Page images
PDF
EPUB

The CHAIRMAN. Of course, all the ones whose insurance expires within the next year and a half, or at least in the next year, were service-connected cases.

Captain KIRBY. Men mostly killed on the field of battle.

The CHAIRMAN. But it seems to me that we are then coming to this situation: The aged parents of the men who carried their insurance, but who died from other causes, or whose disabilities were not serviceconnected—I am just wondering how far we would be justified in going.

Captain KIRBY. Well, you must remember that most of these men were killed in action. As I said about 80 percent of them were single men; so obviously the overwhelming majority of these proposed beneficiaries are aged parents.

The CHAIRMAN. Well, so far as I am concerned; I have no trouble in arriving at how far I would go in taking care of these aged parents. Any father or mother who sent a son to the war, and was dependent on him for a livelihood, and if that son has now passed away, I would take care of that father or mother, individually. But I found, some years ago, that my opinions were not always written into the law, even when I offered them on the floor of the House. Your proposition there is for the service connection

Captain KIRBY. A decided increase in allowances for all dependents of the service-connected dead.

The CHAIRMAN. How much would you allow a father or motherwell, go ahead. Possibly you will reach that in the course of your discussion.

Captain KIRBY (reading):

Where there is a widow or child and a dependent mother or father, that dependent mother or father would receive $30; and where there is no widow or child, the dependent mother or father, $60.

The attention of this committee is invited to the fact that even those vigorously attacking the total appropriations for veterans' relief agree at least that the allowances now going to dependents of the service-connected are palpably inadequate. At the beginning, these allowances took into consideration the insurance carried by the soldier or sailor. However, after discharge nearly 90 percent of the policies lapsed and, while many have been revived, large numbers of disabled men were denied reinstatement as they were not proper insurance risks. To summarize this, Congress must either adopt some plan of increase for widows, orphans, children, stepchildren, and aged parents of the wartime disabled as proposed in the D. A V. bill, or these unfortunates, in literally thousands of cases, will be compelled to look to public relief to keep body and soul together. We urge the most sympathetic consideration by this committee to this recommendation, for, otherwise, the neglect of the dependents of the men whose lives were shortened because of their contribution in winning the war will develop into a nauseous national scandal.

One of the cruel effects of the so-called Economy Act of 1933 was to hurl off the compensation rolls literally thousands of men whose permanent service connection had been guaranteed by the word of their Government through the presumptive clause. Realizing that it was utterly impossible for the average man to indicate a specific incident, at a specific place, at a specific time, that marked the inception of a chronic disability, Congress, after long study and favored by the advice of some of America's outstanding medical specialists, wrote into the law a presumption that, if certain disabilities manifest themselves within a certain period, they would be presumed as having been incurred in the service.

When these men broke down shortly after the war and commenced to build up evidence to endeavor to trace their handicaps to service, they were told by representatives of the Government, in whose defense they had suffered, that the evidence they were attempting to obtain was unnecessary, as Congress had cared for that through the presumption clause. Having received these benefits for years and having assumed that the Government promise would be inviolate, this group was shocked, about 4 years ago, when a secretly prepared bill, that was never even considered by a regular committee of Congress, was passed on March 20, 1933, carrying the news to these men that they were being cut off the financial relief which they had been receiving and which they considered as a vested right. As soon as study made evident the direful effect this legislation was bringing, the D. A. V. predicted that, when it was understood by the public, there would be a revulsion of feeling that would wipe it off the statute books. This revulsion of our citizenry was not long registering and subsequent legislation by Congress has restored most of the benefits to the serviceconnected class that were destroyed by that fateful and frightful measure. However, when it came to the presumptive, instead of restoring them to full benefits, these men were cut off at 75 percent and continue to be so rated. The D. A. V. feels that a man's disability is either service-connected or not service-connected and if it is serviceconnected, all should be paid on the same standard, including those who are now held at 75 percent, and who cannot today develop the evidence that they might have been able to develop 10 or 15 years ago.

We feel that any World War veteran who received compensation should not have that right interfered with by any other benefit to which he is entitled. To state it differently, if a man is being properly compensated for a certain disability and then becomes totally disabled, from some cause not connected with his service, he should receive his regular compensation payments in addition to the total disability payment for the non-service-connected ailment.

