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creases in military pay have resulted in certain increases in widows DIC payments. Unfortunately though, it has usually only been the widows whose husbands were in the higher ranks that received such increases and the widows of the private or others of lower ranks have usually received nothing or at the most $1 or $2 a month. In view of the small increased benefits most widows have received since January 1, 1957, when the DIC program was created, and with the large increase in the cost of living since that date, it is obvious that merely increasing the $120 monthly basic rate tó $130 will not nearly be enough to enable most widows to regain the purchasing power their DIC payments have lost since 1957. We, therefore, believe, Mr. Chairman, that drastic changes must be made in the present system of DIC payments for widows.
We support proposals to provide an additional payment for widows who have minor children.
Public Law 90-77 created a special aid-and-attendance allowance for seriously disabled widows in receipt of a non-service-connected death pension. This benefit has been most beneficial to many seriously disabled widows and, Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to express our grateful appreciation to the members of this committee for your foresightedness in creating this benefit. We would urge that this special aid-and-attendance allowance also be extended to widows receiving DIC benefits.
The greatest honor that I have received during this past year as national commander of the Veterans of World War I, U.S.A., Inc., has been the privilege of appearing before this distinguished committee. As the time of our national convention is near, this will probably be my last appearance. I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to express my most grateful appreciation to Chairman Teague, to you, Mr. Chairman, to each of you distinguished members of this subcommittee and to each of the members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and to the committee's excellent staff for all of the kindness, assistance, and cooperation I have received from you during the past year. I only wish that every veteran in this Nation could have the opportunity to meet with you as I have and to learn of the sincere dedication you have for veterans' welfare. This Nation's veterans and their dependents have no greater friends than those Members of Congress who serve on the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Thank you and may God bless you in your continued endeavors on behalf of this Nation's veterans and their dependents.
Mr. Dorn. Mr. Commander, thank you for a splendid statement.
Might I say on behalf of our distinguished chairman of the full committee, we all appreciate your kind remarks about him and about the members of this committee.
I will say too that our association with you this past year has been very constructive, fruitful, and enlightening, and I wish you well in your national convention.
We have been happy to have you with us today and we want you to continue to advise us about matters of interest to veterans and matters before the committee.
Mr. MILLER. Thank you.
Mr. Dorn. Our next witness will be Col. James W. Chapman, Senior Legislative Council, Retired Officers Association. Colonel, we are happy to have you with us.
STATEMENT OF COL. JAMES W. CHAPMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE,
RETIRED, LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL, RETIRED OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
Colonel CHAPMAN. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity of appearing before this subcommittee to speak on behalf of retired personnel of the uniformed services.
I am Col. James W. Chapman, U.S. Air Forces (retired), the LegisJative Council of the Retired Officers Association, which has its national headquarters here in Washington at 1625 I Street NW.
The Retired Officers Association has been in existence for over 40 years—having been established in 1929. Its present membership includes 116,000 retired officers of the seven uniformed services: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Coast and Geodetic Survey-now called ESSA, the Environmental Science Services Administration and the Public Health Service.
Although our membership is limited to persons who have at some time served honorably as commissioned or warrant officers, we include among our membership persons who retired from an enlisted status and more importantly, our general legislative program is aimed at maintaining and in some cases improving the benefits of all military retirees regardless of their status as officers or enlisted men or women.
All of our members are veterans—many are veterans of several wars and extensive peacetime service in both"hot" and "cold” war situations—and, as such, are vitally interested in the matters under consideration by the subcommittee.
My remarks will be directed primarily at the plight of military widows, including those whose husbands are dying today in Vietnam or from other causes while still in the active service, and of the widows of veterans who have completed their active careers after having devoted long years of service to their country in its Armed Forces.
The widow and dependent children of servicemen dying during their active careers from any cause receive their basic benefits from the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Act.
We believe the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Act is basically a sound piece of legislation, although later in my remarks I will propose it be exapnded to provide coverage for an additional group of people.
