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rates should be granted to all veterans who are classed as disabled in line of service.
2. It has always been the concern of the Veterans of World War I that too much time elapses between adjustments in rates. The increase in cost of living has risen to such an extent that we believe at least a review of these rates should be made once a year, and an acrossthe-board increase should be granted to compensate for the increased cost of living which is taking place practically every year.
We hope, Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of this committee, that you will give these recommendations your serious consideration, that the amount of money should not be the sole judge in determining compensation for these veterans, many of whom will be living a life of pain received in defense of their country.
Mr. ROBERTS. Thank you, Mr. Hudson.
Mr. SAYLOR. I want to commend you and your organization for this excellent statement. The first recommendation you have, after your preliminary statement that it be raised to $550, is there should be a realistic increase in rate applied to all veterans classified as disabled.
Do you believe this should be a flat percentage increase or do you believe it should be based upon the amount given to those totally disabled so that the man who is 90 percent disabled will receive 90 percent of what the man who is totally disabled gets.
Mr. Hudson. Well, I think, Mr. Congressman, we would have to take the stand that the proportionate amount would have to be considered on the basis of the amount that you just remarked on.
Mr. SAYLOR. In other words, you would suggest we may write into the law a provision that if the cost-of-living increase comes to a certain figure each year that the compensation be increased by that amount each year or every other year?
Mr. Hudson. That is the thinking of our national commander representing our organization, Mr. Congressman.
Mr. SAYLOR. All right, sir, I appreciate this as a new idea that has not been given to us by anybody else.
Do you know, Mr. Hudson, the number of World War I veterans who are listed as 100-percent disabled ?
Mr. Hudson. Today, we do know that our average age is 73 years and hospitalized today we have perhaps, according to the Veterans' Administration, some 34.5 percent of those who are living.
Mr. SAYLOR. Who are totally disabled?
Mr. Hudson. No, they are not totally disabled, but they are hospitalized, and what I mean in many cases the Veterans Administration consider over a 6-month period that they are what is known as permanently hospitalized.
However, as totally disabled, we would have to consider perhaps there would be at least 20 to 22 percent.
Mr. SAYLOR. Mr. Hudson, could you get those figures for us?
Mr. Hudson. I believe we can supply you with those figures, Mr. Congressman, certainly.
Mr. SAYLOR. Well, Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent, if Mr. Hudson, or the World War I veterans organization, are able to get the figures, that we have permission to insert in the record.
Mr. ROBERTS. Without objection, they will be made part of the record.
(Veterans Administration records indicate that as of June 20, 1967, 14,285 World War I veterans were on the service-connected compensation rolls as 100-percent disabled.)
Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. Scott.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Chairman, I was interested in the comment about the cost of living increases being on an annual basis. You undoubtedly heard Mr. Saylor mention the possibility or raise the question as to whether we should have a review of the entire rate schedule.
Do you think the two should go together or do you have any feeling on this?
Mr. HUDSON. Mr. Congressman, you mean on the basis of a study of each year?
Mr. Scott. No, sir, as I understand Mr. Saylor, and certainly he can speak for himself, he said something to the effect of having the entire compensation schedule reviewed by this committee and perhaps adjustments being made.
Now, you are talking about an increase in the cost of living, that as the cost of living increases that the compensation should be increased.
Would you tie or would you think it would be a good idea to tie a cost-of-living increase in with the review of the entire compensation schedule or do you have any feelings on this point ?
Mr. Hudson. We would have to concur with that, yes.
Mr. ROBERTS. Thank you very much, Mr. Hudson, for a fine statement as always.
Without objection, the statement of Mr. Ralph Hall, the national executive director of the AMVETS, of Mr. Leslie P. Burghoff, Jr., president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and of Mr. Irwin P. Schloss, president of Blinded Veterans Association, will be part of the record, and following those statements the material referred to earlier by Mr. Kornegay. Following the statements from members, without objection, a numerical list of bills under consideration, agency reports, and the text of these bills will be inserted.
(The statements referred to follow :)
STATEMENT OF LESLIE P. BURGHOFF, JR., PRESIDENT, PARALYZED VETERANS OF
AMERICA Mr. Chairman and members of this committee, on several occasions in the past, our Organization has been privileged to present its views on the compensation program, as administered by the Veterans Administration, as it relates to the spinal cord injured veteran. Today we would like to be as brief as possible, confining our remarks to issues affecting this specific disability, yet not brief enough to overlook any important matters which should be brought to your attention.
