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Mr. STRATTON. Yes, sir. Mr. ADAIR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. HANLEY. Thank you Mr. Adair. If I may touch on one of the dilemmas we are confronted with, I refer to the one that resulted by reason of the good intent of the 88th Congress with respect to social security income benefits, thus placing about 28,000 people in the position of having their benefits reduced or denied in their entirety. I think this is a sad thing and I go back to the statement of the VFW when they say it is practically impossible to satisfactorily explain this to those who have suffered a reduction or elimination of their pension payments. They are well aware of the good intent of the 88th Congress and it is indeed regrettable that the enactment of the social security measure came so late. So I would very much like to see if we could not do something in this area. I know you have related the cost of this. Was it in the neighborhood of $8 million?
Mr. STRATTON. $8 million, yes.
Mr. STRATTON. This problem got somewhat out of perspective, in my opinion, because while I would not try to speak as to the real intent of Congress, I cannot, the impression I got during that formative period was the intention to have the 10-percent exclusion and the 7-percent increase coincide so that the people would actually receive an increase in their pension payments and an increase in social security, with more take-home pay than before. Now, to place it in my perspective you have to identify the people we are talking about. The people who, on the effective date of the 10-percent exclusion, were in the middle bracket, close to the bottom bracket, or in the top bracket but close to the middle bracket, the 10-percent exclusion immediately took them in another bracket with an automatic increase of approximately $20 a month and they started receiving this. They received it for 9 months and then the people that the 7 percent would not protect would have to go back to the bracket they had before, and these people got, in my opinion, a 9-month windfall. "We forgave them the 9 months and cut them down in October, but I can state without fear of contradiction that every one of these people, with the combination of social security and pension, will receive more take-home pay from these two sources in 1966 than they received in 1964. The windfall area was the first 9 months of 1965. They were not in a bracket on a permanent basis and the 7 percent cut them down. They came into the bracket in January 1965 and then went back to their former bracket in October 1965. This is basically the case we are speaking of and basically why we feel it does not need any correction.
If we were going to speak, not to correction but to those in that bracket, both now and in the future, in my opinion the answer is not to exclude an increase or exclude a benefit, but to give them a period of adjustment to what would be perhaps a reduction in income so long as we have a need concept for pension. For example, anytime somebody loses take-home pay by reason of an increase in benefits, he would be able to retain his current rate of income for the remainder of the year as an adjustment period before he would be faced with this reduction of total take-home income pay. This would be better for us administratively because we would be able to identify these people.
This would be our answer to the “problem” if a problem exists.
Mr. HANLEY. Has the Veterans' Administration taken a position on the proposal that would allow a social security beneficiary to voluntarily reduce or waive his payment?
Mr. STRATTON. Yes, sir. We would be opposed to this. Again, it would be permitting a veteran to create his own need.
Mr. HANLEY. I beg your pardon?
Mr. STRATTON. I say, again, it would be the proposition of permitting a veteran to create his own need.
Mr. HANLEY. Mr. Meadows. STAFF DIRECTOR. On page 23 you oppose the proposal which was discussed here by the Disabled American Veterans of a combination program of compensation and pension.
Mr. STRATTON. Yes.
STAFF DIRECTOR. And of course this proposal grows out of the fact our income limits are so high combined with pension that we are running into the actuality that we are treating non-service-connected pensioners better than the 100-percent disabled veteran.
Mr. STRATTON. Yes.
STAFF DIRECTOR. We have these proposals to raise the income limitation from $3,000 to $3,600. If we raise the limitation to $3,600, would we not then openly subject outselves to the criticism that we are treating non-service-connected pensioners better than the 100percent disabled veterans?
Mr. STRATTON. Yes, the totally disabled veteran today
Mr. STRATTON. Yes, who has been injured in service very severely receives as a single man $3,600, and when you raise the income limitation to $3,600 you are saying that the pensioner can not only enjoy $3,600 of other income, which our 100-percent disabled veteran I am reasonably sure does not enjoy, but also receive an amount of pension on top of that. To me, this is rather inconsistent.
STAFF DIRECTOR. What you are saying fundamentally, if in terms of a $3,600 income limitation, a man could have up to $3,599 of his own money and take $48 more of the Government's money to better his position, and in addition we are saying, “You don't have to count 10 percent of your retirement income,” and we are saying "If your wife has income we won't count that or will not count $1,200 of the income if retired."
