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The American Legion is convinced that the circumstances and nature of service now being performed by our Armed Forces warrant this expression of gratitude by our Nation.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I am going to have to again ask your indulgence. I wonder, without reading it, if I could insert in the record our comment on H.R. 5509, a bill introdeced by you, Mr. Dorn, at our request.
At the time we prepared our testimony, we did not realize this bill would be among the bills now being considered.
Mr. DoRn. Without objection, it will be included. (Material referred to follows:) H.R. 5509 is directed to those veterans who suffered a service-connected injury with loss of physical integrity. Because of this loss—such as a hand or footCongress provided for payments to them of statutory awards. These awards are in addition to disability compensation payable under the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. The rationale behind its purposes is that the statutory awards have nothing to do with the principle behind the schedule for rating disabilities. They are designed to compensate a veteran for embarrassment and discomfort and are not predicated on impaired earnings or economic readjustment. Because of the underlying purpose of the statutory award, for those veterans with reduced income and net worth, it appears equitable to permit them to elect to receive pension along with the statutory award if this would give them the greater benefit. It would not—we think_impair the underlying philosophy of veterans' law that not more than one payment be made for the same disability.
Enactment of this H.R. 5509 would permit payment of the $47 statutory award under 314(k) of title 38, United States Code, in addition to the rate of disability pension under chapter 15, this title.
Mr. CORCORAN. What I am about to say is sort of an overall comment on the cost implications of these very comprehensive changes that we have suggested.
As usual, those who resent the distinction given veterans who served in time of war or under conditions of war will make projections of cost to the year 2000 (we note this is not done for the Great Society programs), they will predict bankruptcy of the national wealth, and they will say that the total cost is borne by a few. These predictions of cost, we believe, fail to take into consideration that the increasing social security benefits, and more and more private and public pension plans will remove many potentially eligible from entitlement, because of the income limitations.
As to the ability of the Nation to bear the cost of this program, our national economy continues to grow in dollar value-a recent report indicates a gross national product of $725 billion.
Mr. Chairman, I have to ask now one last indulgence to add one more comment to our prepared testimony.
I asked our staff to review the acheivements and accomplishments of this Congress in fields somewhat related to veterans' affairs. That is to say, laws enacted which would either provide welfare-type benefits or laws enacted which would give increased "benefits' to Federal "beneficiaries.
With your permission, I would like to read the list and give the cost estimate that we were able to place upon them as a result of agency reports, hearings, and so forth.
These, again, are only laws enacted in this Congress. We tried to select only those that have some relevance to any discussion of the cost of veterans' programs.
First, the Appalachian aid program, $1.1 billion.
I am rounding off figures, Mr. Chairman, and in every case I am giving first year additional cost only.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, $1.345 billion.
Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965. We were unble to deduce any that would appear to be reliable additional first year cost. So we placed none upon this, just a question mark, noting that this has a potential ultimate cost of $8 billion, but this $8 billion is not included in our total calculation.
Uniform Services Pay Act of 1965, $1.048 billion.
Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, $665 million.
Foreign Assistance Act of 1965, $3.3 billion.
Of course, Mr. Chairman, I do not mean to even suggest that the American Legion disagrees with these programs or takes issue with their enactment, but only again to present magnitude figures which I think are interesting to have in mind in considering the cost of veterans' programs.
Excluding again the House and Urban Development Act of 1965, these cost figures total $14.619 billion. And, of course, there is pending in the Congress the extension of the antipoverty program, estimated at $1.75 billion.
I think, Mr. Chairman, I can only close with the hope there will be enough money left for the Congress to do what it believes is right and fair for the war veteran and his survivors.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, for your courtesy and consideration in taking this much time to receive the views of the American Legion.
Mr. Dorn. Thank you.
Mr. HANLEY. Mr. Chairman, I want to commend the gentleman for a very fine, exacting statement. Certainly the material he has
ded this committee will be of substantial benefit in our deliberations. I thank you and congratulate you.
Mr. CORCORAN. Thank you, Mr. Hanley.
(Comparison tables follow :) A COMPARISON OF THE DEATH AND DISABILITY PENSION INCOME AND RATE
PROVISIONS OF H.R. 6408 WITH THOSE OF TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE, AS AMENDED-ANNUAL INCOME AND RATES
VETERAN, NO DEPENDENT
38 U.S.C. 521
$0 to $600.
$100 $0 to $1,800
75 $1,800.01 to $2,400.
Mr. DORN. Mr. Teague.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. Mr. Chairman, I do not have any questions. I want to apologize to you for being late and also to Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Houston. My other committee was in executive session and we had some important votes.
I certainly do not want to offend any of the veterans' organizations because I am in full agreement with the Legion and I think all of the other veterans' organizations as to our supporting our Vietnam policy.
I have a "dove” for an opponent in November who disagrees, so I am not at all desirous of offending the veterans' organizations.
Mr. CORCORAN. Thank you.
Mr. ADAIR. Mr. Chairman, John, I have asked some witnesses earlier whether, if all of the things that they recommended were not possible at this session of the Congress, they had at least in their own minds established an order of priority.
Before you answer that, let me enlarge a little upon it.
