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Washington, D.C;, May 6, 1974.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: This will respond to your request for a report by the Veterans' Administration on an amendment intended to be proposed by Mr. Cranston to S. 2363, 93d Congress, a bill to amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, relating to automobiles and adaptive equipment for certain disabled veterans
and members of the Armed Forces.
The amendment would have the effect of placing within the Department of Medicine and Surgery the responsibility for research activities involving the development of adaptive equipment and adapted conveyances (including vans), to meet standards of safety and quality prescribed in 38 U.S.C. 1903 (d), a part of chapter 39. Additionally, it would provide for the VA involvement in the development and support for the production and distribution of devices and conveyances so developed. The amendment would further provide for the conşultation and cooperation by the Chief Medical Director with the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
Public Law 91-666 added the provisions for the furnishing of adaptive equipment, in addition to an increased automobile allowance, for eligible veterans. Although research was not statutorily authorized, in order to develop the standards of safety and quality required by section 1903 (d) of title 38, some research was initiated for adaptive equipment purposes. The proposed amendment would specifically authorize research for adaptive equipment and, additionally, would authorize research for adapted conveyances (including vans), Moreover, the scope of our mission would be broadened to include the development and support for the production and distribution of devices and conveyances so developed.
The cost of the proposed amendments cannot be estimated until the scope and scheduling of the projects authorized can be determined within the specific budgets for prosthetics research. Nevertheless, these projects would center upon three major categories: research, development, and evaluation. The following brief explanation of each of the above-mentioned categories will reflect our views and plans in the matter.
(a) Research. Contracts with laboratories in university settings would evaluate neuromuscular and neurosensory deficiencies as they affect vehicle operation. The research would be fundamental, on the human factors of the disabilities with relation to the driving situation, access and egress, hardware redesign including seating and control configuration, all in consideration of the attained state of the art. We contemplate the participation of physicians, Ph. D. level physiologists, biologists, engineers, technicians, and support services. Each group would have an assigned disability or series of disabilities for this fundamental research.
(6) Development. This category would be divided into in-house work at the VA Prosthetics Center and selected VA hospitals with known capability, and development by contract. Specific problem areas in hardware, vehicle modifications, access and egress considerations, techniques, and vehicle operation modes would be included in the inhouse aspect. We are presently involved to a great extent in this area. The proposed VA tentative standards and specifications for automotive driving aids for standard passenger automobiles (VAPC-A74C+ 5T) is another example of development already in progress.
The contractual portion would be conducted at university settings similar to the research aspect and would include engineers, technicians, and support people who would be either assigned special projects by request for proposals, or by VA-generated contracts depending on the complexity of the project and the engineering capability of
.(c) The evaluation area is already well along at the VA Prosthetics Center. However, the field of automotive controls for the severely disabled is so dynamic at this time that new van configurations, control systems, and access and egress modes are being discovered in the private sector constantly. At present about 10 companies that modify vans have been identified. When the estimate of 10 civilian disabled to each veteran is considered, the evaluations must be conducted at VA spinal cord injury centers to insure that as many types of disabilities as possible are considered.
In view of the beneficial purposes sought to be accomplished and the VA involvement in the general area, we favor the subject amendment to S. 2363.
We are advised by the Office of Management and Budget that there is no objection to the presentation of this report from the standpoint of the administration's program. Sincerely,
DONALD E. JOHNSON,
EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT,
Washington, D.C., April 1, 1974.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: This is in response to your request of August 7, 1973, for the views of this Office on S. 2363, a bill to amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, relating to automobiles and adaptive equipment for certain disabled veterans and members of the Armed Forces.