However, we believe that with the cost of living increasing at the current rapid pace, the basic monthly payment of $120 plus 12 percent of the active duty rate should be increased to $150 plus 12 percent. This would increase the annuity by 21.5 percent for widows in the lowest payment bracket and would provide welcome relief for all widows entitled to these benefits.
We know that this committee is quite cognizant of that situation and I would like to devote the remainder of my time to speaking on behalf of the thousands of widows of career military retirees who are left destitute or practically so because their husbands had retired from the active service prior to their deaths and did not die of a service-connected cause.
This harsh prospect for the dependents of most military retirees is in marked contrast to the situation as regards the dependents of persons who die while in the active military service, or who die after retirement from a cause which is determined to be service connected. Such dependents are entitled to benefits under the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Act, liberalization of which is now being considered by this committee.
However, if the serviceman has retired, and the death cannot be traced directly to a service-connected cause, then the surviving dependent receives no assistance at all. Thus the active serviceman knows that his widow will become entitled to a substantial benefit if he dies while still in the active service, and she may become entitled to the benefit if he dies after retirement.
But he cannot determine if she actually will receive the benefit. And if in fact she does not, it is too late for the now deceased retiree to make other provisions for her. Thus it is apparent that reliable estate planning is almost impossible.
Far too many servicemen rely upon the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Act for protection of their families during their active service careers. At retirement, they find that the purchase of adequate insurance at their more advanced age, at the very time that the family income is drastically reduced, is not feasible and their survivors are left without insurance protection.
As a result, many aged widows of retirees are struggling to exist on practically no income, following the deaths of their husbands and the resultant stoppage of retired pay. Most of these women, who shared the trials and hardships and often the dangers of their husbands' active military life and who reared their families during the long absences of their husbands while they were at sea, in isolated assignments, or on actual combat missions, are in an age bracket which prevents them from earning money by gainful employment. Many of them are not acceptable for entrance into desirable nursing homes because of their lack of income coupled with lack of property holdings.
Recognizing the requirement for a practicable system of providing for the survivors of retirees, the Department of Defense in 1947 forwarded a proposal to Congress which became the Contingency Option Act of 1953 (now the Retired Serviceman's Family Protection Plan), but the prohibitive costs and the extremely tight restrictions of the act make it unacceptable to more than 80 percent of all retirees, and the problem of lack of protection for survivors remains as a major problem of career compensation.
Mr. Chairman, I know that you are personally much interested in the enactment of legislation to provide benefits to such widows, as evidenced by a bill which you have sponsored in each of the past several Congresses, designated H.R. 8154 in the current Congress, now pending before the Committee on Armed Services. For this action and your sincere interest in the problem you have the gratitude of our members and of retiree widows everywhere.
I suggest to you and your colleagues that the same general purpose could be served by enactment of a measure along the lines of H.R. 1140, introduced by Mr. Gubser, H.R. 2087 by Mr. Hosmer, and H.R. 7702 by Mr. Clausen. These bills would extend the coverage of the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Act to the surviving dependents of retirees with at least 20 years' service or a 50 percent physical disability. The Retired Officers Association recommends this course of action,
although we recognize that it is not as generous in its treatment of widows as is the bill (H.R. 8154) introduced by the chairman. The requirement for some adequate legislation to fill this gap
apparent. We urge this committee to give this problem its most earnest consideration.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the members of the committee for the opportunity to present our views.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Colonel Chapman. Mr. Meadows, have you a question ?
STAFF DIRECTOR. On this question of protecting the surviving widows of career military personnel, where that personnel died from nonservice-connected causes, I understood there was some sort of committee in the Defense Department that was making a study of this problem and hopefully would make a recommendation for some type of retirement program where the widow would be protected. Perhaps a contributory program where the member of the Armed Forces would make some contribution as under civil service, and the employer would make a corresponding contribution. Has anything come of this?
Colonel CHAPMAN. I believe you are referring to the quadrennial pay study group which is normally called the Hubbell committee. They have been studying this.
No; the retirement portion of that study has not been released. It is my understanding they are considering some help in this general field for people who retire in the future, that there is nothing in their proposal that would help someone already a widow of an officer or enlisted man who is already retired.