Inflation and the spiraling cost of living may well affect every citizen, but it has greater impact upon our disabled and elderly with their fixed income. The dollar has the same number of pennies, but the purchasing value of the dollar has steadily declined over the past two years. Recognizing this, we urge an over-theboard increase in all rates of compensation for the seriously disabled serviceconnected veteran.
I am sure that the Chairman and members of this Committee are aware of the catastrophic extent of quadriplegia, a disability which paralyzes one from the neck down, precluding functional use of all four extremities, and rendering one totally dependent upon the services of another person twenty-four hours a day for all of the days that he might live. The greatest problem facing our
Organization today is to discover the means whereby these veterans—whose disability is but a step short of the supreme sacrifice can enjoy more of the God- and government-given blessings of this life and our Nation. The problem of the quadriplegic is one faced by the Veterans' Administration itself, which finds that a growing percentage of the acute-care beds in our V.A. hospitals are becoming occupied by quadriplegics who have little to no hope for non-institutional living. But for those with hope—and for those with courage--we would recommend a more realistic economical means. We believe that a minimum aid and attendance allowance of $500 per month be granted these veterans when not hospitalized at government expense. This amount is needed to obtain the attendant care necessary for non-institutional living.
We have mentioned before what we believe to be the archaic and arbitrary assignment of a twenty percent differential in compensation awards to veterans who served in wartime and those who served in peacetime. Our Organization still opposes this differential and strongly recommends that it be eliminated.
Mr. Chairman, there is one area of need which this Committee may not be aware of. It concerns the newly injured veteran in the field of compensation for his seriously disabled condition. During the years which our Organization has administered a service program, we have handled several heart-breaking cases. These involved the labored and time-consuming administrative change from the military to the V.A. beneficiary. Because it takes so much time to get his discharge from the military, and his eligibility established by the Veterans' Administration, many months may expire before he will receive any income. This lapse of income is extremely critical to the young family man who has no other means of income to support his family. Surely there must be some means of granting these veterans some type of compensation-in-trust and making any necessary adjustments at a later date. I would hope that such instruction could be made by this Committee.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you and the members for your very kind atten. tion and your very valuable time.
STATEMENT OF IRVIN P. Schloss, NATIONAL PRESIDENT,
BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION ON H.R. 16027
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate this opportunity to present the views of the Blinded Veterans Association on legislation you are considering to increase disability compensation rates for veterans with serviceconnected disabilities.
We should like to endorse H.R. 16027, which implements the recommendations of the Veterans Advisory Commission, as a minimum increase at this time but would prefer certain modifications. Adequate disability compensation for the severely disabled veteran is an essential concomitant of his rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the majority of permanently and totally disabled veterans are either unemployed or underemployed. As a consequence, such veterans are highly dependent on adequate disability compensation to maintain themselves and their families.
In addition to loss of earning power and economic security, disability compensation for blindness should also reflect other losses and limitations such as loss of physical integrity, additional stress and anxiety, limited social activity and acceptance, limited recreational activity, loss of unhampered mobility, loss of anonymity, loss of ability to detect medically significant symptoms, loss of visual appreciation of beauty, curtailed accessibility to reading material, loss of privacy in personal correspondence and personal financial transactions, possibly shortened life expectancy, loss of employment opportunities and job flexibility, etc.
Disability compensation should be periodically revised to reflect general improvements in living standards. It should also be more frequently revised to reflect increases in the cost of living.
There are several longstanding inequities in the disability compensation structure for blinded veterans. Although the sense of hearing becomes the principal avenue of information for a blind person for learning, for communication, for orientation, and for mobility, the VA disability rating schedule uses the same criteria for determining percentage of disability for loss of hearing in a blind person as in a sighted person. For many years, only total loss of hearing in both
ears in combination with total loss of sight was specifically compensated as a statutory award. In 1965, the Congress liberalized the stautory awards for loss of hearing in combination with loss of vision. However, there is still a need to revise the method used by VA to determine percentage of disability for impaired hearing when it occurs in combination with blindness.
Similarly, an artifical hand or hook is easier to use effectively when an individual has the sight to direct it. A blind person depends heavily on the sense of touch. A sighted person with an artificial leg or legs can manage more easily than a blind person with this difficult handicap because the sighted person can see where he is going and does not have to depend on the tactile sense to be in touch with his environment. We recommend that loss of a hand or foot be compensated at a higher rate when it occurs in combination with blindness.
