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STATEMENT OF HON. HAROLD D. DONOHUE, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. DONOHUE. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I should first like to join with my colleagues here in complimenting the distinguished chairman and your esteemed committee associates for demonstrating the willingness to take the time from your tremendously burdensome schedules to inquire into a most difficult and challenging premise that so deeply concerns a great many veterans of our military service.
The premise of which I speak is an underlying factor in most every area and activity of our life. In the field of sport it is best presented in the classic phrase, “The tie play goes to the runner.” In the annals of jurisprudence it is recalled to us in the words of the solemn admonition that“A man is innocent until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, in like manner, the concept of legislative ruling and projection should not be strained. Laws enacted
by the Congress affect every person in the country. Obviously a specific law cannot embrace or anticipate every circumstance, known or unknown, that may develop in a particular case.
For this fundamental reason the measures and the guides of applicability of Federal regulations should be kept liberal and flexible for the humane objective of guarding against even the remote possibility of individual injustice.
It seems to me that the basic purpose of this hearing on the subject of service-connected compensation is to reexamine and fulfill the high duty of this committee and the Congress to determine how wide and how far certain measurements of service-connected disability should be drawn in order to reasonably exclude the possibilities of injustice.
The inspiration for latitude in setting such standards should come, I submit, from our traditional practices, in rather full measure throughout the world these days, of charity, generosity, and understanding and most particularly should this be when our actions primarily affect those of our citizens who have been subjected to heroic trails and suffering and sacrifices in wartime defense of their fellow Americans and our free institutions.
As you are all aware, existing laws provide that a chronic disease becoming manifest to a degree of 10 percent or more within 1 year from date of separation from active wartime service shall be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by such service. In regard to Hansen's disease and all types of active tuberculosis, a 3-year presumptive period is provided, and for multiple sclerosis it is 7
years. My particular urging to you today is to enlarge these current regulations to include our further conviction that the terrible affliction of poliomyelitis developing to a 10-percent degree of disability within 1 year of the date of discharge of any veteran shall be held and considered to be service connected.
I most earnestly plead and exhort you to devote your most sympathetic attention and review of this request because, in my deepest judgment, for lack of this provision in existing laws a great many veterans are unjustly experiencing, beyond the dread effects of the terrible disease itself, the bitter pangs of continuing defeat, discouragement, and despair.
Although I am advised there are multitudinous instances of veterans racked with such hopelessness, I have particular knowledge of one most unfortunate case involving Mr. Albanto Scola, a dear friend and honorable combat veteran residing within my home city. At 17 years of healthy, vigorous age he enthusiastically enlisted in the U.S. Navy to defend his country and his people against all enemies. Although he escaped gunfire wounds during his several years service with more than 1 year of active combat in the South Pacific islands, he is now, and has been, wearing a brace on his leg for 21 years as a result of the residuals of poliomyelitis which, it appears, began to affect him almost immediately after he was honorably released from the service in 1946 and most certainly affected him, by confirmed diagnosis, for the rest of his life, less than 4 months after his discharge from the service.
In summary chronology, this boy, then, was released from military service on May 10, 1946. He was treated by his doctor on May 28, 1946, and again on June 15, 1946, for continuing pain in the legs, recurring eadaches and persistent general weakness; on or about October 5, 1946, he was admitted to the hospital and on or about October 25, 1946, the Veterans' Administration, on the basis of all evidence, granted him a 100-percent service-connected disability for residuals of poliomyelitis.
The most distressing and pertinent development in this case is that some 11 years later a board of administrative review rescinded the original service-connected disability determination on the basis of an alleged error. Seldom have we heard of a more extreme or provoking action by an agency of the executive department.
Mr. Chairman and committee members, the fact that a serviceconnected decision by competent officials was made in the first instance in this particular case and canceled out by other employees of the same agency 11 years later seems to me, on its face, to graphically reveal a substantial element of doubt and a grave impact of uncer-tainty in the complex disease of poliomyelitis in the minds of qualified and conscientious adjudicators that this committee and this Congress should discourage from continuation. From this case alone it seems quite clear that applications and interpretations of all the evidence was a heavy challenge to good and honest men and it seems unfortunately but equally clear that the justness and rightness of the rescinding action still remains in quite reasonable doubt.
