combat.
The average age of the sample probably approximated that for all veterans at time of induction (21.44 years of age). The average age at time of injury was 23.12 years of age, which means the average length of time in service before injury was 1.68 years.
The veteran has lived with his injury an average length of time of (1) 47 years for the 1 World War I veteran responding ; (2) 21.5 years for the 155 World War II veterans; and (3) 12.5 years for the 78 Korean veterans. A breakdown according to period in which injury occurred is as follows:
27 of the total sample, 220 were married, 94 were single, 24 were divorced, 4 were separated, and 3 could not be determined. A breakdown on the number of dependents each one had is as follows: No dependents--
865 dependents.1 dependent. 096 dependents..
2 2 dependents. 75 7 dependents.
2 3 dependents. 68 8 dependents..
1 4 dependents.--
50 One of the primary purposes of the questionnaire was to determine what in. come the veteran had, and how he was making out on the amount of compensa. tion. It is evident from the number of responses from the married veterans (220) that they were experiencing some difficulties. Many took pains to set down in detail their household and other expenses over the year. Few of the single paraplegics took this trouble. Several of the quadriplegic outlined their concern over the members of their family who were taking care of them, and the cost of hiring attendants. We believe the following statistics on other income of the sample may prove interesting.
It is all too evident from this survey that the quadriplegic has the hardest time of it by not being able, in most cases, to supplement his income. Compounding his problems is the fact that his condition requires extensive and more expensive care.
Although there are many more statistics available from the questionnaires in the Gelds of education and home and family maintenance, it would have required