Page images
PDF
EPUB

he can secure representation and through these various agencies get a review of his case, get a more favorable disposition of his claim?

In other words, the one who does not ask the aid of these service organizations, because he does not have the initiative or does not know enough to, is a victim of circumstances?

Dr. SHAPIRO. That is true to a certain extent. I would not say that he is a victim of circumstances, because many favorable decisions are rendered even where the service organizations do not go into the case at all.

Mr. BRADLEY. But you have a much better chance if the service organizations do take the case up, is not that so? Dr. SHAPIRO. I personally believe so; yes.

The CHAIRMAN. The feeling that I have about it is that these cases are constantly on trial, so to speak, under the present system. A man who is drawing compensation feels that he is constantly on trial. The Veterans Administration in the various States is always going into his case with a view of rerating it.

It seems to me that everyone concerned would be better off if they would just let these cases alone.

What do you think of a provision such as this: Where a man has been drawing compensation for 5 years, to make that compensation permanent unless fraud or gross error is shown?

Dr. SHAPIRO. I am very much in favor of it, for a number of reasons. In the first place, a man who is disabled, and who is attempting to earn a livelihood is frequently taken away from that work when he is ordered in for an examination; and frequently he may have to travel a great distance to report for such examination.

On top of that, he is frequently ordered into a hospital. If he refuses to go, his compensation is either discontinued or at least it creates an unfavorable reaction on a rating board, because he did not cooperate.

I know that that has caused a great deal of anxiety and apprehension on the part of the veteran. I know, for example, that in neuropsy, chiatric cases they are frequently examined and I get letters and telegrams indicating that anxiety. There is a great deal of confusion, so far as the veteran and his family are concerned, because of these repeated examinations.

I think that if a man's disability is service connected and his compensation has been paid over a period of a number of years, it should be put on a more or less permanent basis and the veterans should be allowed to submit evidence of an increase in the degree of his disability, if such an increase occurred.

The CHAIRMAN. Suppose that were done, he would be placed on virtually the same status as a pensioner, is that correct?

Dr. SHAPIRO. Yes, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. Then we would not need this great army of employees all over the country who are continuously meddling with these cases?

Dr. SHAPIRO. And it would also do this, Mr. Chairman: It would give this army of employees, as you put it, a greater opportunity to go into those difficult problem cases which are before them.

As I brought out before, I think much of the difficulty is due to the overwhelming amount of work that these men have to handle. I know what it is. It is a heroic task. They are flooded all the time

13365437

with cases, and it is a matter of production--production and more production.

Even the service organizations and the veterans themselves are on the neck of the Veterans' Administration all the time to get cases out in a hurry, to try to hurry these matters.

Mrs. ROGERS. How long, on an average, does one have to wait for a hearing before the Board of Appeals?

Dr. SHAPIRO. That depends. When an appeal is entered, the case is immediately placed upon a hearing docket and these cases are called in order. But if any emergency exists, you can always secure an advancement upon the hearing docket. We have no difficulty with that. All that the veteran has to do is to show the emergency.

Mrs. ROGERS. But in other cases?
Dr. SHAPIRO. They have waited, in other cases, 1 and 2 years.

Mrs. ROGERS. And the hearing of emergency cases out of order just puts the other cases lower down on the docket?

Dr. SHAPIRO. That is true.

Mr. LANZETTA. What percentage of cases are taken care of by service organizations?

Dr. SHAPIRO. Captain Miller, I believe, can give you those figures. I think it is about 60 percent. It varies according to whether they are in the appeal stage or in the initial stage. I think it is 60 percent.

Mr. MILLER. There is a power of attorney given in about 60 percent of the cases.

Mr. LANZETTA. What happens with the other 40 percent?
Dr. SHAPIRO. They go before the Board without advocacy.
Mr. LANZETTA. Personally?

Dr. SHAPIRO. Sometimes they come themselves, but very infrequently, because of the distance Washington is from so many other parts of the country.

Mr. LANZETTA. What are the results in those cases where the service organizations do not act in the case?

Dr. SHAPIRO. There were placed before the committee yesterday some figures which showed that something like 5 percent of the cases were allowed and 4 percent have been remanded, and another 3 percent have been allowed in part. Those were figures shown by the records.

