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the test of income and net worth. It would not, we think, impair the general concept associated with gratuitous benefits, that not more than one payment be made for the same disability.
H.R. 5511 is a bill to amend 38 U.S.C. 314(k) to authorize payment of a statutory rate of $47 in addition to the basic compensation for the rated disability to a veteran who, as a result of service, has suffered the loss or loss of use of one kidney. Special statutory awards represent instances in which Congress has established rates by specific enactment for loss of a body member or part; conditions that are a source of embarrassment or concern or discomfort or to which the average impairment rule does not appear to apply with equity. It is true that the loss or loss of use of a kidney is not apparent to persons other than the veteran or to his family but, to the veteran, there is reason for marked concern because of the knowledge that his lifespan rests on the remaining kidney being free of disease pathology. In other words, these veterans have a marked concern over their state of health-and well they may. To the Legion, this is a sufficient reason to extend to this group of veterans entitlement to the statutory award payable under 38 U.S.C. 314(k).
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, this concludes our statement on those bills of interest to the American Legion based on mandates of our policymaking bodies. Again, may I express the appreciation of our organization for the opportunity to appear before you today in connection with our legislative program on service-connected benefits.
Mr. CORCORAN. We have broken down our statement into several major categories. The first one deals with increases in the rate of disability compensation. In this field the American Legion supports H.R. 7567 and 7569. The basic points of those bills are that, first of all, we believe that total disability should be compensated at the rate of $300 per month, and there should be increases in allowance for dependents of those service-connected veterans. The methods that we used, Mr. Chairman, in arriving at the $300 rate included, first of all, a comparison between the rates payable in 1933 and the rates payable at present. We used data from the Bradley Commission which shows the decreased earning capacity of service-disabled veterans. We took note of the median income of male employed civilians in the United States, which was $5,240 in 1962. We compared the increase in that median income between 1947 and 1962, an increase of over two times.
We took cognizance of the $3,000 poverty line that has been used quite frequently. We took into account the Department of Labor's estimate of a modest, but adequate budget necessary for the family of four, and we tried to relate all of this material to the amount of compensation payable for the totally disabled. The American Legion concludes that a fair and reasonable and perhaps even conservative amount payable for the total disability is, and should be, $300 a month.
Another major category that we discussed in our prepared statement is escalation of the system of additional compensation, additional allowances for dependents. As you know, at present, a service-disabled veteran who is rated 50 percent or more gets some additional allowances for dependents. This is true only for those rated 50 percent or more. This is not true for those rated 40 percent or less. This inequity just does not make sense to the American Legion. Previous witnesses have called to your attention some of the severe conditions now rated at 40 percent.
For example, if a man has the anatomical loss of an eye suffered in service, he is rated 40 percent. If an amputation of the leg is below the knee, he is rated at 40 percent. This seriously disabled person gets no additional allowance for dependents. The difficulty of explaining this type of arrangement to a veteran is demonstrated when a veteran who
has one of these severe disabilities, and has some other—say 10 percent disability—for a combination of 50—such a veteran is reduced from 50 to 40 because, let us say, the arthritis has improved temporarily and his rating goes down. If he had a wife and three children his rating would go from $138 a month to $77 a month, a decrease of $61. The veteran does not understand the fairness or reasonableness of such a law, nor do we.
H.R. 7569 would accomplish our purpose, would grant additional allowances on a proportionate basis, of course, to all service disabled.
The next major heading, Mr. Chairman, has to do with the balanced system of disability compensation. A feature of the Legion bill dealing with this matter, H.R. 7567, is that the rates proposed for disabilities rated less than total would restore balance to the disability compensation structure.
In our written statement we referredto the authority granted to the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to adopt and apply a schedule for rating disabilities and the philosophy underlying the degree of impairment. Prior to July 1, 1932, there was a correspondence in the ratio of percentage of disability to 100 percent with that of the disability compensation assigned to the amount payable for total disability. Today, this is no longer true. As an illustration, compensation provided for 100-percent disability is $250, while that provided for 50-percent disability is $107 and not $125 as would have been the case under the structure in effect prior to July 1, 1952.
We urge your favorable report on that part of the bill to restore the balanced system of disability compensation and to make meaningful the basic principle of the VA schedule for rating disabilities; that is, that it be a schedule of ratings of reductions in earning capacity from specific injuries or combination of injuries and these, as far as practicable, shall be based upon the average impairments of earning capacity resulting from such injuries in civil occupations.
