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The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Ten Eyck. Now, Colonel Taylor?
Colonel TAYLOR. Mr. Chairman, I would like to present Capt. Watson Miller to open the discussion on this particular bill.
The CHAIRMAN. Before we go any further, let me say that this subcommittee on this insurance bill: I am going to appoint on that committee as chairman, Mr. Griswold. I would like the clerk to take this. I appoint as chairman of that subcommittee Mr. Griswold, of Indiana, and on there with him Mr. Gray, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Voorhis, of California; Mr. Jarman, of Alabama; Mr. Engel, of Michigan; Mr. Halleck, of Indiana; and Mr. Sauthoff, of Wisconsin.
The chairman, Mr. Griswold, will notify you when he wants to hold those hearings.
Now, Captain Miller, we have before us a bill, H. R. 1538, for the repeal of the so-called misconduct clause, and we want to dispose of it within a very short time. We will be gald to hear you briefly on the proposition.
STATEMENT OF CAPT. WATSON MILLER, REPRESENTING THE
Captain Miller. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for permitting me to appear here. It occurs to me that the other members of this committee have been receiving representatives of the American Legion and other veterans' organizations for 13 years; always working in consonance with equitable principles relative to relief of the disabled. This has been a constant inspiration to us, and it has been a privilege to us to have assisted in this effective and vital duty with its pleasant association with you gentlemen and the lady member.
I think, on H. R. 1538, the repeal of the so-called misconduct bar, the committee would like to have, in as few words as possible, something about the background.
I may say this happens to be the first time I have seen the bill, but it is simple in its terms and direct in its effects. Back in the early days, prior to 1923, no great question was raised as to the payment of compensation in cases where the disability happened to be related to neurological causes, or luetic disease. The misconduct bar, in the earlier legislation, as I look at it, was really against self-inficted wounds, and such things as that. However, the earlier laws granted a presumption of sound condition at enlistment except as to defects made of record by officials of the Government, officials of the Army or Navy. This made it impossible for those having charge of the assessment of disabilities and the payment of compensation to go behind these service records and set up the proposition that the disablement arose before service.
In 1923, before the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Mr. Huddleston, of Alabama, was interrogating an official of the Veterans' Bureau as to the manner in which that resumption of sound condition was given effect. They were not discussing diseases, but they were rather discussing congenital defects, such as shortened legs and so on. The response was, as I recall it, that when it was a palpably congenital defect, full effect was not given to the protecting law.
Mr. Huddleston then observed, in effect, that he thought a man who was good enough to be taken into the service was good enough to be afforded this protection. So he wrote the word "conclusively” before the word "presumed” in what was then section 200 of the War Risk Insurance Act, which afterward became section 200 of the World War Veterans' Act.
Then there was almost immediately raised this question in the Veterans’ Bureau: If, as a matter of fact, the records showed that a man had a showing of a venereal disease made of record for the first time during service in the Army or Navy, so far as the records could show, it was then held, in effect as due to misconduct. Recourse could not be taken to unofficial records (the man's own statement, or his record before service in his own community, because of Mr. Huddleston's presumption of sound condition. The disease had to be held as of service incurrence and the imputation of misconduct ruled him out.
In opinion of April 1923, the then General Counsel affirmed this theory, which, in September of the same year, was further affirmed by the Comptroller General of the United States in a decision on the Endres case. That threw us into a field of uncertainty, from which we have never completely recovered. Law and regulation have multiplied and the matter has frequently been inexplicable.
It has been difficult to explain to these persons why we were paying a man in a serious condition from a social disease on the same basis we were paying a man who was blinded as the result of a gunshot wound. It is my recollection that this committee approached the question on two bases: One, that of compassion. These men had given a good deal, and it was consideration for the men who were in serious condition and who, in many cases, would surely pay for what they had with their lives. The other consideration which was advanced before the committee was that perhaps 50 percent of these diseases were acquired through other than questionable channels. Many fathers and mothers of these boys, in effect, had transmitted the diseases to their sons, who afterward went into the Army without knowledge of it, and through the rigors of the service there came a flaring up of disease theretofore latent.
