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Mr. DORN. Thank you, Mr. Skubitz. The next witness will be Congressman John M. Ashbrook of Ohio. Go right ahead, Mr. Ashbrook.
STATEMENT BY HON. JOHN M. ASHBROOK, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OHIO
Mr. ASHBROOK. An excellent illustration of the harm done by the rising cost of living to this Nation's fixed-income groups can be found in the case of veterans' non-service-connected pensions. With the loss of earning power, the prospect of the veteran bettering his financial status is indeed limited. Even the increase in 1964 of veterans' pensions has not offset the loss of part of the veteran's dollar due to the present inflationery trend. Furthermore, the chances of future improvement under the present setup are anything but bright.
Various devices to improve the financial status of low-income groups are making the headlines these days. For instance, much is being said about a guaranteed wage for those earning $3,000 or under. In addition, the rent-supplement idea utilizes Federal funds to help the less fortunate with their housing problems. In contrast to these controversial vehicles, some proposals for veteran relief, such as H.R. 6455 which I have introduced, would not entail the outright grant of Federal funds but would remove the penalty now in force regarding amounts paid to a veteran under public or private retirement, annuity, endowment, or similar type plans or programs. These various sources of income to which the veteran is now entitled would be excluded from consideration as income for the purpose of determining eligibility for pension.
The veteran's commitment to his Nation has been pretty much taken for granted in the past. Not until the advent of the draftcard burners, the American Vietcong supporters, and various forms of anti-American protests has the veteran's service to his country been fully appreciated. Time was when a force hostile to the United States rallied our citizens to the country's defense. During the last several years, however, events concerning the war in South Vietnam have served warning that not every American male's allegiance is to the United States. Therefore, those who helped keep this Nation free and secure in the past should be aided in their pursuit of a free and secure retirement. I believe the above-mentioned legislation will help to that end.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Mr. Ashbrook. The next witness will be Congressman Quie of Minnesota. You may proceed, Mr. Quie.
STATEMENT BY HON. ALBERT H. QUIE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. QUIE. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I would like to thank you for scheduling hearings on veterans' pension legislation and for this opportunity to present my views in support of H.R. 7325, which I introduced on April 8, 1965.
This measure provides that where the entitlement of a veteran, widow, or child to a pension from the Veterans' Administration is based upon the veteran's having served in World War I, II, or Korean conflict, the beneficiary shall if otherwise eligible have the right to elect payment of pension under either the provisions of title 38 as in effect on June 30, 1960, or as amended by the Veterans' Pension Act of 1959, whichever provides the greater benefit.
I think that it is fairly well recognized that when the new pension law was passed, many World War I veterans did not realize when they changed over from part 3 of the old law, that it could mean in many cases that they would draw a pension far less than the $78.75 which they were originally entitled to. Those who elected to come under the new law now find that they cannot live decently under present, high living costs. Other veterans, who did not reach the eligible age until after the new law became effective did not have the right of election that was afforded to those veterans who were receiving benefits prior to the new law. Some of these veterans who were fortunate enough to prepare somewhat for their security in old age, now find because of some income that their pension benefit is well below the award previously provided in the old law.
Although I find it difficult to disagree with the principle embodied in the new law which distributes benefits based on need, it does seem to me that there are sufficient reasons at this time to allow an option whereby all World War I veterans can be treated equally. This would have the effect of removing hardships resulting from the provisions of the present pension law as it would beneficially affect those who need assistance to maintain a decent standard of living.
Should the Congress enact legislation providing greater benefits than are presently available under the provisions of title 38 as in effect on June 30, 1960, or in the Veterans Pension Act of 1959, there would be no need to secure authority to elect payment of pension as provided in my bill, H.R. 7325. However, until action along this line is taken, I feel that there is sufficient justification to provide the right for benefit recipients to elect payment of pension under either title 38 in effect on June 30, 1960, or as amended by the Veterans' Pension Act of 1959, which became effective a day later.
