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The surviving widows of the United Spanish-American War Veterans are currently receiving $65 per month with which to pay rent, food, clothing, utilities, and other necessities of life.
Between 85 and 90 percent of the widows do not receive social security due to the fact that social security was not in existence when they or their husbands were working.
The U.S. Veterans' Administration statistics report that the average of Spanish-American War veterans is 87 years. The age of the widows would be in the same general age bracket.
Our widows, like the Spanish-American War veterans, myself included, are now in the twilight years. In the coming years they, like myself, will be putting the working tools aside forever.
This is not a request for charity any more than any other kind of pension could be called charity. We ask that the widows of these brave old warriors be granted the means to live their remaining years with dignity, honor, and pride. Their husbands served the greatest country in the world, the United States of America.
Please help them now.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Thank you, Mr. Hoover.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Thank you very much, Mr. Hoover. We appreciate your statement.
Mrs. Cone, would you like to make a statement?
STATEMENT OF MRS. MARY CONE ON BEHALF OF UNITED
SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR VETERANS
Mrs. CONE. Mr. Chairman, I am here in behalf of the women, widows of the United Spanish-American War Veterans. I have been national president. I have traveled through the 50 States and I know the plight of these widows. In 1918 they received $12 a month pension and gradually they have received an increase during that time to 1958 when they received $65. To date they have not received any more increase. I feel that these widows really and truly need that money, just a little increase to see them by before it is too late. Most of them now are past the age of 70, a great many in the category of 80 to 85. They are not able to work. "Very few of them have social security.
They were a little old to go into career work. They were housewives raising a family. Their husbands did not receive social security. So on the whole, these women are trying to live in pride on $65 a month. You and I know that is impossible.
Even a furnished room today is about $15 a week and that added up for 4 or 5 weeks goes into money, not counting food, not counting medicines, doctors bills, dentist bills, eyeglasses, and all the other necessities of life. It is impossible for them to go on any longer. We have lost over 20,000 members since 1951-20,000 widows.
You see that you have saved a lot of money by these deaths, by the deaths of our comrades. I believe we have 12,000 on the pension rolls now or thereabouts. That money has really been saved to the Government and now that we are extending charity all over the world, why not have a little bit at home for our own people?
I have written to most of you men. I have had your replies. I want to thank you for all the courtesies you have extended to me and my women and I hope and pray that you will find a spot in your
Mr. KORNEGAY. Just a minute. Do any members of the committee have any questions?
Mr. Fino. Mrs. Cone, you said that the widows have not received any increase in benefits since when?
Mrs. CONE. 1958. They received $65 then.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Mrs. Cone, we want to thank you for that very fine and impressive and moving statement. I am sure that the committee will give very serious consideration to your proposition.
Mr. McElroy, do you have someone else who would like to testify? Mr. McELROY. have a little prepared statement here, Mr. Chairman.
Before I get going on this statement, I would like to explain that at the present time there are a few of our widows getting $75 a month but the bulk of them, the majority, are getting that $65. That $75 came to the widows that were married at the time their husbands went into service in the Spanish-American War. They are pretty old and there are darn few of them left.
Mr. KORNEGAY. In other words, if I understand it, a widow married to a veteran of the Spanish-American War at the time he was in the service, she had $75? Those married to veterans subsequent to the war received $65?
Mr. McELROY. That is correct. That explains that difference of $10.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Let me ask you this, if you know: Approximately how many widows are there who received $75 a month?
Mr. McElroy. The last thing I had officially on that, there were just under 1,000. That is 2 or 3 years ago. There are very few left.
Mr. KORNEGAY. That is close enough. Under 1,000 anyway?
Mr. KORNEGAY. Do you have any information that would indicate how many widows there are who fall in the $65 category?
Mr. McELROY. About 60,000. Something like 60,000.
This memorandum, widows on the pension rolls. In 1961, it was 74,363. In 1965, over 4 years, that dropped down to 61,011. This was a loss of 13,353 during that period. At the same time the veterans dropped from 28,000 in 1961 to 1965, 14,075.