By outside neurologists, such as Dr. W. I. Lorenz, of Wisconsin, it was demonstrated that many diseases have been generated through the use of the common drinking cup, face towels, and other conveniences commonly used. In the picture of syphilis
Mr. CHAIRMAN. Now, Colonel, before you go any further, this provision is not in any other veterans' legislation, is it?
Colonel MILLER. It is not, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. It is not in legislation pertaining to the Civil War veterans? Is it not in legislation pertaining to the Spanish War veterans? Is it not in legislation pertaining to peacetime veterans; and so far as I have been able to find, there has never been a State that paid a pension that has incorporated this provision into its law; and it was put into the law before this committee was organized, so the Veterans' Committee is not responsible for it being in the law, to begin with.
Colonel MILLER. No; Mr. Chairman, the bar was raised against the Spanish War pension with this phrase in that early law, that they would not pay a pension for a disease resulting from a man's own
vicious misconduct. That has been repealed, in the wisdom of the National Legislature. The bar still lies in Public, 484. That was the law granting small benefits to World War widows and orphans of service-connected veterans who die of other reasons than their service connection, who were entitled, at the time of their deaths, to receive or have received 30 percent or more disability compensation. I think perhaps it should be eliminated in future legislation, because it will arise to harass us as long as we live, if it is not eliminated.
Mr. CONNERY. H. R. 1538 repeals that? This bill repeals that?
Colonel Miller. Yes. Now, I want to say that this thing has been overemphasized in the minds of the public. of having the number of thousands of living veterans who were in receipt of compensation for the so-called misconduct diseases at the time of the coming of the economy act as suggested by Judge Barbour, we had less than 1,900 out of nearly 5,000,000 who served during the World War.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean there will be less than 1,900 coming under the provisions of this bill?
Colonel MILLER. That is my information at the present time. This relates to service-connected disabled men; and the chairman and members of the committee will realize, as we become further removed from the war how difficult the question of service connection is going to be, particularly in this sort of issue; so I think it may be fairly said that we now have about all we will ever have.
Mr. CHAIRMAN. Eight hundred of those cases have been restored to the rolls through the operation of section 26 of Public, 141, which you passed in June of 1934. So that the residue is not much more than a handful. Of course, the widows
Mr. CONNERY. What was that statute you just referred to?
Colonel MILLER. They restored pretty nearly all of the benefits that were taken away from the veterans and their dependents by the operation of the Economy Act, and took over many of those that did not survive, especially those under Public Law No. 87, which, Mr. Connery will remember, was passed by the Congress on June 16, 1933.
Mr. CONNERY. But I mean with reference to the misconduct cases.
Colonel MILLER. The blind cases, the cases where blindness was result of syphilis, likely-
Mr. CONNERY. Will this only affect 1,900 cases?
Colonel MILLER. Unless they take in the widows. The widows, you see, never received the benefit of the exemption in the act you approved on June 7, 1924.
The CHAIRMAN. We have taken care of the widows and orphans under legislation last year and the year before, Public, 484, and I have forgotten the number of the other one-484 and 844. I think those two measures would take care of the widows and orphans, so far as this provision is concerned.
Mrs. Rogers. How does this run, what is the percentage of the cases of disease among the veterans compared with the number in civil population?
Colonel MILLER. I think it would be about the same. I would think it would be. We have some general figures relating to the Army. Throughout the entire Army, syphilis was discerned in only about 6,000 cases. I think of that small number, very great credit to the high standards of our American boys and to the instruction and discipline of the Army and Navy.
Mr. CONNERY. How many?
Colonel MILLER. About 6,000 cases, out of nearly 5,000,000 that served, the greatest incidence was in the Philippine Islands, where we had 21,000 men under arms during the World War. The next was in our home camps and we had an enlightening and wonderful record so far as the overseas man was concerned, a very, very small incidence of syphilis.
Mr. CONNERY. There is one thing, Colonel-pardon me—there is one thing I notice in here about disabilities for blindness
The CHAIRMAN. If the misconduct affected the discharging of their duties as soldiers, for instance, when a man deserted
Mr. CONNERY. How about the men that were sent to the labor battalions? Suppose a regiment was in the line and they sent a man to the labor battalion for a month, then he came back?