Mr. LANZETTA. You mean of the 40 percent that are not taken care of by the service organizations? I mean of those cases, what percentage are allowed?

Dr. SHAPIRO. A very small percentage. I think it is about 16 percent.

Mr. MILLER. I said yesterday that those cases, from the standpoint of whatever information and knowledge we have been able to gather through years of experience, 60 to 80 percent cannot be allowed under any laws that you pass.

Mrs. ROGERS. Does the Legion take cases of men who are not members of the Legion?

Mr. MILLER. Yes. We do not make any distinction on that account.

Mr. LANZETTA. Do you not think the Veterans' Administration should appoint someone in cases where men are not being taken care of by the service organizations?

Mir. MILLER. I think I ought to repeat what I said some little while ago. The Veterans' Administration have an information and coopera

tion service, and they have some very skilled people in that service. I have not infrequently seen those persons at the side of veterans appearing before the regional office boards, and before the Board of Veterans' Appeals in Washington, with considerable success in instances that have come under my observation.

I have a great regard for their industry and earnestness. They are always in a rather difficult position psycologically, because they are put in the position of doing something which is not generally allowed by statute; that is, the prosecution of a claim against the Government itself.

Mr. LANZETTA. Do you not think that an outsider, appearing on behalf of the veteran, would give the veteran a better chance?

Dr. SHAPIRO. A veteran may have an outside attorney, if he wishes. The present law provides for outside attorneys who are recognized by the Veterans' Administration; that is, admitted to practice before the Veterans' Administration.

Mr. MILLER. But their fees are fixed by regulation at such a low figure that unless it is an instance where an attorney may be deeply interested personally in a case, or very compassionate or sympathetic, the better class of attorneys are not generally attracted to that business.

Mrs. ROGERS. Do you not find that the contact people in the Veterans' Administration are helped if the claimants have representatives of the service organizations or Members of Congress go in with them?

Mr. MILLER. We frequently cooperate with them. But I think nothing should be said against the men and women who operate in that capacity. They do very fine work.

Mrs. Rogers. I agree with you there; they are fine people; there are none finer to be found anywhere.

The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask you this question, Doctor, if I may. Do you know what the official pay roll of the Veterans' Administration is?

Dr. SHAPIRO. No, sir.

The CHAIRMAN. A few years ago I called attention to the fact that it was $43,000,000, or more than four times the total salaries of all Members of Congress and their clerks and committee employees.

That is due to the fact, in my opinion, that they reserve the right to go through these cases continually, many of which cases ought to have been closed the day they were first passed upon.

For that reason I have considered the passage of a bill similar to H. R. 5016, to make a veteran's payment permanent, if it has been paid over a period of 5 years. Instead of that, what we are doing now is to keep them on pins all the time. The veteran never knows what is going to happen to him.

It seems to me that these cases ought to be closed some time.

The war has been over now for 18 years, and it seems to me that we ought to pass law of some kind to put a stop to the interference with these men's cases unless there is fraud or a mistake shown, and then to have the burden of proof put on the Administration.

Dr. SHAPIRO. Mr. Chairman, I believe if that is done, when you consider the number of decreases and increases that take place and the administrative expense of handling that, that it would not cost the Government one red penny more to let these cases go, after a

period of 5 years, at what is being paid them. That is the way I have always felt about it.

The CHAIRMAN. I will tell you what it will do. If it is administered as it should be administered, it will save enough money to pay these widows and orphans, it will pay the expenses of this bill that we are considering. I may be wrong about that, but I do not think I am.

Please proceed with your statement, Doctor; pardon the interruption.

Dr. SHAPIRO. There is one other thing that struck me, that I wanted to bring before the committee.

Mrs. Rogers asked about the rating schedule a while ago. As it is right now, the 1925 schedule of disability ratings which was the rating schedule in effect until the Economy Act came in, when we obtained a rating schedule which was based not upon actual disablement but upon the necessities of economy-this earliest rating schedule appears to be frozen by law right now. And I agree with Mrs. Rogers, that there are many inadequacies. I brought that out at previous hearings, citing instances where men with a 20-percent disability rating were seriously disabled.

Dr. SHAPIRO. Well, Mr. Chairman, I am in agreement with you, I have always felt that the men were examined at too frequent intervals, and that that has placed a tremendous amount of work upon these rating agencies, who constantly have to rerate these cases.