S. 2363 would modify the provisions of title 38 relating to the furnishing of specially equipped automobiles and adaptive equipment for disabled veterans. Section 1 of S. 2363 would authorize automobiles and adaptive equipment for peacetime and Vietnam veterans under the same conditions as applied to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict. It would also expand the concept of adaptive equipment. Section 2 would increase the maximum amount available for the purchase of an automobile from $2,800 to $3,300. Section 3 would require the VA Administrator to provide special driver training courses at VA hospitals, other medical facilities and regional offices, where appropriate. It would also authorize the Administrator to obtain insurance on the automobile and personal liability and property damage insurance for persons taking such courses.
In its report on S. 2363, the Veterans' Administration stated its reasons for opposing enactment of section 2 of S. 2363 and for recommending changes in sections 1 and 3. We concur with the views expressed by the VA in its report. Accordingly, we would favor enactment of sections 1 and 3 of S. 2363, if amended. We would oppose enactment of section 2. Sincerely,
WILFRED H. ROMMEL, Assistant Director for Legislative Reference.
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS, U.S. SENATE
Washington, D.C., March 13, 1973.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: Transmitted herewith is a draft bill “TO amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, to provide the same eligibility criteria for automobiles and adaptive equipment for Vietnam era veterans as are applicable to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict.” We request that it be introduced and considered for enactment.
Prior to the enactment of Public Law 91-666 on January 11, 1971, the Veterans Administration was authorized by 38 U.S.C. 1901 to pay an automobile allowance of up to $1,600 to veterans entitled to disability compensation for loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands or one or both feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a prescribed degree, which resulted from service in World War II or the Korean conflict. The automobile benefit was also made available to a veteran who incurred a disability of the described nature in line of duty in service after January 31, 1955, if such disability was shown to have been “a direct result of the performance of military duty."
Public Law 91–666 increased the automobile allowance to $2,800, and authorized 'adaptive equipment necessary to insure safe operation of the vehicle. That law also extended the class of eligible persons to include certain persons who apply while still in service. A serviceman with a prescribed disability incurred in World War II, the Korean conflict, or the Vietnam era, need only establish that such disability was service connected. If the disability was incurred in other than Vietnam era service after January 31, 1955, the serviceman is eligible only if it was “a direct result of the performance of military duty:” The mentioned 1971 statute made no change in the qualifications specified for veterans of service after January 31, 1955.
It is thus apparent that the current provisions respecting automobiles and adaptive equipment are discriminatory with regard to veterans of the Vietnam era. Veterans of World War II or the Korean conflict, and certain persons still in service, need not meet the “direct result of the performance of military duty” requirement. They may qualify merely upon the basis of an accidental injury which happened to occur in line of duty while the individual was in service. A veteran of the Vietnam era, however, who was discharged before a qualifying disability had been established and/or an application filed, is barred from receiving monetary assistance for the purchase of an automobile. and necessary adaptive equipment, notwithstanding the existence of one of the serious disabilities specified by the law, unless it can be proven that the disability was "a direct result of the performance of military duty."
This proposal would amend section 1901 of title 38, United States Code, to authorize monetary assistance for the purchasing of an automobile, and necessary adaptive equipment, for veteran of the Vietnam era merely upon showing that the qualifying disability occurred in line of duty during such service. It would thus remove the present discrimination against veterans of the Vietnam era.
The Veterans Administration believes that such veterans should receive the automobile benefit and necessary adaptive equipment under the same conditions as apply to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict.
There is no data readily available upon which to base an estimate of the cost of the measure, if enacted.
Advice has been received from the Office of Management and Budget that there is no objection to the submission of the draft bill to the Congress. Sincerely,
DONALD E. JOHNSON,
A BILL To amend chapter 39 of title 38, United States Code, to provide the same
eligibility criteria for automobiles and adaptive equipment for Vietnam era veterans as are applicable to veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That clause (Á) of paragraph (1) of section 1901 of title 38, United States Codé be amended by
(1) striking “World War II or the Korean conflict” and inserting in lieu thereof "World War II, the Korean conflict, or the Vietnam era"; and
(2) inserting the words any other” immediately before the words "active military, naval, or air service performed after January 31, 1955”.