In this connection, Mr. Chairman, I think that perhaps the opposition to restoring balance to the rating, to the compensation structure, stems from an opposition to the lower disability ratings. At this point, I would like to say something on behalf of the lower disability ratings, even the 10 percents. I think, first of all, that some of the critics of the lower disability ratings do not fully understand the basic philosophy, the basic premises, on which the rating schedule is based.
That, as the committee so well knows, is that the ratings are for the average man. They are not for the individual. The schedule is an effort to demonstrate how much the average man would be impaired by this particular disability.
Therefore, if one looks at his neighbor and finds his neighbor rated as 10-percent disabled, he should not be surprised. The rating schedule does not say the individual is 10 percent. It only says that the "average man.” This type of arrangement is demonstrated by taking 4 numbers: 1, 3, 5, and 7. The average number is 4, but 4 is not one of those 4 numbers.
Also, I think the critics of the lower disability rating fail to recognize that they cannot possibly know the details of their neighbor's case, no matter how intimate their relationship is with the person. It is not always possible to know the full history and details of that rating.
Now, if it were possible for some of us, and this is not feasible for most of us, but if it were possible to survey all of the people receiving 10 percent, and to reach a conclusion that the vast majority were not, in fact, 10-percent disabled then the rating schedule is wrong, and the rating schedule ought to be corrected. But so long as the rating schedule says he is 10-percent disabled we think he should get one-tenth of total.
As the committee knows, the Veterans Administration conducts & continuing study of the rating schedule. Since 1945 alone they have made 125 substantive changes in the rating schedule in an effort to bring the schedule up, to make it current, to make sure that 10 percent actually constitutes 10-percent disability.
At the present, they are in the midst of what I think will be a farreaching study; that is, the economic validation of the rating schedule.
So, therefore, Mr. Chairman, in concluding our testimony on this portion of our presentation, we are urging that balance be restored to the system.
The next major category deals with death compensation. Here we refer to old law cases, persons who died prior to January 1, 1957. The survivors of most of these veterans have elected to receive disability indemnity compensation under the new law.
There is, however, a group of widows and children and parents receiving death compensation who may never receive dependency and indemnity compensation because of the bar in 38 U.S.C. 417(a). If a veteran exercised the option to continue an inservice Government insurance premium waiver and the waiver was in force at the time of his death on or after May 1, 1957, his surviving widow and children as well as parents are prohibited from receiving dependency and indemnity compensation--the greater benefit. Admittedly, this group is not large; but, no matter how small, it is the belief of the American Legion that these survivors should receive benefits equivalent to those under the act providing dependency and indemnity compensation and should not be penalized because of a de cision of the veteran. This provision of the law is clearly inequitable in view of the fact that those who initially chose to receive death compensation along with servicemen's indemnity-a free insurance coverage--and who, having exhausted the indemnity payments, have since elected to--and many did—receive dependency and indemnity compensation.
It is to their advantage to remain under the old provision where annual income limits are somewhat more liberal than those provided under disability indemnity compensation.
Although it is to the economic advantage of these dependent parents to remain under the old provisions of law, the death compensation provided there under-last increased by Congress in 1954-is insufficient to meet present costs of essential goods and services and drugs and medicines and to give them the means to live somewhat in consonance with others in their community under the current high standards of living.
The last major section, Mr. Chairman, has to do with (lisability indemnity compensation for dependent parents. The American Legion feels that the rates and the income limitations for dependent parents are unrealistically low. Here we depend largely on the 1963 report of the President's Council on Aging, because most of these dependent parents are in the elderly group, and there is data supplied by the Department of Labor.
We urge that increases be granted, and our bill is H.R. 7570. We also support H.R. 3805, H.R. 5509, and H.R. 5511, and a discussion in brief of these bills is contained in our written statement.
Thank you again for providing us this opportunity to present our views
Mr. Dors. Mr. Kornegay?
Mr. KORNEGAY. Thank you for coming this morning, Mr. Corcoran, and presenting a very fine statement. I just have one question, and that is with reference to the statement about those disabled veterans who were rated 40 percent or below.
Let's see if I understand your proposition; that is, you feel that in the categories of 40, 30, 20, and 10 percent, there should be some additional compensation for dependents, is that right?
Mr. CORCORAN. That is correct, sir.