Entitlement to the special award for aid and attendance under Section 314(r) of Title 38 requires entitlement to compensation under Section 314 (0) as a prerequisite. There are blinded veterans with additional severe disabilities who do in fact require aid and attendance but who are ineligible for the special award because their combination of disabilities entitles them to awards under Section 314 (1), (m), (n) or intermediate rates less than (0). We would recommend basing entitlement to Section 314(r) on the actual need for aid and attendance for individuals receiving awards less than those under Section 314(0).
Visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye or equivalent decrease in the visual field—the standard definition of blindness for entitlement to various aids and services in this country-results in a 70% or higher disability rating for veterans compensation purposes. Since most individuals with this degree of limited vision are unable to read ordinary printed material and are handicapped for employment in many instances, we would strongly recommend that the compensation specified in H.R. 16027 for subsections (g) through (i) of Section 314 of Title 38 be increased above the amount mentioned.
In addition, dependency allowances should be made more realistic. A Canadian blinded veteran receives $64 a month for his wife, $30 for the first dependent child, $22 for the second, and $18 for the third and subsequent children. We understand that the Canadian Parliament is expected shortly to increase these amounts to $73 a month for a veteran's wife, $34 for the first dependent child, $26 for the second, and $20 for the third and subsequent children.
Finally, BVA firmly advocates abolition of the peacetime rate of disability compensation so that all servicemen who sustain service-connected disabilities are compensated at the wartime rate. In our time with the need for the United States to maintain large armed forces, peacetime and wartime periods are more a matter of arbitrary dates than actual hostilities. An individual blinded in a training accident during a so-called peacetime period is no less disadvantaged than a serviceman blinded in a similar training accident during a wartime period.
We sincerely hope that the committee will take favorable action on compensation legislation which will adequately take into account improved living standards as well as sharply increased living costs in the years since the last increase.
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS,
MARCH 27, 1968.
DEAR COLLEAGUE: Since you have a bill related to increases in compensation rates payable to service-connected disabled veterans pending before the Committee on Veterans Affairs, I wanted to let you know that our Subcommittee on Compensation and Pensions will begin hearings on this subject on April 2nd.
I am most eager to conclude hearings on this subject prior to the Easter Recess.
If you would wish to present a written statement for inclusion in the record, we would be most happy to receive it and this would be helpful to us when we begin work on details of a rate increase bill. Sincerely,
OLIN E. TEAGUE, Chairman.
BILLS TO INCREASE RATES OF COMPENSATION PAYABLE TO SERVICE-CONNECTED
DISABLED VETERANS, BY AUTHOR
Mr. Ashmore, H.R. 14184
Mr. Kornegay, H.R. 3772
2583, H.R. 11371, H.R. 14666, H.R.
14773, H.R. 14995, H.R. 16027
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES C. CORMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM
THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to speak in behalf of my bill, H.R. 14721. The Committee is today hearing testimony with respect to increases in compensation rates payable to service-connected disabled veterans. While my bill provides for such an increase, it contains other provisions as well.
In contemplating the introduction of this bill, I sought a "package” measure to benefit a certain group of veterans—those who fought so bravely to defend democracy during the First World War. This measure particularly speaks to the needs of these aging veterans.
The provisions of my bill protect the veteran from a decrease in his pension rate when social security benefits or any pension payments are increased. Under its provisions, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs cannot require a report, statement or other form of declaration of annual income from a veteran who has attained the age of 67. It provides for a percentage adjustment in pensions when the cost of living index is increased by three percent or more in a given period. Further, it provides for a comprehensive study and investigation of national cemetery sites.
I am particularly pleased that the Committee today is giving attention to one of the most important provisions of my bill, that which increases compensation rates for service-connected disabled veterans.
The disabled veteran has not had an increase in benefits for over three years. Yet, the cost of living index has changed more than eight points since the last increase, and is continuing to rise. Government employees, members of the Armed Forces, social security recipients—all have had increases in benefits, and in some cases two increases, since the last disability compensation increase.
The Report recently released by the U.S. Veterans Advisory Commission on the Veterans Benefits System underscores the need for this increase.
Among the many recommendations of the Commission is one to maintain compensation rates at levels which are economically realistic. The Commission points out that it has been necessary from time to time to adjust these rates to the changing cost of living in America. They recommend an appropriate increase in compensation rates for disabled veterans.
Mr. Chairman, our Nation has a commitment to our veterans, and especially to those who are disabled. The man who serves his country—who is willing to sacrifice his life if need be-must not be neglected. It is important that the benefits given him are consistent with the economic changes that continually take place in this country.
I urge that the Committee act favorably on this measure.