Prior to the Economy Act, the World War was considered as having ended July 2, 1921, the date of the signing of the peace treaty. Under the restrictions of the 1933 law, the period of the war is now considered as having ended November 11, 1918, for compensation purposes. We have men, who, having served through hostilities, reenlisted prior to the official ending of the war, July 2, 1921, and frequently these men are being denied benefits on the ground that the conceded disabilities developed during the second enlistment. To meet this situation, we are urging that reenlistment after November 11, 1918, and before July 2, 1921–when Congress declared the period of the emergency ended shall be held as war service so far as the establishment of service connection is concerned.

It has been truthfully stated, during the course of these hearings, that one of the most unfortunate involvements concerning compensation and insurance is the unrest of beneficiaries, due to worry that the relief being received may be terminated. In the cases of thousands of these disabled men, regular compensation and insurance payments

136971-377

have become the very keystone of their personal and domestic economic structure. These veterans are now well past the halfway mark in life expectancy. They have assumed marital obligations and are striving quietly but courageously to care for their households, including the rearing of our future citizens. While all this is going on in spite of their occupational handicap, the dread is that this relief may be abruptly halted.

To protect these insurance payments, the D. A. V. proposes that the Veterans' Administration be estopped from ending insurance payments once granted by a court, except by supplemental court proceedings based upon new evidence. To protect service connection we feel that once this service connection is established it shall not be severed except in cases of proven fraud and where the fraud was the deciding factor in granting the benefits, or where an obvious error of pertinent fact is proven. In addition to the D. A. V. bill the chairman of this committee has recently introduced a bill covering only this point. With the same frankness with which we have endeavored to present our case to this committee, it is doubtful even such legislation will definitely and permanently protect the service connection, for the reason that the Veterans' Administration may properly claim that this is virtually the law as it stands today. That there are too many reexaminations in many cases is a fact that will probably be conceded even by officials of the Veterans' Administration itself; nevertheless, the mere destructive criticism condemning the situation without reasonable remedial recommendation will avail nothing. There are unquestionably many men on the rolls who receive permanent benefits, when the progressive nature of the disability should justify reexamination for the protection of the veteran himself, in order to establish whether the condition has grown grave and additional or changed treatment is indicated. However, it is a far cry from this particular class and the men who have stationery permanent disability in fact, which no reasonable medical authority will contend is likely to be progressively worse to the extent of justifying these periodical examinations. The reexaminations either having been abolished or scheduled at longer intervals, the compensation should not be disturbed, and the peace of mind of the veteran would probably be improved.

I might interpolate there, Mr. Chairman, that we have recently been going over with the Veterans' Administration certain regulations about to be promulgated, which is going to lengthen the time between the examinations; and even more, once the Board has decided to reduce a man, the man is given notice and a 60-day period during which he may present evidence indicating that the Board is incorrect. One of the byproducts of that, in my judgment, will be that many of these cases that are returned to Washington to this Board of Appeals will be cleared up at the regional office, where the man, before this reduction takes effect, will have a chance to present his case.

The CHAIRMAN. Captain Kirby, before you leave that, here is something that is bothering me, and I might be wrong about this, but it looks as if an appeal to this Board is all but useless, when they throw you back onto the regional office, and you have the same trouble now that you had 5 or 6 years ago, that provoked the introduction of what they call the Rankin bill in 1930 to extend the presumptive period.

You have one jurisdiction that is liberal, and you have another one that is reactionary, and I happen to live in a reactionary jurisdiction.

So, under the present system, veterans throughout the country are not treated equally. That is what I am trying to say, that is what it means. Veterans in one State, because of a reactionary, arbitrary regional board, are deprived of compensation, when, under the same State of facts, they would be given compensation in another State. Now, it looks as if, when we appeal these cases up here, we might almost as well cut them off of the books. So that is one reason why I have considered legislation that would make the compensation of these men permanent after a certain number of years. Now, they are going back and going through all of these cases, and I know, to my certain knowledge, of some cases that ought never to have been disturbed, that have been reopened, and either reduced or compensation denied after years and years of admitted service-connected disability.

Captain Kirby. We have the same complaint, Mr. Chairman, not only from our own organization, but from Members of Congress. One of the objectives to which we are striving is to assure the fact that a man in Portland, Maine, say, will get the same compensation, on the same disability, as a man from Portland, Oreg. But this board of appeals has the position somewhat like the Supreme Court. It is not supposed to be reactionary or liberal, but it is operating under exactly the same rules and regulations that are effective in the regional offices.