Mr. STRATTON. That is right. There are three parts to it. There is the outside income that must be counted, you must add to that the exclusions which are liberal, and add to that the pension we pay by reason of the fact the exclusions bring them to $3,000 in countable income.
STAFF DIRECTOR. Then would you agree the DAV has some cause for concern that we are dangerously close to treating the non-serviceconnected veteran better than the service-connected veteran?
Mr. STRATTON. I would agree.
STAFF DIRECTOR. Disabled people in fact are receiving higher non-service-connected pensions than compensation for service-connected disabilities?
Mr. STRATTON. Yes, and the Congress in the last compensation increase recognized that and you raised the rate of pay being received by 100-percent disabled by $50, as I recall, which was the highest percentage.
STAFF DIRECTOR. Thank you.
Mr. HANLEY. With regard to the compensation aspect of the Veterans' Administration budget, if the figures are not available at this moment, could you advise with respect to the total for the past several years?
Mr. STRATTON. The total compensation and pension budget of the Veterans' Administration for the past 5 years?
Mr. HANLEY. Yes.
Mr. STRATTON. Yes. I can give that to you now. It runs around $4 billion total and up to the present time it has been split pretty well between the two programs, pension and compensation. Compensation, however, is going down because as they die, the totally disabled, and the reduction of rates as they improve. And in pensions we are at the leveling off point with World War I veterans and most of our pension business today is with World War II veterans, and that is going up So the pension will get greater and the compensation will get less unless there is much more acceleration in the disability area because of Vietnam and the present situation.
But I will furnish those figures for the last 5 years. (The information follows:)
1 Other costs include such items as burial benefits, subsistence allowance, pay to retired officers, etc.
Mr. HANLEY. We are talking about the $4 billion a year and it has leveled out each year? Mr. STRATTON. Yes. But we are beginning to change now, in
Mr. HANLEY. Thank you.
If not, again on behalf of the chairman of the committee, unless there are other witnesses from the Veterans' Administration, we want to indicate our gratitude for your very comprehensive report and your observations on the various pieces of legislation before this committee.
COUNSEL. Mr. Chairman, the Railway Labor Executives' Association has asked that they be permitted to file a statement. May we ask consent to include their statement in the record at this point, along with other statements which might be pertinent to the subject?
Mr. HANLEY. It is so ordered.
RAILWAY LABOR EXECUTIVES' AssociATION,
Washington, D.C., August 4, 1966. Hon. OLIN E. TEAGUE, Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: The Railway Labor Executives' Association having carefully considered H.R. 13642, a bill introduced by you (by request) on March 15, 1966, wishes at this time to announce its unqualified opposition to this measure.
Rather than end discrimination as its proponents allege, it will extend the inequities contained in Public Law 86–211 to those veterans who were already receiving pensions on June 30, 1960. Whatever savings in expenditures the Veterans Administration might realize would be directly at the expense of those most deserving of these benefits.
In addition, at a time when retired railroaders' purchasing power has decreased due to the increased cost of living, we must oppose any proposal which would have the effect of diminishing the total income upon which they must subsist. We, therefore, respectfully request the Committee to reject H.R. 13642. Yours truly,
DONALD S. BEATTIE,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C., August 1, 1966. Hon. OLIN E. TEAGUE, Chairman, House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
MY DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: You will please allow me to forward to you for inclusion in the official record of the hearings presently being conducted by your Committee on veterans' pensions legislation a statement by The Honorable Julian R. Drake, National Aide de Camp and Adjutant of Albany, Georgia Barracks 1498 of Veterans World War I incorporated regarding their views on veterans' pensions legislation.
Your cooperation in this regard is very much appreciated and, if I may be of any further service to you, please do not hesitate to write. Believe me, Always sincerely,
Member of Congress.
ALABANY, GEORGIA BARRACKS 1498,
Albany, Ga., June 1966.
Members of the House of Representatives. DEAR FRIENDS: There are three Bills, HR-13499 (Mr. Haley), HR-13595 (Mr. Saylor) and HR-13055 (Mr. Madden) that we truly think comes nearer being fairer than all other Bills introduced in the past for the non-service connected World War I veteran pension.
Over half of you Gentlemen have expressed a desire to come up with a solution that would be equitable to the Government and those veterans who so far have never received a reasonable and just compensation commensurate with that paid to veterans of all past wars. These are facts to face, Gentlemen.