I urge your thoughtful consideration of H.R. 7325 in the interest of justice and fair play for all World War I veterans.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Mr. Quie. We will now hear another of the members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Helstoski, of New Jersey. Go right ahead, Henry.
STATEMENT BY HON. HENRY HELSTOSKI, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. HELSTOSKI. Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the privilege and opportunity to make my statement on behalf of my bills which would provide for an increase in the rate of pension payable to veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean conflict, their widows, and certain other dependents. The bills I introduced on this subject are H.R. 14371 and H.R. 14372.
I am pleased to be a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee which has done more than any other committee to bring the highly deserved and necessary benefits to our veteran population.
In these hearings on compensation and pensions, I would urge a complete overhaul of the present pension system to reflect the rising cost of living and the increase in the standard of living. Secondly, I would like to urge the enactment of my bills which would increase pension payments to the veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict. It would not be out of line for us to consider, at this time, the pension benefits to the servicemen who are presently engaged in the Vietnam conflict, for we will have to face this problem sooner or later.
I have seen service in World War II and I am aware of the hardship and repugnance of war, and the need for the support of the veteran who was taken away from his home, his family, his job, to serve his country in time of need.
We have, in the past and it seems will continue to do so in the future, provide funds for the war on poverty, increase aid to those who receive public assistance, help children coming from deprived homes. Yet, we Iag behind in assisting our veterans who have attained an advanced age, were disabled, or have service or non-service-connected ailments.
If we can spend these vast sums of money on these projects, we should be able to take some step forward to aid our veterans. The assistance which we may give them should not be asked for by the veterans. We should take the initial step to provide them with benefits which would permit them to face the Nation with heads high and meeting their financial obligations without fear of becoming the forgotten men in the country for which they gave so much.
We, in Congress, have already increased the benefits in pensions for persons on the social security rolls and this increase, in many instances, lessened the pensions of our veterans--for the Veterans' Administration had only to follow the law on income to withhold some of the pension benefits which were available to veterans prior to the passage of increased benefits in social security. To me, this is an unfair treatment of our veterans and we, in this committee, should enact legislation to restore these previous veteran benefits, notwithstanding any social security increases.
Veterans of World War I have been particularly hard hit. They did not have the opportunity to gain benefits under any type of GI bill of rights. They encountered a severe depression of the early thirties. Many are not entitled to social security or, if they are, receive very small benefits. We must recognize their plight and any increase in their pensions would indicate that we have not forgotten their services and provide them with continued remuneration for their services,
We, who can remember as far back as World War I, and also during World War II, know of the recruiting posters which point blank stated the "Uncle Sam Wants You". Now it could be said that "We Veterans Want Uncle Sam."
When we speak of assisting the veterans, we have a wide and fertile field in which to operate and in which areas many bills have been introduced.
First, we must consider legislation which would provide for increases in pensions and remove some of the income limitations now set out by law and regulations.
Second, we should take cognizance of the fact that many veterans are barred from pensions because they receive other types of pensions, both private and public retirement pensions as one example.
Third, we have many bills before us which would increase income limitations. These bills range from a specific percentage increase to outright removal of these limitations because of advanced age.
Fourth, a new factor entered into the pension picture when benefits were raised under the social security system and many bills have been introduced to exclude these increased benefits in the determination of income for pension eligibility.
Fifth, this committee has many bills relating to specific factors for increases in pensions, such as recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, holders of the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross, pensions for the disabled and defining the degree of disability, pensions for those members who served in the Mexican wars, liberalizing pensions to individuals who are confined to VA hospitals, liberalizing the definition of "widow,” etc.
Naturally, this committee will have to sift through these many bills to coordinate the best possible features of each, but, I believe, that the time will be well spent if we can provide an adequate pension system overhaul and give recognition and justice to our veterans who spent the best years of their lives in the service of our country and have not been able to regain their financial security after this honorable service.