The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed, Doctor.

Dr. SHAPIRO. I brought out the fact, for example, that a man who suffers with hardened arteries, or high blood pressure, and who is seriously disabled, will receive under the 1925 rating schedule only a 20-percent disability. If he happens to die of an accident, when it cannot be definitely proven that there is service connection, his dependents would not qualify under Public, No. 484.

We have many examples in the rating schedule where we think the men are considerably underrated. But, as I understand, that rating schedule is now frozen by law and that is the schedule that was in effect prior to Public, No. 2. Nothing can be done about it. The only schedule that perhaps can be amended is the schedule provided by Public, No. 2, and Public, No. 78.

So, it may be advisable, if the committee on inquiry finds that the 1925 schedule should be amended, as it has been from time to time, and is not frozen by law, then many of the things that Mrs. Rogers is complaining about can be changed. But I think it will require legislation. Perhaps some of the lawyers of the Veterans' Administration will bear me out on that. The schedule, as it is, I think is absolutely frozen and nothing can be done about it, although it has been necessary to make 12 extensions to the original 1925 schedule because of apparent inadequacies. And the Legion has been responsible for initiating action looking for changing many of these things.

The CHAIRMAN. Following this discussion which we have had off the record, may I say that I would especially oppose turning the Gold Star Mothers over to be taken care of under the present old-age pension set-up, because in some of these States you might have the case of a mother who sent her only son to war and he gave his life on the western front; and you would have her drawing a very small compensation of 4 or 5 or 6 dollars a month, possibly. These Gold Star Mothers must not be at least as far as I am concerned

they must not be put under a national old-age pension and left dependent in their old age on these inadequate amounts of compensation.

You do not have in their case the element of remarriage and an expanding roll. We know that it is diminishing every day.

Are there any other questions of the doctor?

Mr. JARMAN. Along the line of the discussion that the chairman had with you a minute ago, Doctor, where a man has been disabled for 5 years, and has been receiving compensation during that time, looking at it from the layman's point of view, I cannot quite get it in my mind, if a man has been rated as permanently disabled for a certain period of time, and has been examined three or four or five times during that period, how can it be determined later that he is not permanently disabled? Has he improved in his condition? Is there a difference of medical opinion? Is that how the change comes about?

Dr. SHAPIRO. I will say this much: The Congressman mentions the possibility of his being examined three to five times during a certain period of time, 5 or 10 or 15 years. The chances are that he has been examined 20 or 30 times and has been rerated that many times. It is not a question of a permanent rating. Frequently the Veterans' Administration will not place him on a permanent rating and, even if he is on a permanent rating, he must be examined.

The fact is it depends on the individual rating board. When a rating board determines on a rating they will put down “Reexamine in 6 months" or years, or what not, depending on their own individual judgment as to when a man should be reexamined.

I agree with you that a disability, even though considered to be of a temporary nature-for instance, a functional nervous disorder-if it has lasted for 15 years, it should be regarded and rated as permanent.

I think courts have taken cognizance of that in insurance suits. Mr. JARMAN. Well, how does it get rated otherwise?

Dr. SHAPIRO. It does not become other than permanent. Even permanent disability cases are reexamined. Even men with admittedly permanent ratings are reexamined; men who have suffered from gunshot wounds, for example, are called in for reexamination. Mr. JARMAN. And what is the idea of those reexaminationis?

Dr. SHAPIRO. As I said, it depends on the opinion of the individual examiner who calls them in from time to time for reexamination. I agree with the chairman that there are too many of these reexaminations.

Mr. JARMAN. I am just asking for information.

Dr. SHAPIRO. I do not know why they do that. I just had the case of a man with a gunshot wound who had a severe case of neuritis, and who had been on compensation since 1928. This was established after he went to a diagnostic center. He was reexamined the other day and his compensation was cut from 35 percent to 12 percent.

Mr. GRIFFITH. And he had been rated as a permanent-disability case?

Dr. SHAPIRO. Yes. And on the reexamination there was practically no change shown. That man is now being taken care of by a regional office in upper New York State.

Mr. LANZETTA. On these reexaminations, Doctor, is the veteran required to submit additional proof?

« PreviousContinue »