If you feel the above Bills should be amended to pass this year, we will accept income limitations raised from $3000 to $3600 and Social Security or other public and private retirement benefits waived at least $1,000, making total income limitations $4600 for veteran and wife at age 72.
Let's get the above settled now and forever Gentlemen while the iron is hot and ready to strike. It will cause you then to feel that you have truly, from the heart, fulfilled your obligations comparable to benefits paid to veterans of all other wars and best of all, you will have also closed that wide gap of principle for many of those non-service connected veterans who have never received one dime of a pension because of income limitations. On the Saylor Bill, what World War I vet
serving only 3, 4, 5 or 6 months would want to receive the same pension as the one who served 8, 9, 10 or more months? There are few who would want that. It is exactly the same principle as a laborer. One worked 30 days, the other 31, 32 or even 60 days. Why should the 30 day laborer want the same pay as the other working 31 or more days? However, we feel $5.50 per month is sufficient for foreign service. The above Bills we think produce both merit and principle. Nothing on God's green earth could be fairer.
Since we are fair and you are fair, who is willing to take the bull by the horns and spearhead one of these deserving Bills into law? Out of over 500 of you up there, there ought to be a few volunteers who think enough of us to fight through hell and high water to get the right Bill passed into law. We need someone like you (another Moses) to lead these ill forgotten W. W. I vets out of darkness into light.
If we can help, please tell us. Any of the above bills will save the Government a lot of money.
Won't you please acknowledge receipt of this letter (expressing your views if you can) so we will know that you at least received it? Thank you and kindest regards. Sincerely,
W. A. COOPER.
STATEMENT OF JULIAN R. DRAKE, NATIONAL AIDE DE CAMP AND ADJUTANT OF
ALBANY GEORGIA BARRACKS 1498 OF WORLD WAR 1 AND WILLIE A. COOPER, COMMANDER OF WORLD WAR 1 BARRACKS 1498
Mr. Chairman: The Albany Georgia Barracks 1498 for the past three years has fought tooth and toe nail to obtain a fair, just and equitable pension for the non-service connected veterans of World War 1.
We feel the Congress has truly forgotten these veterans who are decrepit with already one foot in the grave and most of them simply do not possess a decent income to sustain the necessities of life. We definitely know of one veteran who pays about $450 premium per year for just health insurance to keep out of the pauper's class. Others pay more than that.
We feel we are the lost and forgotten tribe especially by the Honorable Congress. That is true based on what the Congress did for the veterans of the Civil War and especially the veterans of World War 2 in the way of education, insurance, loans and many, many other benefits. Based on that ratio, the World War 1 veteran has only obtained about 30% of the wonderful, wonderful benefits you gave to these World War 2 veterans. We have checked the opinion of veterans other than the World War 1 veteran, also the public and 95% of those interviewed, feel that the Congress has not played fair with the World War 1 veteran.
We won World War 1, the basis and the foundation for a decent pension. The World War 2 boys had it easier. We fought in trenches, mud holes, swamps, no man's land and our fighting planes and equipment were nothing like as good as those of World War 2 and the big fighting was with the bayonet.
Had we lost that War, where would we be today? No one knows but one thing is certain, we WON, which was the pinnacle for the present unprecedented prosperity of the U.S.A.
We have received letters from over half the Congress who expressed a sincere and deep desire to give us a just and decent pension “if the Bill ever got to the House floor and discussion and voting.”
The House Veterans Affairs Committee from the start and from the heart, we do not feel has played fair. The fair and just Bill never, never reaches the House Floor. This is an expression from the heart and soul. We feel hurt. We feel depressed and last but not least, we feel the House Veterans Affairs Committee, don't care a damn for us and as far as we are concerned, we are forgotten.
Surely this Committee wants to play fair and if so, just give us a pension commensurate with the benefits the Congress gave to the vets of World War Two. That's all we want.
We feel that the present pension should be raised from $3,000 to $3,600 for vet and wife and exempt social security at least $1,000, making the total income limitation for vet and wife $4,600 and because of the present Viet Nam conflict, we will agree to make the above $4,600 at age 72. If that is not fair we give up.
We are praying that the House Veterans Affairs Committee will play fair because we have sufficient assurance from the House and Senate members that they will do their part by us.