Mr. KORNEGAY. And you would have it apply to each of those four categories?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes, sir.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Would it be on a percentage basis? In other words, would you take 100 percent-people who are 100 percent—and then take 40, 30, 20, and 10 percent of it, depending on which category the veteran falls in?
Mr. CORCORAN. That is correct. And that is the arrangement for those rated 50 and above at present. Fifty percent gets one-half of the allowances available to the 100-percent man.
Mr. KORNEGAY. You have been in this work a long time, Mr. Corcoran, and certainly it has been by observation that you are one of the most knowledgeable men in the field, either in or out of Government. Would you just give me some of the theory or the thinking behind the fact that your proposition was not considered or approved at the time certain benefits were given to those veterans with 50 percent or above? I am just asking for my own information. I just wonder why this was not done when the law went into effect, or was passed, that would have provided additional compensation for dependents to a disabled veteran who had 50 percent or more disability.
Mr. CORCORAN. I believe, Mr. Kornegay, that it was largely done, as so much is done, on the basis of the number of dollars that are available. I believe that it was largely an economy measure. It was felt that there was great merit and great validity to the argument that veterans should receive some additional allowance for the dependents, but then it was felt that to do so, this, for all of them, would be too expensive a proposition. If I am right, this theory is aggravated or this point is aggravated, by the fact that the great bulk of people drawing compensation are below 50 percent, are in the 10 to 40 percent.
So, with a relatively small number of dollars you could do this for the 50 and above, not just half as much, but just a relatively small number. I have never been able to see any logic or equity in the arrangement. If there is some, if the proponents know of some, I have not seen it.
Mr. KORNEGAY. I was not here when it was done. I am not familiar with the discussion or the hearings that took place at that time, but in the whole area of compensation, as a practical matter, you have to categorize them. The whole area of compensation is an arbitrary thing
But, it is sometimes hard for me to see or to understand. A man is 100-percent disabled and he is a thousand times worse off than someone who is 10-percent disabled. So I don't know. I was just inquiring into it. I did not understand it either. Your explanation of it sounds reasonable to me, except I do feel that there have been instances where somebody got hurt a little bit. They did not come out of the service in as good as shape as they went in and they were entitled to some compensation, and they got 10 percent, which is a nominal amount, so to speak.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Fino. I have no questions, but I want to extend my appreciation to Mr. Corcoran for making the views of the American Legion known to this subcommittee.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. I noted your comments about the 10 pércenters. I remain somewhat unconvinced. Will you give us a few examples under the existing standard of 10 percenters?
Mr. CORCORAN. I think a man who is totally deaf in one ear, that's 10 percent
Mr. TEAGUE of California. That is right.
Mr. CORCORAN. If he has normal hearing in the other ear. Now, I think there are many people who make a satisfactory adjustment to economic life with total deafness in one ear.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. I would not quarrel with that. Can you give me some other examples?
Mr. CORCORAN. I picked the best one I could think of. As a matter of fact, Mr. Teague, I anticipated this question and failed to prepare myself for it. I thought this might come up:
Mr. TEAGUE of California. It is not necessary to do it now. You might get it and submit it for the record, and send me a copy. Maybe 10 or 15 good examples; give some bad examples too. A good cross section of 10 percenters.
Mr. CORCORAN. Mr. Teague, one point I meant to make in my discussion of this is one the Congress would be interested in, because I think it is a matter of public policy. Some of these people can't overcome their handicap, and I think it would be bad public policy to remove the incentive or to give them a deterrent. I think that one of the questions, one of the elements of this whole rating policy that has to be considered is to what extent to penalize a person for overcoming his handicap. And that, I think, is one of the reasons why the "average man” theory is used, so as not to penalize your neighbor or your law partner who is able to and willing to and makes a successful effort to overcome his handicap.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. If you don't have those now, there is no use taking up the time of the committee. Just submit them for the record.
Mr. CORCORAN. I will be very happy to.
(The material requested follows:) : In conformity with the subcommittee's request, we submit for inclusion with our statement on compensation a partial list of disabilities assigned a 10-percent rating for compensation purposes. This list represents about one-half of those set forth in the VA 1945 Schedule for Rating Disabilities, as amended. For convenience of reference, they are categorized according to a body system.
Osteomyelitis, inactive, following repeated episodes, without evidence of active infection in past 5 years.
Arthritis, degenerative, with X-ray evidence of involvement of two or more major joints or two or more minor joint groups.