I think it can be fairly said that our national administration is rather anxious to keep down costs in this area. Some of us think too much so. But it does present a question to people in the Congress if there is an effort not to take into account perhaps all of the things that might be done. Therefore, I come back now to the question which I had put earlier—whether or not there is any order of priority in your mind, as representative of the American Legion with respect to the several provisions that you have discussed here this morning,
Mr. CORCORAN. Mr. Adair, I am unable to give you a satisfactory answer on that for a couple of reasons, the first being internal or procedural as far as the American Legion is concerned, and the second, I think an essential reason.
First of all, the Legion has not placed any priority upon the requests that we have made.
And second, as a policy, the Legion some time ago decided that it was a bad idea, it was ill advised to attempt to assign priorities. So now that is the internal procedural aspect of it which prevents me from giving you a satisfactory answer.
The second part of the answer is an essential and fundamental one. and it is a reason that I would give even if the first two did not exist. That is, I think it is your unhappy task to select out which should get the highest priority. I truly believe it is essentially a political question, in the sense that courts use that term. I believe that it is the fundamental obligation of the Congress to decide which should get the highest priority. Ultimately, of course, I really believe that, as human beings, we are all going to react the same way. We will find out that x number of dollars are available and we will want to give what money is available and can be had to the people who need it the most.
Mr. ADAIR. I quite agree with you that this is a responsibility of the Congress, particularly or primarily of this committee, and I am by no means trying to slough off that responsibility, but rather, to seek for help in reaching a decision by getting your thinking, if any, upon this subject.
Your answer was not unexpected, but I did want to afford you an opportunity to give us the views of your organization if there were views which could be set forth.
Mr. CORCORAN. Thank you, sir.
I did mean to indicate at the tail end of my answer my personal reaction, which is that I think that you should use the dollars that are available to grant increases and expanded benefits to those who need it the most.
Mr. ADAIR. Unfortunately, as we will go into executive session and try to mark up a bill, we do not have any number of dollars that are available.* We will have to ask ourselves what the needs are, what the matter of rightness is in this respect, what the Congress will accept, and what in turn the President will accept and sign into law. I think it would make our problem vastly easier if we did have a certain knowledge that x dollars could be put into an improvement of our pension laws at this time, but we have to search for that figure along the lines I have discussed with you.
Mr. CORCORAN. Mr. Adair, I personally would try to give increased benefits to those who have the least other income and to those who are the most severely disabled.
Mr. ADAIR. That is a helpful statement of your own personal views and will be so regarded.
You gave us some helpful figures with respect to other programs and the cost of them. I take it that there is not a cost figure available upon the total programs which you have presented here this morning.
Mr. CORCORAN. Sir, it is not available to the American Legion.
It is quite possible that the Veterans' Administration in reporting to this committee on these proposals has estimated the cost of each. We do not have knowledge of that, Mr. Adair.
Mr. ADAIR. Mr. Chairman, I would like to put a question to Mr. Meadows.
Do we have a cost figure on the Legion proposal that is presented here this morning?
STAFF DIRECTOR. The Veterans' Administration is scheduled to appear tomorrow and will present a figure.
Mr. ADAIR. They will have a cost figure on there?
Mr. ADAIR. John, a short time ago I introduced a bill which bears the number H.R. 16247. Have you had an opportunity to look at that bill?
Mr. CORCORAN. Yes, Mr. Adair.
Mr. ADAIR. I do not expect you to have the details of it in mind, but in that proposal we approached this matter of pension payment somewhat differently than you.
As I read your details you have tended to narrow the size of the table whereas we moved the other way and in several instances added an additional step.
Do you have any comment upon that approach to the problem? If you have not had sufficient opportunity to study it, I will understand perfectly.
Mr. CORCORAN. We have had sufficient opportunity, and I think I must say that the Legion's position is that the correct approach is to reduce rather than increase the number of steps.
Mr. ADAIR. My proposal would tend I think to put greater benefits in the hands of those of lower income than would yours. I think yours would tend toward the higher side whereas mine is toward the lower.
Mr. CORCORAN. I recognize that and I believe, Mr. Adair, that the rationale underlying our two steps is that the first step is low enough so that that man deserves the higher rate of pension that we have suggested. I think yours goes from zero dollars to $250.
Mr. ADAIR. Yes.
Mr. CORCORAN. Our first step in the single man's pension is $1,800 and that is where we think the lowest line ought to be drawn.
Mr. ADAIR. I do not think, as I understand your testimony then, that there are very many people at this extremely low level that would be beneficially affected by the legislation.
Mr. CORCORAN. There are quite a few in the zero to $600 bracket. In the single man category, there are 43 percent of the people receiving pensions. We support your efforts to give increased pensions to a part of this group but our official position is that the whole group up to $1,800 deserves substantially increased pensions.
I think it is really a question of where you draw the line at people in dire need. Hou have drawn it at $250. We drew it at $1,800.
Mr. ADAIR. Of course, as we said, that is perhaps the direst need in our bill and then there are dire needs above that.
Moving on, if I could, Mr. Chairman, section 2 of my bill would permit veterans to waive the receipt of not more than 10 percent of any retirement annuity including social security administered by an agency of the Federal Government.