« PreviousContinue »
PROVIDING STATUTORY AWARDS FOR ARRESTED TU
BERCULOSIS; INCREASING INCOME LIMITATIONS FOR PENSION PURPOSES; AND GRANTING PRESUMPTIVE SERVICE CONNECTION FOR TROPICAL DISEASES
THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 1947
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a. m., in the hearing room of the committee, Old House Office Building, Hon. Frank A. Mathews, Jr. (chairman), presiding.
Present: Representatives Mathews, Vail, and Price.
In holding hearings on certain bills this morning, there are Members of the House who have introduced these bills, that the committee will hear first. The first one on the list is Mr. Hedrick, with reference to H. R. 1696.
STATEMENT OF HON. E. H. HEDRICK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE SIXTH DISTRICT, STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
Mr. HEDRICK. My name is E. H. Hedrick.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the members of this committee for the privilege of appearing before you. I don't have a prepared statement, but I do want to make a few remarks in regard to this bill, H. R. 1696.
I introduced this bill in the Seventy-ninth Congress under H. R. 4679, and I reintroduced it in February of this year. The number now is 1696.
The discrimination between the veterans of the First World War and the veterans of the Second World War was called to my attention by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As you people know, the veterans of the First World War are now drawing $50 a month for life for arrested cases of tuberculosis. That is not true under the present law of the veterans of the Second World War, which discrimination between the two veterans, in my opinion, is unjust and should be corrected.
Under the present law the compensation that the veterans of World War II draw is more or less of a sliding scale. After they are discharged from an institution, the compensation that they are liable to
draw may go down as low as 30 percent for permanent and total disability on tuberculosis, which, of course, is not a substantial sum of money for persons unable to do ordinary manual labor to live on. So,
under my bill, regardless of service connection, all these boys who are discharged from the veterans' hospital would draw $50 a month for life:
As I say, it doesn't have to be service-connected under my bill.
Mr. MATHEWS. Is that true of veterans of World War I, that they draw $50 a month, whether the disease is service connected or not?
Mr. HEDRICK. I couldn't answer that question or not. I really don't know. The reason I introduced the bill this way, is that I am a physician, and was superintendent of a tuberculosis sanatorium before I came to Congress.
In my judgment, it would be almost impossible to tell whether they were service connected or not service connected. You might have an inactive case of turberculosis, a small spot of TB on your lung that would stay inactive for months, or even years, before it would finally become active. For that reason, it would be impossible to tell whether a boy probably had tuberculosis for a year, then diagnosed even by aid of X-rays, the beginning of tuberculosis will not show in X-ray. Sometimes it is misinterpreted as being something else.
For that reason it is almost impossible to tell whether a case is service connected or not. That is the reason I introduced
Mr. MATHEWS. Then, in addition to endeavoring to equalize the situation between World War I and World War II veterans, you would also advocate that if the veterans of World War I do not receive this compensation for non-service-connected cases, they should receive that too, is that correct?
Mr. HEDRICK. Exactly right.
Doctor. Mr. HEDRICK. There are two or three features about this bill in my opinion that should be mentioned. When I was superintendent of this tuberculosis institution, we had a lot of trouble getting patients to stay in and take the cure. They would come in with good intentions, stay a month, sometimes a week, get dissatisfied, and then they would want to go
home. Under this bill, it encourages them to stay in. If they stay in long enough to become arrested, or inactive, they are eligible for this pay. This will encourage them to take the treatment.
Mr. MATHEWS. There are some bills here before the committee that have been introduced, as I recall it, which are going to provide, if a man does have a full case of tuberculosis at one time, then arrested, he shall be compensated for the rest of his life on that basis of that 100-percent disability at that time, even though it is completely arrested. The theory there is, apparently, to save him the necessity of going out and trying to make his own living and then breaking down again.
Mr. HEDRICK. That is perfectly true. Anybody who ever had tuberculosis of any degree is never physically able to do hard, manual labor. He might sell shoes from house to house, he might drive a taxi, he might do some office work, if not too confining, but as to pick-andshovel work, or real hard manual labor, he is never able to do it.
That is the reason this $50 would compensate him so that he would be able to do light work, probably with less pay.
Mr. VAIL. Is the language of your bill identical, or similar to the bill granting coverage to World War I veterans?
Mr. HEDRICK. I am not familiar with that bill. I don't know. I think it is very similar, with possibly the service-connected partI don't know whether the bill of World War I has that in it or not, or whether it has to be service connected. I have never investigated that. I couldn't say. With that exception, I am sure they are very similar.
