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RETURNING VETERANS DAY TO NOVEMBER 11
Many resolutions have been received from our posts and departments asking for the return of Veterans Day to November 11. This day commemorates in dignity the memory of our veterans of World War I who fought and died to end all wars. It is demeaning to their memory to change arbitrarily a day sacred to all veterans merely to provide long weekend or extra shopping days for the businessmen.
PROPOSED REVISION OF VA RATING SCHEDULE
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to comment briefly on the recent Veterans' Administration proposals for reductions in the schedule for rating disabilities. You, Mr. Chairman, and your colleagues on this committee took action within hours after release of the proposed revision to protest this economy move at the expense of our seriously wounded Vietnam era veterans. As the leader of this organization, comprised of veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, I have traveled extensively in many parts of the country since these proposals were announced. I can report to you that there is no subject creating more expressions of dismay and disbelief than this revision of the rating schedule as announced on February 6. At the time when our prisoners of war were returning home to a Nation's heartfelt welcome, their wounded and disabled comrades were being told that their sacrifices would be downgraded, to provide assistance to North Vietnam. I have stated in many speeches that AMVETS will stand resolutely against any reduction in benefits for our Vietnam veterans, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the members of this committee in our mutual endeavor on their behalf.
As stated previously, AMVET delegates carefully and thoughtfully gave consideration to many resolutions, which upon approval have become the legislative mandates of this major veterans organization for the 93d Congress. The fact that reference to a specific resolution has not been made in my presentation should not leave you with the impression that its importance has been lessened; rather this committee's valuable time has been taken into consideration by me and I have highlighted those areas of high priority to our membership. Our legislative committee and our national legislative department will be available to report and consult with you on specific legislative matters. However, if you can favorably resolve within the next few months the problems I have enumerated, you will have earned the plaudits of a grateful Nation for a job well done. And I, as national commander of 250,000 AMVETS in 1,600 posts throughout the United States and overseas, will be the first to salute you. Thank you again for allowing me to appear before you, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Chairman DORN. Thank you, Mr. Commander, for a very splendid statement. Mr. Hammerschmidt?
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Commander Sanson, I too want to express my appreciation and thank you for a very fine statement, one which reminds us of the apprehensions that we on this committee also hold about certain areas of veterans' affairs. I am sorry I missed your intro
duction. I was in another committee meeting and came over as soon as possible.
But I am delighted that Bob Huber had that honor and let me say while he is here that we are delighted to have Bob on our committee. He is a man who has come here from the private sector with a great amount of knowledge and expertise and he is now using it very skillfully in the House and on his committee assignments. So I just wanted to make that remark about Mr. Huber while he is here.
I notice that you commented on your concern about restrictions on the rights of postal employees in regaining their jobs after they have been in military service. Is this extensive? Do you have any figures on how extensive a problem it is?
Commander SANSON. From the information that we have at our national headquarters, it is very extensive. Mr. Sanchez, our national legislative director, has been researching it and I believe he has information that would be valuable to this committee.
Mr. SANCHEZ. Leon Sanchez, National Legislative Director. Mr. Hammerschmidt, the appeal situation at the U.S. Postal Service appears to be in limbo right now. We have received some inquiries we weren't able to answer. We have set up some meetings with the U.S. Postal Service but I would be happy to come back to you with the specific figures on some of the complaints we have received.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. I appreciate that. I am not even sure these matters are within the committee's legislative jurisdiction but it is certainly one of our concerns. We do have an important member on this committee who has jurisdiction within his own committee and I think it would be helpful if you supplied that for the record. Mr. Chairman, I might ask unanimous consent.
Chairman DORN. Without objection, it is so ordered.
[Documents referred to were not furnished the committee prior to publication of hearing.]
Chairman DORN. I think it would be good to have that information. I believe this is the first time, Mr. Commander, the issue has been brought up.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. I believe this is the first time the issue has been brought to the committee's attention. It would be helpful to get these figures.
Commander SANSON. This matter came to our attention approximately 4 to 6 weeks ago for the first time. As I said earlier, our national legislative director and our national legislative committee has been doing some research on it and it appears to be a very, very distrassing problem, and one that we are going to continue to explore in the hopes of being able to furnish the proper committee with information, hoping to get some solution to the problem.
We felt that it would be worthwhile in our testimony today to call it to the attention of this committee because we know of the interest of this committee in all veterans problems and we felt that this should be called to your attention, regardless of the fact that you may not be able to act on it as a committee.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. I know that it will be helpful. As you know, there is a very distinguished gentleman sitting on this committee who wears two hats. He is also chairman of the Post Office and Civil Serv
ice Committee and I am sure Mr. Dulski will have great interest in those figures even though they are before this committee. Briefly on one more matter, with respect to your comment on the proposed revision of the VA rating schedule which we also have viewed with great alarm and couldn't quite believe that it had happened. As you know, our great chairman here and others of us on the committee have now introduced legislation that would give Congress some veto power. As I understand the basic thrust of the bill, it would require that any proposed rating schedule changes come before the Congress and either body would have 90 days to reject or accept those changes.