There were a few of them in that $75 bracket. The balance of them would run $65.
There was a savings in the 5-year period with the Government of $17,181,216. That is water off the dam. The way the present-day Spanish War veteran feels, according to the statistics gotten out, we are due to pass out of the picture in 3 years as an organization. We had 14,000 in 1965 and that has dropped off. Not in 1965 but 1963. That has dropped off in half.
There is another thing right in there I would like to call your attention to.
All of those veterans are not members of the organization. There were many Spanish War veterans that never came into the veterans' organization. That means they were carried on the Administration's payroll and they report for them. The last report was 12,000 on the pension rolls of the veterans' pension.
In Mr. Driver's report to the Committee of Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives dated January 13, a comparison was made of the pension benefits paid to World War I widows and those of the Spanish-American War.
A further statement is made. A pension was payable to widows of veterans of the Spanish-American War without regard to need, Spanish War widows, the majority of whom are close to 80 years of age and are, in our opinion, in dire need of this increase inasmuch as three-fourths of them have no other income except their pension to live on. Only a very few are drawing social security. The reason for that, too old to work at the time that that went into effect in 1937.
In comparison, many World War widows are still employable and entitled to social security benefits. Under the present pension laws, their pension is $64 a month compared to $65 for the Spanish-American War veterans' widows.
There was a period in there where the World War veterans were, for a short period, 2 or 3 years, getting $5 more a month than the Spanish War veterans. Public Law 483, 78th Congress, December 14, 1944, increased World War widows' pensions to $35 a month whereas at that time the Spanish War veterans' widows were only drawing $30 a month.
I do not want to take too much of your time. It has been brought to your attention that Cuban refugees from Cuba are being taken care of by the cities and States where they finally reside and the expense of that has been passed on to the U.S. Government. Therefore, we feel we would be much happier if our widows were getting a little more, or enough to get by on.
We ask that your committee give us every kind of consideration along those lines. I thank you.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Thank you, Mr. McElroy. I assure you that we will give serious consideration to it. We appreciate your coming here and bringing your colleagues and making out a fine case. Your prepared statement will be placed in the record at this point.
(The statement follows:)
FURTHER STATEMENT BY MR. JAMES McELROY, ON BEHALF OF UNITED SPANISH
WAR VETERANS The United Spanish War Veterans are most appreciative to the distinguished chairman of the Committee of Veterans Affairs for giving me the opportunity to comment on H.R. 7009 which proposes to increase to $85 monthly the rates of death pension payable to widows of veterans of the Spanish-American War.
We regret the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs in his letter of January 13, 1966, recommended that H.R. 7009 be not favorably considered.
While it is a fact that pension is payable to widows of veterans of the SpanishAmerican War without regard to need, and regardless of income or corpus, I can assure this committee that few, very few widows of this volunteer group of veterans would be barred from receiving a pension because of income or corpus. If you should send out a questionnaire to these aged widows you would find practically all of them in dire circumstances.
The Administrator in his letter states “owing to income or corpus, widows in the latter class can be denied any pension whatsovever, while Spanish-American War widows with even more income, or a larger corpus, receive $65 or $75 per month.” This statement may create the impression that there are SpanishAmerican War widows with large incomes or large estates who receive $65 or $75 per month. We have not in recent years come across any widow of a SpanishAmerican War veteran whose income or corpus would bar her if the other pension requirements applied to her.
În Mr. Driver's report to the Committee on Veterans Affairs, House of Representatives (No. 145), dated January 13, 1966, a comparison was made of the pension benefits paid to World War I widows and those of the Spanish-American War, and a further statement is made, “Pension is payable to widows of veterans of the Spanish-American War without regard to need."
Our Spanish War widows, the majority of whom are close to 80 years of age, are in our opinion in dire need of this increase, inasmuch as three-fourths of them have no other income except their pension to live on, and only a very few are drawing social security benefits.
In comparison many World War I widows are still employable, are entitled to social security benefits and under the present pension laws their pension is $64 a month, compared to $65 for Spanish War widows.