My plea and prayer here this morning is that in your wisdom, your experience and your judgment you will recommend the resolution of doubt in favor of the veteran in cases of complicated poliomyelitis by providing that a service-connected disability determination shall be made when it is shown the disability has developed to a 10-percent disabling degree within 1 year of the individual's release from military servivce. By such action the obvious injustice of the unfortunate case I have just outlined can be corrected and the special concept of legislative intent and applicability in the challenging area of "disease unknowns” will be reasonably enlarged in accord with the practices of our traditional generosity, good will, and understanding.
For the benefit of the committee, I would like to have included in the record a statement on the case I cited, executed by Dr. Daniel A. Scola, of Worcester, Mass., a senior research scientist.
(The statement is as follows:)
APRIL 27, 1965. To Whom It May Concern:
This letter concerns the case of my brother, Albert Scola, who came down with acute anterior poliomyelitis, October 5, 1946, 5 months after his discharge (May 10, 1946) from the Navy. The disease at that time, October 25, 1946, was classified by the U.S. Government as “service connected" and such classification immediately placed the victim in the disabled veteran category with all the benefits thereof. A letter from the Veterans' Administration dated May 27, 1957, stated that since the first signs of the disease were not manifested within 35 days from the date of discharge from the service, the disease was considered as having not incurred in the service.
I would like to point out a few observations concerning the case in question. I recall that several days immediately following his discharge from the service, my brother often complained of headaches and muscular pain and during this time on several occasions came down with a slight fever. His whole general physical makeup seemed to have been weakened. At that time, I did not give this much consideration because I thought his condition was caused by a change incurred by leaving the service and entering civilian life again. Indeed, the fact that my brother spent several months in the South Pacific area, indicates that this change in climate may have caused a change in physical condition (especially blood constitution) and this physical change may have caused the patient to be susceptible to attack by viral organisms. It is my opinion that these facts cannot be discounted in reconsideration of this case. Further, it is my belief that the symptoms of poliomyelitis could have been manifested within the 35-day period after my brother's discharge from the service, but for some reason unknown to medical science, the virus did not assert itself at this time, but remained in a dormant or incubation state until which time the victim's body no longer resisted the attack by the virus.
In the second edition of “Viral and Rickettsial Infections of Man," edited by Thomas M. Rivers, M.D., Howard A. Howe, M.D., of the Poliomyelitis Laboratory, John's Hopkins University, writes : “The incubation period of poliomyelitis is not definitely known; but it probably ranges from 5 to 35 days, with the majority of the cases occurring 7 to 14 days after exposure.” It appears from this statement that one cannot state the exact incubation period for poliomyelitis. The maximum 35-day period imposed by the U.S. Government appears to be unjustified in the light of the facts known. Further, on the basis of the above ruling, a victim who does not fall in this category may suffer unjust penalty, whereas in truth the disease may have occurred in the service.
I, therefore, would appreciate very much if the case before us be given careful reconsideration and that the victim be given remuneration for the loss of the use of his limb. Thank you kindly. Very truly yours,
Dr. DANIEL A. SCOLA,
Senior Research Scientist. Mr. Dorn. I think most of the people in the hearing room are acquainted with our members here this morning. There is Mr. Roberts from Texas and Mr. Hanley from New York and Mr. Teague from California, who just came in from California this morning:
This is a bipartisan or nonpartisan committee in our deliberations here and I am glad we have both parties represented and if there are any more Members of Congress here, I want to hear their names; I see Mr. Denton, my good colleague from Indiana, with whom I have been associated'in veterans work here for many years. We are happy to have you and you go right ahead and tell us anything that is on your mind.
STATEMENT OF HON. WINFIELD K. DENTON, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF INDIANA
Mr. DENTON. I have a very short statement and I expect I had better read it; that would be the easiest way,
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, let me first thank you for the opportunity of appearing before you in behalf of H.R. 5653 to amend title 38 of the United States Code. This bill, as you know, is to increase the amount of compensation paid to our disabled veterans. I don't believe that anyone will deny the debt owed to these men who gave of themselves in the service of our country and it is an obligation which we cannot overlook.