Mr. Chairman, I wish to assure our veterans, veteran groups, and their auxiliaries that I shall support any and all legislation that will permit these loyal people to maintain an adequate way of life and in this way express our gratitude for their loyal service when our country needed them most in defending our shores and our way of life as a free and democratic nation.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you, Mr. Helstoski. We will now hear Congressman Schmidhauser of Iowa. You may proceed, sir.
STATEMENT BY HON. JOHN R. SCHMIDHAUSER, A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IOWA
Mr. SCHMIDHAUSER. Mr. Chairman, I have come here today to testify in favor of my bills to make more equitable our present system of veterans' pensions. Perhaps nothing has served so well to point up the anomalies in the law as now written as the effect on those receiving veterans' pensions of the 7-percent increase in social security payments. Literally tens of thousands of veterans found their pension eliminated or sharply reduced because of the modest social security increase. They found that, ironically enough, this increase only served to decrease their total income. My bill, H.R. 11247, would correct at least this ridiculous situation and would provide that no veteran's pension be cut back because of the 7-percent increase. At the very least this shoud be done immediately to bring our laws bach in accord with the intent of Congress. At the very least, we owe this much to the men who risked their lives that we might remain free and independent.
I would also like to recommend passage of another bill I have introduced, H.R. 8633, which would exclude from the income used in determining eligibility for veterans' pensions, any pension and annuity payments under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937. Again, I must say that only if income such as railroad retirement pensions is excluded from the income limitations can veterans receive enough to live decently and without anxiety.
These two bills, of course, Mr. Chairman, only attack the worst manifestations of the problem. Surely every Congressman has received letter after letter from veterans who must haggle with the Veterans' Administration over income in order to receive the pension to which they are entitled because of their service to their country. Then, if by some good fortune, their income is increased even by a small amount, more likely than not they will lose their pension and be worse off than before. For instance, a constituent of mine was one of many who benefited when Du Pont increased the monthly payment to their pensioners by $25. At least, he thought he benefited until he discovered that the increase of $25 meant a decrease of $43 from the VA and a net loss of $18 per month. As the law is presently written, there was nothing I or anyone else could do to remedy this ludicrous situation.
To correct the basic inequities in the present veterans' pension system, I would recommend and support H.R. 13215 and H.R. 13216, both introduced by the distinguished chairman of this committee, Mr. Teague. As you know, H.R. 13215 would increase the income limitation to $2,400 for single veterans and $3,600 for veterans with dependents and eliminate the gradations which exist in the present pension structure. H.R. 13216 would provide modest increases throughout in the system of dependency and indemnity compensation. These bills would eliminate the need for these constant nickel and dime increases in the veterans' pensions laws and would insure that veterans, their dependents, and their survivors would be able to live a life of dignity and self-respect. Mr. Dorn. Thank you,
Congressman Schmidhauser. We will now hear Congressman Frank Thompson of New Jersey. Go right ahead, Mr. Thompson.
STATEMENT BY HON. FRANK THOMPSON, JR., A REPRESENTA
TIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Mr. THOMPSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify in behalf of my bill, H.R. 16433, and others identical to it.
Most of us have heard about the shell game of now-you-see-it-nowyou-don't. Perhaps some of us have had some painful experiences with that ancient bit of legerdemain.
I would hesitate to suggest that the Government of the United States is knowingly guilty of such skulduggery—since we are all a part of that Government-but I believe that we in the Congress have unwittingly created a situation where a needy veteran, or the surviving widow of a veteran, could be excused for so thinking.
Under our social security law, written by the Congress, it is perfectly acceptable for any beneficiary to waive all or any portion of benefits. Of course, if he waives, say, the December payment, he does not receive the money.
Except that, if he is a disabled veteran, for instance, receiving a pension, the Veterans' Administration assumes he received the money he did not receive at all.
We can laugh at the victims of the shell game, especially if we happen to be laughing at ourselves—some years later—and pass it off as the price of experience.
We cannot, of course, view the needy veteran, or the needy widow, with such levity.