Mr. LANZETTA. Mr. Chairman, do you not think, before a reduction can be had in a veterans' case, that if some law required that the veteran receive expert advice for medical care and treatment, that would withhold cutting down of compensation and would permit the veteran to go out and hire medical experts in his case? The CHAIRMAN. I do not know about that. I am afraid

I am afraid you would have your experts costing you more than the veterans.

Mr. LANZETTA. That would put a stop to opening these cases every so often.

The CHAIRMAN. My suggestion is, that we write it into the law that when a man has been on the rolls for 5 years it becomes permanent, except in the case of fraud or flagrant error. Mr. LANZETTA. I think if you

give the veteran the opportunity to go out and hire the same experts that would be hired, and if you charged that to the Government, I think the Government would tell those folks not to open the cases so often. The CHAIRMAN. I would not agree to that, because you

would soon have a swarm of experts on the pay roll of the Government, who would cost more than the veterans.

Mr. LANZETTA. But would not that stop them or prevent them from stirring up cases?

The CHAIRMAN. No.

Mr. LANZETTA. I say to give them the opportunity to do that when the opening of the case comes before the board, rather than the units.

Mr. ATKINSON. I take it the chairman has been on the bench at some time in his life.

Mr. HALLECK. Somebody will have to determine what is meant by "flagrant error”, and that might open the door wider than it is now.

The Chairman. What I was trying to say, Mr. Halleck, was that I would want the same provision that now applies to the pension rolls. We do not have this trouble with pensions. If a man gets on the pension rolls, he is not disturbed. Of course, if it is found that he got

on there fradulently, or there was an error in name, or something of that kind, the case is reopened and it is changed. But otherwise, it is made permanent.

Mr. HALLECK. As a matter of information, do some of these situations result when the physical condition of the veteran improves, or is supposed to improve?

The CHAIRMAN. Some of them may; but it costs more to have them investigated than it would to pay them.

Mr. HALLECK. I understand that total and permanent disability should not be distrubed, but that it is a continuing situation.

Captain Kirby. If you wrote a law guaranteeing service connection, we will say, arbitrarily, of 5 years, you have got to include in that law a provision that, if it is granted originally on fraud or mistake, that it shall be dropped within 5 years. Then, you are getting exactly what you are now, because the Administration is the judge and the jury is to decide what is fraud and what is an error. That question, as the chairman will verify, has been before this committee continuously and nobody has ever been able to find a prescription of what to do about it. If you put in a 5- or 10-year clausesay if a man is granted service connection for 10 years, it shall not be disturbed, except by fraud or error, then the question is "what is fraud?" and “what is error?"

I think you can take it as an axiom, Mr. Chairman, that if you accuse a crazy man of being crazy, or a drunken man of being drunk, you have a fight on your hands.

Now, I hold no brief for the Board of Appeals, but I think the committee should know that our men who are handling these claims before the Board of Appeals are of the opinion that between 60 percent and 70 percent of the cases that are coming into this Board of Appeals have no merit. In other words, if our men, our rehabilitation officers—and I assume it goes the same way at least for the other organizations were sitting on those boards, they would not get the relief asked in 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases.

Mrs. Rogers. Do you not think that, in some cases, the cases have not been properly prepared?

Captain KIRBY. They have not been properly developed in many cases, and one of the biggest administrative problems before the Administration, in my judgment, today, is stopping this flow of cases from the place of origin. That goes certainly to you Members of Congress who are constantly asked to take your time and appeal cases that are either not properly developed, or that have not been properly explained to the men at the place of origin that we cannot do anything for them, there is also the grave danger that, when they do come in here, they may break the service connection and a man will lose all of what he is getting.

Mr. HALLECK. I have not been down here very long, Mr. Chairman, but I have had my eye teeth cut in these veteran cases. As I diagnose the situation, we are all striving for a method which will take care of those cases that are meritorious and weed out those that are not. One of the things that has struck me about it all is that many of the meritorious cases are not properly gotten up. A veteran may come to a Member of Congress, obtain competent assistance, and get somewhere with his case. It may be an ex-service man who is trying by himself to prepare his case, and he does not have the proper affidavits. He does not make the proper showing, and his claim fails.

« PreviousContinue »