Yet I find that we are or at least appear to be hedging in our responsibilities. These men served their country in its time of need. Because of their service they are not able to compete equally on the open market for jobs and for income as others more fortunate are able to do.
Recognizing this, we have set certain standards and provided certain payments to help meet the differential income which these men might have had had they not been sacrificed for the good of their country. I feel we have been laggard in keeping this differential up to date. We last suggested a raise in compensation rates in 1962. Since that time the cost of living has risen 1542 percent but the pension income of these men has remained stationary.
My bill proposes an average rate of increase of 15 percent, which I think is well justified. I am so satisfied in my own mind this legislation is justified if necessary and you will agree with me in this matter that I will not go into specific details on here.
I am sure that various veterans' groups waiting to testify will provide
you with ample details concerning individual cases. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them for you but I realize you are busy and will not take more of your time than my presentation.
Mr. DORN. Any questions?
Mr. ROBERTS. I just want to thank our colleague. He is always pushing for veterans' legislation and I appreciate it.
Mr. DORN. Mr. Hanlev.
Mr. HANLEY. I merely want to add my commendation for your interest in this meritorious matter.
Mr. Dorn. The chairman would like to say also that I personally appreciate your showing of interest to the cause of the veterans. Í know of no Member since I have been here that worked more diligently and favorably in behalf of the veterans of this country. I personally appreciate your coming.
Mr. DENTON. I appreciate that statement, Mr. Chairman, very much. I thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Dorn. We will be pleased to hear now from the gentleman from New York, Congressman Halpern, who is a member of this committee.
STATEMENT OF HON. SEYMOUR HALPERN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. HALPERN. This subcommittee is currently engaged in considering legislation on service-connection compensation, and
I am privileged to present my own remarks on H.R. 3805, a bill I introduced on January 28 affecting this area of veterans' benefits.
The purpose of H.R. 3805 is to confer broadened benefits upon those veterans who are handicapped by the loss of an essential sense. It is impossible to underestimate the penetrating and quite inconquerable disability of total deafness. H.R. 3805 seeks to administer realistically to this dilemma.
The bill would provide that any veteran, suffering from serviceconnected deafness in one ear, who additionally incurs deafness in the other ear not the result of service, shall be entitled to full disability compensation as though the total 'deafness resulted from military
Public Law 87-610 conferred this benefit upon the totally blind, as well as those with bilateral kidney involvement.
There can be no doubt that total deafness is an impairment of severe magnitude. H.R. 3805 applies the provisions of Public Law 87-610 to another essential sense.
At the moment, the Veterans’ Administration, through its present recordkeeping, does not have adequate information indicating precisely how many veterans would benefit from H.R. 3805. But they estimate that the total number would be exceedingly small. As far as I am aware, the cost would be almost negligible.
The equity of this bill cannot be measured in terms of broad application. The legislation does seek to insure that in these severe instances of disability, the veteran is properly treated and fairly compensated by the law. By approving this bill, we will be correcting an unrealistic provision of the existing statute which is not commensurate with our basic approach to the health and welfare of the veteran population.
I certainly hope this distinguished subcommittee will act favorably on H.R. 3805.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, sir. Is there any other Member of Congress with us this morning?
If not, I will now hear the Hon. J. Bates Gerald, national legislative director of Federation of All Veterans of the United States of America. I might say that the colonel is from my native State of South Carolina and I know of no man who is more dedicated to the veterans. He is traveling somewhere all the time in the interest of all veterans, not just for veterans of World War I but all the veterans of this country and also he bears in mind the welfare of the people who pay the bill.
Colonel, come on around. We are delighted to have you.
STATEMENT OF J. BATES GERALD, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE DI
RECTOR, FEDERATION OF ALL VETERANS, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Mr. GERALD. I don't know if I can get here with that introduction, but thank you so much.
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of this distinguished committee, I am pleased to appear here today to lend the support of the organization I represent to increases in compensation rates for the service disabled and the survivors of those who died from a service-connected cause. There has not been an increase in disability compensation rates since Public Law 87–645, which was approved by the President on September 7, 1962. Since that time the cost of living has increased and thereby eroded the compensation increases enacted by the Congress at that time.
In addition, consideration should be given to the fact that the Congress recently substantially increased the rates of disability and death