Colonel MILLER. I will insert in the record, just for the advice of the committee, some satistics as to the number of actual days lost from duty. I have them conveniently at hand, but not in my pocket at the moment.
The CHAIRMAN. Colonel Miller, will you also insert the number of men-if you do not have it already—the number of men who will be affected by this law?
Colonel MILLER. I think, Mr. Chairman, we will have to yield to the Veterans' Administration, because that is the source of the most accurate estimates.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not trying to rush you, but we have a couple of others here to speak
Mrs. ROGERS. Do you feel their estimates are always accurate? (Here followed discussion off the record.)
Colonel Miller. I think your consideration for humanity and understanding and realization of what the soldiers went through, their great trials and uncertainty as to what was the cause of the initial lesion in these diseases, the fact that you have gone so far as you have with the pitiful blind cases, is fine. You may want to hold this bill down just a little bit, so that it does not include all forms of syphiletic cases or gonorrheal cases, if you want me to speak frankly. You may want, finally, in view of the cost and the present state of public opinion possibly, to confine your further immediate relief to the group which is in such serious condition as a result of these service connected, so-called misconduct diseases, as to inhibit them from carrying on and making a livelihood for themselves and family.
It probably would not be met with popular approval, if you proceed to pay compensation to all classes of cases irrespective of degree of disablement. But that is something the committee should discuss further and permit us to give additional evidence upon.
The other point that I thought I would close with was to again emphasize the proposition that the public health authorities of the Federal Government and the States and counties and women's organizations, welfare organizations, have, now, for the first time,
been able to get coherent statistics that show the extent of the socalled innocent acquirement of these venereal diseases. There is ample room for this committee to consider some reasonable extension of compassion to these seriously diseased cases.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, now, Colonel Miller, this bill would not put a service man on the roll who would not go on the roll now, if he were a Spanish American War veteran or a Civil War veteran, would it?
Colonel MILLER. No; this requires that the disability to be of service origin.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, we thank you very much, Captain Miller.
Mr. CONNERY. Captain, before you finish, may I say, also, from personal knowledge, that some of the best fighting men in the American Army will be taken care of when we pass this legislation.
The CHAIRMAN. Not only that, Captain Miller, but here is what concerns me most: You are visiting on the widows and orphans of these men not only their own misconduct, but invariably the mistakes of some physician who attributed his disability to misconduct, when, really, it should be attributed to something else.
Captain MILLER. Yes; and I want to emphasize that point.
The CHAIRMAN. I also want to thank you, Captain Miller, and to say to you, in response to your opening statement, that we are always glad to have you come before this committee, and no man, to my knowledged, has rendered greater service to the committee, since it has been organized, than you have. We are grateful, indeed. I have with me here the only man who was on the committee with me when it was first organized, he joins me in that statement. I thank you.
Mr. ENGEL. Captain Miller, did you say 50 percent of the blindness of these blind cases, syphilis cases, were innocently acquired?
Captain MILLER. No; I made the statement that the estimate now made by the public health authorities, after making extensive surveys in the schools and industrial enterprises and a cross-section of the population in the different parts of the country, adjacent to the oil fields, and in the more highly developed, esthetic sections of the country, such as Massachusetts, they now reach the conclusion that about 50 percent of the venereal disease cases arise in circumstances other than what you and I would understand, without discussion, as being questionable.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Captain Miller.
Dr. Shapiro, we have a few minutes left, and we would like to hear a few words from you.
STATEMENT OF DR. H. D. SHAPIRO, MEDICAL CONSULTANT,
NATIONAL REHABILITATION COMMITTEE, AMERICAN LEGION
Dr. SHAPIRO. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thought I would spend a few minutes in outlining some of the medical features of the bill before you, but before doing so, I would like to call attention to the precedent more or less established by this committee when the World War Veterans' Act was passed in 1924, which provided that, if a man was otherwise service connected, that compensation should not be denied him, if he was suffering from paresis, paralysis, or blindness, or if he is helpless and bedridden. So this committee did cure the decisions that came up in 1923, barring misconduct cases.