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TO AMMEND CERTAIN LAWS AND VETERANS' REGULA
TIONS EFFECTING WORLD WAR VETERANS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 1937
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D. C. The committee met at 10:30 o'clock, Hon. John E. Rankin (chairman) presiding.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. We will hear this morning the representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and will first have Mr. Rice, their legislative representative. You may proceed, Mr. Rice, and put your men on in the order that you desire.
STATEMENT OF MILLARD W. RICE, LEGISLATIVE REPRE
SENTATIVE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS
Mr. Rice. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, last week, I made a general statement before the committee relative to the several objectives in which the Veterans of Foreign Wars are interested; that is, so far as veterans' legislation is concerned.
Now, I would like to discuss those various objectives and the bill in somewhat more detail, which I understand I am in order to do, except as to the insurance bills, which are being heard by a separate subcommittee.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, that insurance subcommittee will meet tomorrow morning in this room.
Mr. RICE. But it is as to the other veterans' bills and their objectives that we may have discussion before this committee?
The CHAIRMAN. That is right.
Mr. Rice. Our organization, this year, has divided its objectives and policies into five main points, the first three of which pertain to veterans. May I first state what the first three points in our general program of objectives are, so that you may get the philosophy that motivates our various veteran objectives.
Point 1 is adequate pensions for widows and orphans of all deceased war veterans, and increased pensions for dependents of deceased service-connected disabled veterans.
Point 2 is adequate benefits for disabled veterans, with due consideration for the length, type, and circumstances of the veterans' service, especially for men who served overseas; and point 3 is more effective Federal, State, county, and municipal employment, and civil service preference laws, which of course do not come before this committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Rice, you understand this committee cannot handle pensions.
Mr. Rice. Yes, that is right.
The CHAIRMAN. We are precluded, under the rules, from entertaining pensions.
Mr. Rice. I will not discuss that part of point 2 that pertains to pensions.
The CHAIRMAN. That will be all right.
Mr. Rics. Nor will I discuss point 3, at all, but I wanted you to have a coordinated idea of what our objectives are, and why we should give greater preference to some matters and less to others, dependent upon the other objectives.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you a bill that contains the provisions of point 2?
Mr. Rice. Yes, I have several bills that I propose to discuss. May I first discuss our point no. 1, relative to adequate pensions for widows and orphans of all deceased war veterans, and increased pensions for dependents, that is, widows and orphans and mothers and fathers of deceased service connected disabled veterans. We have embodied all of the objectives that we have in mind relative to pensions for widows and orphans in H. R. 2005, introduced by the chairman of this committee. I would like to insert that in the record at this point.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, it is so ordered. (H. R. 2005 is as follows:)
Mr. Rice. The bill might be said to be divided into four principal parts. The first section would provide for an increase of substantially 50 percent over and above the amounts now provided for widows and orphans and the dependent parents of those veterans who died while in the military service.
Mr. SAUTHOFF. Mr. Chairman, pardon my interruption, but what bill are you referring to?
Mr. ŘICE. H. R. 2005.
Mr. RICE. And of those veterans who were suffering with serviceconnected disabilities and who died by reason of the service-connected disabilities. We would refer to that as class 1. The widow, without dependents of such veteran is now receiving $30 per month, and we would increase that basic amount up to $45 per month. A widow with one child is now receiving $40 per month. We would increase that up to $60 per month, which would be a 50-percent increase, and so on all the way through for these dependents under the present rates. At increased ages we would increase the present rates by 50 percent over and above what they now are; stating the amounts specifically in the bill.
As justification for our request in that respect, I might cite the fact that, since March 1933, the cost of living has increased by more than 30 percent and is still on its way upward.
Now, the rates have always been inadequate. Dependent widows, with children, find that it is almost impossible, under the present rates, to take care of the bare necessities of life and must receive some supplemental assistance, either from the veterans' organizations, other charitable organizations, or from the county or State relief able to take care of the bare necessities, let alone any of the minimum comforts of
life. Such a situation should not be. All of the necessities of life required for the widow and orphans of a deceased service-connected disabled veteran, or one who was killed in action, should be made possible out of the pension which she receives from the Federal Government, without the necessity of any supplemental assistance from a private charitable agency or the local government.
That, briefly, states the justification for our request for increasing this amount by at least 50 percent over and above what it now is. We consider that request as being very conservative, and would not feel that it was amiss if the amounts now provided were to be more than doubled over what they now are.
Our particular bill would increase, by 50 percent, the amounts now paid to a dependent mother or father. That is perhaps entirely too conservative, and we would like the committee to give consideration to increasing that amount even more; particularly in view of the fact that the dependent mother or father, particularly the mother, the Gold Star Mothers of those veterans who were killed in action, and who have received insurance payments--that those payments are about to be discorftinued this year and next year and the year following. That is true also as to the widows of those men who were killed in action.
There are, however, more dependent mothers in that classification than there are widows. On the other hand, we do want to emphasize to this committee that such increases may be granted to the dependent mothers or fathers of veterans who were killed in action, or who died by reason of service-connected disabilities, as well as such increase for the widows of such classified veterans, should apply as to all within that classification, whether or not they had any Government insurance payment benefits.
In other words, we believe that a dependent mother of a veteran who was killed in action is deserving of the increase to the same extent, whether or not her son was sufficiently thoughtful to provide the insurance benefits for her in the event of his death. Most such veterans did have insurance policies, but some of them did not.
However, we do want to call attention to the fact that such insurance payments are now about to terminate in such cases, making it particularly desirous that a substantial increase should be granted at this time.