Mr. Vail. It is your thought, Doctor, that this compensation should be granted to veterans irrespective of whether or not the disease is service contracted, that might develop subsequent to physical examination which is taken postwar?
Mr. HEDRICK. That is right. It is so difficult to determine whether it is service connected or not. For that reason, I think a lot of worthy cases would be overlooked that probably would be deserving. For that reason, also, I think it is wise to pay all of them $50 a month.
Mr. MATHEWS. Thank you, Doctor.
Mr. MATHEWS. Mr. Mills is here. We will take his testimony on H. R. 2621.
STATEMENT OF HON. WILBUR D. MILLS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE SECOND DISTRICT, STATE OF ARKANSAS Mr. Mills. My name is W. D. Mills, Second District, Arkansas.
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate, too, this opportunity of appearing in behalf of H. R. 2621 which I introduced on May 18 last. I introduced the legislation primarily as a result of some letters which I had received, not from individuals within my district, necessarily, but from people over the United States, calling my attention to the inequity now existing insofar as tuberculosis cases are concerned, between veterans of World War I and World War II.
In endeavoring to adjust that situation by H. R. 2621, I followed as closely as possible the original statute giving to the veterans of World War I who had contracted tuberculosis, or had it aggrava during service, $50 a month.
The bill provides that any person who, while in service between December 6, 1941, and January 1, 1947, contracted a tuberculosis disease, or had tuberculosis aggravated by service, shall be entitled to not less than a fixed amount for the balance of his life, 50 percent of whatever the compensation may be for totally disabled veterans. I varied H. R. 2621 from the original statute relating to World War I veterans in one respect. I didn't say $50 a month, but 50 percent of compensation for totally disabled. The amount paid to those veterans of World War I who did contract tuberculosis while in service, or within a 5-year period subsequent to service, the law reads, was $50. That amount was raised to $60 by the legislation we passed during either the Seventy-eighth or Seventy-ninth Congress.
The Veterans Administration, so I understand, has raised some question whether or not H. R. 2621 goes too far in its application. That is, the question has been raised that parhaps a veteran who was discharged other than honorably from service, may be entitled to compensation under H. R. 2621 provided he has had the disease.
The committee will recall that title 38, section 693 (g) of the Code, which is the language I think, passed in the Seventy-ninth Congress, sets forth what veteran is entitled to compensation under veterans laws and regulations. That, of course, came following this original statute to which I have referred affecting World War I veterans with tuberculosis.
I may have overstepped the bounds just a little bit and gone beyond what I intended to do. I had no intention to include these dishonorably discharged veterans. I would suggest to the committee, that it would be my view that whatever we do with respect to World War II veterans who have tuberculosis, or arrested cases of tuberculosis, that we not open the gate to those who have been dishonorably discharged.
I would agree with any objection to H. R. 2621 if it does go that far. I think there is some question as to whether it does or not. But I suggested to the legislative council's office that they make this more airtight by an amendment which they prepared for me and which I have with me so the committee may consider that amendment in connection with the bill.
Mr. MATHEWS. Would you like to read it, or put it in the record ? Mr. Mills. I would like to insert it in the record, at this point. (The amendment referred to is as follows:)
AMENDMENT TO H. R. 2621
Page 2, line 4, insert the following:
"SEC. 2. No benefit shall be paid under this Act to any person who was dishonorably discharged or released from the service described in the first section.”
Mr. Mills. The question has been raised as to whether or not veterans of World War I were entitled to compensation even though tuberculosis may have occurred from other than service-connected causes. Under the statute, as I recall, a veteran must have had at least 10 percent service-connected disability from tuberculosis, in order to qualify.
Mr. MATHEWS. They must be presumptive under the law.
Mr. Mills. You will recall there was a presumption of service connection when tuberculosis occurred I believe 5 years following discharge from World War I. That is not the case, I understand, with regard to World War II veterans now.
I have the fear concerning the whole matter that if we fail to fix more or less an arbitrary decision for the Veterans Administration, as the law now is affecting World War I veterans with tuberculosis, there will be many cases of injustices arising. For instance, a veteran who has active tuberculosis is entitled to 100 percent disability. He is entitled to that 100 percent disability for a period of up to 6 months following the time when his case becomes arrested. Then, 6 months after he obtains arrested tuberculosis, the compensation drops to 50 percent. Then, after 412 years, it drops to 30 percent.
It seems to me that if we accorded World War I veterans a statutory award for inactive tuberculosis, of $50 for life, which actually was 50 percent under the then existing law, and now $60, that the least we could do would be the same thing for veterans of World War II.