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tended to widows in receipt of benefits under the prior service-connected death compensation program, pursuant to subchapters III and V of chapter 11, title 38, United States Code.
As to the proper amount of such an increase in benefits, the Veterans' Administration recommends $50 per month. The law provides that amount in the non-service-connected death pension program where there is a need for aid and attendance. It seems that a like amount should be adequate to take care of the same need of widows drawing death benefits under the service-connected programs.
There is enclosed for consideration by the committee a draft amendment to H.R. 3070 (or H.R. 3301) which would accomplish our suggested changes: (1) reduce the proposed allowance to $50; and (2) extend the allowance to widows receiving death compensation. Also, you will note that the draft includes the standards for determining whether a beneficiary is in need of regular aid and attendance.
It is estimated that if H.R. 3070 (or H.R. 3301) were enacted in its present form, it would benefit 4,200 widows the first year, at a cost of $3,780,000. Further, it is believed that the scope of applicability of the measure would gradually increase in each of the succeeding 4 years, up to 4,800 widows and a cost of $4,320,000 in the fifth year.
If amended in accordance with our suggestions, it is estimated that the measure would benefit 4,270 widows the first year, at a cost of $2,558,000, with slight annual increases and a cost of $2,937,000 the fifth year, affecting 4,900 widows.
This will also serve as a report on H.R. 4621, which proposes an aid and attendance allowance of $50 per month for widows under the dependency and indemnity compensation program, and identical bills H.R. 5518 and H.R. 6981, which would provide an $85 allowance for such widows.
We recommend favorable consideration of H.R. 3070 (or H.R. 3301), if amended as suggested.
Advice has been received from the Bureau of the Budget that there is no objection to the presentation of this report from the standpoint of the administration's program. Sincerely,
DONALD E. JOHNSON,
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO H.R. 3070, (OR H.R. 3301),
91st CONGRESS Strike the text of the bill after the enacting clause and insert the following in lieu thereof:
"That (a) section 322 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by (1) inserting, '(a)' immediately before 'The'; and (2) adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:
“'(b) The monthly rate of death compensation payable to a widow under subsection (a) of this section shall be increased by $50 if she is (1) a patient in a nursing home or (2) helpless or blind, or so nearly helpless or blind as to need or require the regular aid and attendance of another person.'
“(b) Section 411 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:
"(g) The monthly rate of dependency and indemnity, compensation payable to a widow shall be increased by $50 if she is (1) a patient in a nursing home or (2) helpless or blind, or so nearly helpless or blind as to need or require the regular aid and attendance of another person.'
"SEC. 2. This Act shall take effect on the first day of the second calendar month which begins after the date of enactment."
Amend the title so as to read: “A bill to amend title 38 of the United States Code to provide increased compensation for widows in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person."
Washington, D.C., August 29, 1969.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: We are pleased to respond to your request for a report on H.R. 372, 91st Congress.
The proposal would modify the remarriage bar and other bars relating to conduct of widows of veterans in the furnishing of gratuitous Veterans Administration benefits; preclude duplication of benefits; and fix the effective dates of awards of benefits granted by reason of these modifications. Additionally, the measure would modify the income reporting requirements in certain pension cases; permit additional exclusions in determining income for pension purposes; and liberalize the oath requirement for hospitalization of certain veterans.
Under current law, there is a permanent bar to furnishing gratuitous Veterans' Administration benefits to a veteran's widow who remarries unless the remarriage is void or is annulled. Also there is a like bar to benefits, in cases not involving remarriage, where a widow has lived with another man and held herself out openly to the public to be his wife.
The first section of H.R. 372 would amend 38 U.S.C. 103(d) to provide that while remarriage continues to be a bar to a widow's benefits, it shall cease to be a bar upon its termination by death or by a court with basic authority to render divorce decrees unless the Veterans' Administration determines that the divorce was secured through fraud by either party, or collusion. It would also amend the same section to provide that the statutory bar to benefits in cases not involving remarriage where the widow has lived with another man and held herself out openly to the public as the wife of such other man, shall not apply after such actions have been terminated.
Subsection 2(a) of the proposal would preclude denial of the benefits in question to those widows currently barred because of their relationships with other men as provided by prior restrictions, when the relationship has terminated. Removal of the bars by subsection 2(a) and the first section would render a widow eligible for benefits for which she could otherwise qualify under prevailing law.
Section 4 and subsection 2(b) relate to effective dates of awards resulting from liberalizations under the first section and subsection 2(a). Section 3 is designed to prevent duplicate benefits to a widow who was married to more than one veteran; but permits election and reelection of benefits based on the death of any one veteran.