Class 2, or section 2 of our bill, would provide for approximately 50 percent increases for the second class of widows and orphans and
The CHAIRMAN. Before you leave that, Mr. Rice, would it disturb you to ask you questions?
Mr. Rice. I would be very happy to have you do so.
The CHAIRMAN. Of the dependent parents, the Gold Star Mothers, of course, the ones whose insurance payments expire, are the ones who are the most pressing, and it is, to my mind, the most pressing problem that we have. Now, in case this increase were not made, I will say, a horizontal increase of those compensations, what would you recommend with reference to those Gold Star parents whose insurance payments begin to expire in the spring? Have you any definite suggestion on that point?
Mr. Rice. Mr. Chairman, we agree with you that the problem is pressing, but it is pressing not only for the dependent mothers of
those who were killed in action and who had insurance policies, but it is equally pressing with those who did not have any insurance policies. They have accommodated themselves to the small payments over all of these years, and somebody else has had to take care of them at least in part.
The CHAIRMAN. But suppose we find it impossible to secure the passage of a measure that will grant a horizontal increase? That is what I am thinking about. I do not want to sacrifice these Gold Star Mothers
Mr. RICE. Neither do we.
The CHAIRMAN. Or fathers, whose insurance payments are expiring, if we find it impossible to make this horizontal increase.
Mr. Rice. You mean if you find it impossible to make a horizontal increase for the Gold Star Mothers, whose sons did not have any insurance policies?
The CHAIRMAN. No; but your proposition is to cover those who have insurance policies, and are still drawing pay on them. There are limitations that we run up against here about once a year, and it is not within our power to overcome; and one of the serious questions that confronts me is taking care of these people whose insurance payments are expiring. If we find that it is impossible to go as far as you suggest then I was just wondering if you had any suggestion of a measure or a bill to take care of the immediate emergency.
Mr. RICE. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to take any exception to the Chairman's statements, but our feeling is that we have just as much obligation to those Gold Star Mothers, whose sons did not take out any insurance policies, as we have to those whose sons did take out such insurance policies.
The CHAIRMAN. Those are not the ones I am speaking about, but the ones who did have insurance, who are still drawing that insurance, the ones that are not in dire circumstances just now, but will find themselves in dire circumstances, we will say, next spring when their insurance expires. Now, if you make this a horizontal proposition, you must cover the ones who are drawing insurance, as well as the ones whose insurance has expired, or who have not even had any insurance. In case you find it is impossible to go that far—and I have found, as chairman of this committee, that some things are impossible-Napoleon's statement to the contrary notwithstanding-in case we find it impossible to go that far, I was just wondering if you have any suggestion of a measure, the form of a measure that would take care of the pressing need of those people?
Mr. Rice. Mr. Chairman, our organization would not differentiate between those who still continue to receive insurance payments an those whose payments have been terminated, for this reason: That the question of the continuance of the payments from the insurance policies is purely a contractual relationship, and has nothing to do with, and should not have anything to do with, in our opinion, the question of the amount of pensions to be paid to them.
That may sound a little bit ruthless possibly, but if a Gold Star Mother is entitled to an increase, she is entitled to that increase in pension, regardless of the amount of insurance payments which she has been receiving. True, the problem becomes more pressing for those who have received such payments, and whose payments are about to be discontinued, but it is and has long been pressing for those
Gold Star Mothers whose sons failed to take out those policies during all of these years.
Therefore, we feel that, if a pension should be granted, it should be granted on a horizontal increase to all of them, and all affected at the same time, regardless of whether some may continue for another year to receive those payments.
The CHAIRMAN. Some continue for 20 years, because some of them died and are dying now from service-connected disabilities, and they will receive those payments for 20 years.
Mr. Rice. That may be true.
The CHAIRMAN. Right now the question is, If we cannot go that far, whether or not we are going to sacrifice-whether or not we are willing to sacrifice our chances for taking care of the Gold Star Mothers who are going to be cut off in the spring.
Mr. Rice. Certainly, we should not.
The CHAIRMAN. I have learned, as chairman of this committee, that we are not going to get everything we want, and I have gone through some harrassing experiences trying to take care, first, of the ones that were in the most need, and the most deserving. Now, the pressing problem that is confronting us now is to take care of these Gold Star parents, whose insurance policies are now expiring and, as you say, those who had no insurance, and whose relatives have no insurance. Now, if we can go that far and cannot go the whole way, I am not willing to sacrifice them in an attempt to make this a horizontal proposition.
Mrs. ROGERS. Mr. Chairman, can you not take care of them in a separate bill? I have a bill that I have introduced, that provides that the Gold Star Mothers receive the same amount of insurance payments that they are now receiving. That would take care of them.
The CHAIRMAN. I was just asking whether or not, if his proposition were separated, what measure he would suggest to take care of the pressing need.
Mr. Rice. Mr. Chairman, very frankly, we have no suggestion to make along that line, because we do believe that the contractual relationship, and the so-called gratuity relationship should be kept apart.
Please keep in mind that this Congress has never provided any needs clause concerning service-connected cases, and if you do make a differentiation between those who continue to receive payments on their insurance policies and those who do not, then you are, in effect, introducing a needs clause as to service-connected cases. We have always been willing to go along with the needs clause as to nonserviceconnected cases, but as to service-connected cases we have not felt we would be justified in having any kind of needs clause whatsoever, we have not yet felt justified in requesting that the payments on the insurance policies be continued indefinitely beyond the term of the contract.
Therefore, the only solution that we can offer has been definitely a horizontal increase for all classes of dependents of service-connected deceased disabled veterans, who died by reason of service-connected disabilities.
Mr. GRISWOLD. I want to get your position clear, that of your organization on this thing, and I get your position to be this: That