Public Law 483, 78th Congress, December 14, 1944, increased World War I widows' pension to $35 a month, whereas, at that time Spanish War widows were only drawing $30 a month.
There were on the pension rolls as of May 20, approximately 57,000 dependents drawing non-service death pension. This number should substantially, in succeeding years, decrease not increase, because these dependents are old in years and are dying at a rapid rate.
There are other reasons, too, for increasing the death pension payable to widows of veterans of the Spanish-American War. We plead with you that H.R. 7009 be favorably considered.
Mr. KORNEGAY. Does anybody have any questions?
Mr. McELROY. We are not used to appearing out in public and kind of asking for a dole, so please keep that in mind.
Thank you ever so much.
STATEMENT OF SAM BLACK, ON BEHALF OF UNITED SPANISH
Mr. Black. I want to thank you first for the privilege of appearing before you and making a statement in favor of H.R. 7009.
Of all of the bills that have been approved by the Congress to assist those in need, not only in our own beloved country but for other nations as well, Spanish War veteran widows can participate in only
That is medicare. That is a godsend for them by the way. It also takes $3 a month out of the $65 a month pension they receive inasmuch as they do not get social security.
A national survey conducted by our national headquarters shows that only 5.3 percent of our widows receive social security benefits. It is the other 94.7 percent that greatly concern us for they have only the $65 per month pension with which to eke out an existence.
Last year when I was commander in chief I made it a point to meet with the department presidents. That is the State presidents, and their secretaries, and I made inquiry from each one of them as to the various States I visited regarding the condition of the widows.
It was not good, I will say that. Many of them had lived with their already overburdened children or each child contributes whatever he can spare to help out. Others are just plain old-fashioned Americans who with their deceased husbands believed in saving for their old age. Those savings are now exhausted. They are too old to augment that small income in any way. Their average age, as far as one can find out about a woman's age, is in their very late seventies or their early eighties. My wife, by the way, will soon be 85.
According to Veterans' Administration figures they are dying at the rate of 3,500 per year. Age will soon accelerate that rate just as it has with the veterans themselves.
June 1, 1961, and I am quoting from VA figures, there were 28,932 Spanish-American War veterans living. June 1, 1965, there were 14,075, a loss of over 50 percent.
During that same period 16,356 widows answered the last call.
You can see from that that the Spanish-American War veteran program, let us call it a program because it is Spanish-American War veterans and their widows, your program is a rapidly selfliquidating program. Three more years and it will almost bě liquidated entirely.
These deaths of the widows and the comrades besides in the last 5 years have cut Government payments $30,879,551 in the period of 5 years. If we remember that each time a Spanish War veteran dies he is receiving $101.59 a month, that $101.59 will pay the $20 a month increase that we are asking for our widows. We anticipate 4,000 or more deaths of Spanish War veterans this year.
We figure that out at 5 times 4,000 and that gives you 20,000 widows. Twenty thousand widows will be paid from the pensions that formerly were paid to Spanish-American War veterans. They also expect an accelerated rate of death.
On June 30, 1965, the report of the Veterans' Administration shows a few more than 61,000 widows receiving pensions. Accordingly, that is approximately 4,000 a year. According to that we should have now between 56,000 and 57,000 living Spanish-American War widows scattered around the country.
Gentlemen, it is easy to see that this increase will cost very, very little as compared with other expense. You might say, as we did before, it is a self-liquidating program.
This $20 a month that we are asking will be a great benefit to a lot of old-time American ladies who are badly in need of assistance right
As Senator Meens once said, former Senator from Colorado, any woman that would live with one of us grouchy old Spanish War veterans for 5 years was entitled to a pension, all the Government could give to them.
One may say a $20 increase establishes a precedent. Precedents have already been established in so many different things in these past couple of years that I contend this is only one of many. In the entire existence of our organization, Spanish War Veterans, we have never asked the Congress for anything unless it was justified. I think some of you gentlemen who have been here a few years will