Operation of the mentioned permanent bars to benefits has produced harsh results. For example, hardship results if the remarriage
is short lived and the widow emerges from the subsequent marriage in a worse economic position than before. In many instances, the widow has spent most of her life as the wife of the veteran, as a housewife and mother, and has been unable to engage in any outside employment to establish entitlement to retirement or other old age benefits in her own right. The permanent termination of Veterans' Administration benefits upon her remarriage at an advanced age frequently places her in precarious circumstances when death or divorce follows. In these and similar circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that the veteran would have intended that a measure of support be provided for the widow during any period in which she is not married. Similar considerations apply to cases involving widows whose past associations with other men currently constitute a bar to benefits.
The proposed liberalized treatment of widows of veterans follows the trend established by similar liberalizations authorized for widows seeking social security benefits (sec. 308(b), Public Law 89–97), or civil service retirement benefits (sec. 506, Public Law 89–504). It represents a logical and equitable extension of the theory on which our benefits are provided for widows of veterans. Accordingly, we favor enactment of the provisions of the first four sections provided the following perfecting amendments are adopted.
As drafted, the first section would remove the remarriage bar if the remarriage has been dissolved by a court with basic authority to render divorce decrees unless the Veterans' Administration determines that the divorce was secured through fraud by either party, or collusion. It is entirely possible that a widow could be the innocent victim of such fraud on the part of her spouse. The present language of this exception would inequitably operate as a bar to her in such a case. To obviate that result, the words “either party" in lines 4 and 5, page 2 of the bill, should be stricken and the words "the widow" be substituted therefor.
It is estimated that, excepting loan guarantee and educational benefits, the first year cost of sections 1 through 4 would be $8,538,000, affecting approximately 7,575 widows, and that such cost would increase slightly each year to $9,206,000 affecting 8,175 widows in the fifth year. We do not anticipate that enactment of these sections would have any significant effect on loan guarantee or educational benefit costs.
Section 5 of H.R. 372 would remove the current mandatory requirement for annual income and corpus of estate reports in cases of persons age 72 and older, who have received pension for 2 or more years. This provision reasonably assures such reports for at least 2 years, thus affording ample opportunity to determine if income and corpus have stabilized in individual cases. The authority of the Administrator to require clarification and proof of income and corpus of estate when indicated would be retained. Consonant therewith, the affected cases would be verified through random sampling or other techniques. Accordingly, we favor enactment of section 5. There would be no additional benefit cost of this section, if enacted. In fact there would be some administrative savings in elimination of the presently required annual reports.
Chapter 15 of title 38, United States Code, provides monthly nonservice-connected disability or death pension for otherwise eligible veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict, or the Vietnam era, and their widows and children. Payment is subject, among other standards, to graduated annual income limitations with maximums of $2,000 for a single veteran or a widow without a child, and $3,200 for a married veteran or a widow with a child. There is an unearned annual income limitation of $1,800 applicable to a child when there is no widow entitled. In determining annual income for such purposes, all payments of any kind or from any source are included except certain payments specifically excluded by 38 U.S.C. 503.
Section 6 of H.R. 372 would add four exclusions from income to those now permitted in computing annual income for pension purposes under the current law. They are (a) servicemen's group life insurance; (6) amounts equal to prepayments made on indebtedness secured by a mortgage or similar type security instrument on real property; (c) amounts in joint bank accounts acquired by reason of death of a joint owner; and (d) payments made by a former employer to a retired employee as reimbursement for premiums paid by the retiree for supplementary medical insurance benefits through the social security program,
These proposed exclusions would permit persons who are ineligible for pension because of excess income to become eligible therefor by not counting as income money actually available for their support. Other persons would receive a greater amount of pension than presently authorized if the exclusions were adopted. They are not consonant with the philosophy of Veterans' Administration programs which provide benefits based on need, and would discriminate in favor of certain classes of beneficiaries. Enactment of these proposed exclusions is therefore not favored.
Data are not available on which to estimate the cost effect of any of the four proposed exclusions from income. We believe, however, that costs in each instance would not be significant.
Section 7 of the bill would amend section 622 of title 38, United States Code, by adding a subsection which would prohibit requiring from a veteran who is 70 years of age or older any statement under oath of inability to defray the expenses of hospital or domiciliary care for a non-service-connected disability and would provide that such veteran shall be deemed to be unable to pay for such care.
Historically, the Veterans' Administration has been authorized to provide hospitalization or domiciliary care to war veterans for nonservice-connected disabilities if a bed is available and if the veteran is unable to pay the cost of such care. Inability to pay is established by the veteran's statement under oath. The bill, in effect, would permit hospital or domiciliary care without regard to financial status to an otherwise eligible veteran who is 70 years old or older.
This proposal presents a basic issue as to whether a veteran's advanced age alone should be considered a sufficient basis for an exception to the long-standing requirement that care at Government expense for conditions wholly unrelated to his military service may be furnished only to a veteran who is financially unable to provide necessary care for himself. If a veteran is well able to pay, there would seem to be no reason for distinguishing his case on the ground that lie is older than some other veteran.