STAFF DIRECTOR. Do you feel relatively hopeful about even the prospective development of the plan? Does your organization believe something will move along this line?
Colonel CHAPMAN. I don't expect much from the Hubbell committee unless it has drastically changed. As you know, it has been restudied by an outside group and I haven't seen any comments on what they are doing. I know
the original study applied only to the future, as people who retired from the service after the effective date of the act.
STAFF DIRECTOR. There is another item concerning counting of income from the family protection plan for pension purposes. I know it is one of the matters before us here. I believe this committee has reported legislation favorably on two occasions to reconcile this problem.
It is our view that the imposition of the counting of this fund was actually a default. The members of the Armed Forces were sure when they took up the plan that that income would not be counted for pension purposes. Somehow or other it has been double crossed. They have been double crossed and this committee should act. I believe your organization still favors that position.
Colonel CHAPMAN. I am very glad you mentioned that. I limited myself to a short statement today. That is H.R. 366, I believe, which is a low number of the bills.
There was a statement made to all people who signed up that this would not count as income for the purpose of determining whether the widow would get a pension but it has been interpreted otherwise. If you have income from that source which you have paid for this precludes the widow getting anything from a pension program.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Colonel Chapman. The subcommittee has received a letter from the National Legislative Director of AMVETS, and without objection it will be printed at this point in the record.
AMVETS NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS,
Washington, D.C., August 28, 1969.
Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, Rayburn Office Buildings,
Washington, D.C. DEAR CONGRESSMAN DORN: AVVETS are privileged to address this letter to you for the consideration of your distinguished committee. The subject under consideration is urgent and intimately connected with one of the pressing problems facing the nation today, that is, the spiraling cost of living, especially in such critical areas as food and the necessities of day-to-day living.
The price squeeze is affecting the fixed income people to the greatest extentthe aged, the infirm, the widow, and the pensioner. It is heartwarming to see the host of bills now before your committee proposing to increase the rates for dependency and indemnity compensation. The bills now under consideration will change the basic $120 rate in Section 411 of Title 38 to amounts from $130 to $135. We urge that your committee consider at least the $135 amount. Accordingly, we support the enactment of H.R. 4623, a bill to amend Title 38 of the U.S. Code to provide cost of living increases in monthly dependency and indemnity compensation to widow's of veterans.
With regard to children, we support H.R. 4617 and H.R. 5515 “to amend Section 411 of Title 38, United States Code, to provide additional dependency and indemnity compensation payments to widows with one or more children,” with an added provision for the child beyond age 18 who is unable to care for himself (herself) or who is pursuing a course of instruction at an approved educational institution.
We further hope your committee will enact legislation to provide aid and attendance allowance for dependency and indemnity compensation widows. There is now no provision for such an allowance, but there is aid and attendance allowance for eligible widows receiving nonservice death pension. There are several measures now before your committee that would provide aid and attendance allowance for dependency, indemnity compensation widows, and we hope that your committee will enact a bill providing at least the same amount as in the case of the non-service connected claims. We support H.R. 4621, to increase de. pendency and indemnity compensation to widows who are in need of regular aid and attendance.
AMVETS have long felt that the age 72 or older pensioners should not be compelled to provide an annual income questionnaire incident receipt of their pension claims. Certainly, when one is 72 and qualifies for a pension, it is quite apparent that one's income will not change. We feel that the elimination of an income questionnaire for the age 72 or older veterans would not only avoid a distasteful task on the side of the pensioner, but would also eliminate the administrative costs involved in the questionnaire.
We know that there is a considerable number of bills before your committee, and we have addressed our letter specifically to cover dependency and indemnity compensation, the waiver of income questionnaire for person age 72 or over, and the provision of aid and attendance allowance for dependency and indemnity compensation.
My organization stands ready to support you in your efforts, and we hope that fruitful results will come from your committee, along the lines herein presented. Sincerely yours,
RALPH J. ROSSIGNUOLO,
National Legislative Director. Mr. Dorn. The subcommittee stands adjourned until 10 o'clock in the morning
(Whereupon, at 11:30 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned to reconvene at 10a.m., Thursday, September 4, 1969.)