I didn't notice any specific comments in regard to your support. Would you support that type of legislation?
Commander SANSON. Mr. Hammerschmidt, I am very proud to say that the minute that the reduction in rating schedules was announced to the public. our national organization of AMVETS immediately wired the President very, very strongly opposing the cuts. As soon as we were aware of the introduction of bills in the Congress to require action by the Congress before they would be allowed to make such cuts, we immediately communicated letters to the Congressmen introducing these bills and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the members of this committee in being so forthright in introducing such legislation and you can depend 100 percent on the National Organization of AMVETS to support you all the way in the passage of these bills.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Thank you. That is all I have.
Mr. Montgomery is chairman of our Subcommittee on Insurance. Mr. Montgomery.
Mr. MONTGOMERY. Thank you, sir. Mr. Commander, I think you statement was very strong and very comprehensive and it is a patriotic statement which I certainly like and approve of. Your statement on page 9 about amnesty, I think most Americans certainly support the stand of AMVETS. These draft dodgers and deserters, if they do come back, will have to stand trial like everyone else who breaks the law. My feeling at this time is that Congress certainly will not enact anything that will permit them to come back and I certainly hope not.
You are one of the first veterans groups to testify before our committee who are very strong in trying to honor the Vietnam veteran and I think this is good. Probably we should do more of it.
For some reason, as to getting jobs, it is my understanding, irrespective of statistics, the Vietnam veteran hasn't adjusted as quickly as those of World War II and the Korean war. I don't know whether it is because of the problems we have had back in the United States with strong objections and statements about the war, but you are on the right track as far as I am concerned and I hope you do push this thing of honoring the Vietnam veteran.
I would hope that we would have some kind of national day. I had the idea of a resolution of inviting not only the former prisoners of war but those severely wounded and a representative of those who had just been in the Vietnam war and of the ones who are missing in action and killed in action as a representative group. This seems to be a problem and there is a source of objection to having anything in the Con
gress. I am hoping maybe your organization and other veterans organizations can come up with some kind of national day to recognize these Americans and show that we appreciate them, and do something on that order.
Commander SANSON. Mr. Montgomery, we in AMVETS started a program to initiate such a day. However, we received information that the Members of Congress were considering passage of a resolution to designate such a day. So we have sat on the sidelines waiting for that resolution to be passed and when it is passed, I can assure you that our organization will do everything possible to cooperate 100 percent. If I may, I would like to comment on your statement about the Vietnam veterans' problems of getting jobs in this country. I have been across the country two or three times and since I assumed my office, I have had Vietnam veterans calling on me at the national headquarters and their common complaint is that their image is so bad, that because people read in the newspapers that Vietnam veterans are drug addicts and drug users, that the tag and the stigma of being drug addicted has been placed on all of the Vietnam veterans. Our organization has checked with the Veterans' Administration and according to their records, fewer than 1 percent of our Vietnam veterans are really drug addicted and yet 99 percent are being deprived of jobs and of the rights that they should have as good, solid U.S. citizens. The theme of our organization for this year is, "Help the Vietnam veteran, restore him to his rightful place in the society of the American public." I would encourage all Members of Congress, wherever they may go, to tell the public that these young men are not drug addicts. They are good, solid, employable, forthright citizens of this Nation.
Mr. MONTGOMERY. Thank you.
Chairman DORN. Thank you, Mr. Montgomery.
Mr. WYLIE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Commander Sanson, I too am sorry to be a little late but these are very busy times and I have two other committees which are meeting simultaneously with these, one of them being the Committee on Banking and Currency which is considering the extension of the Economic Stabilization Act of 1972. I guess this is important, too. The housewives seem to think the matter of food prices is of utmost significance right now.
I do want to thank you for appearing here and for your tremendous contribution, Commander. We appreciate your reasonable approach to the solution of some of our mutual problems. I would just like to add that I am proud to be a longtime member of AMVETS and I am glad to have you here representing me as one of your members.
I would like to refer for a moment to page 9. I noted there that you mentioned the U.S. district court's ruling which held that it was unconstitutional to deny conscientious objectors the benefits of the GI
I agree with you. I do not believe that this decision is right. The conscientious objector is certainly not a veteran in my estimation. I think the GI veteran benefits were designed in the first instance to aid returning veterans or veterans returning to school. The case has been appealed, as you know, directly to the Supreme Court which they can
do on matters of constitutionality and I am hoping the Supreme Court will reverse the decision, as I know you do.
I also agree with your position on amnesty. I thought you might be interested to know in that connection that I am having some questionnaires tabulated. Now my questionnaires that are being returned and we are getting a larger return than ever before and they are coming back about 9 to 1 against amnesty. So the American people support your position also. The thought is being put forward that we ought to grant amnesty because-Abraham Lincoln once granted amnesty. I had a little research done on this question and I found that is not quite accurate to say that he granted amnesty. He did grant amnesty to some Confederate troops. It is quite a different story, it seems to me. He also in effect granted amnesty or said certain soldiers would not be prosecuted for desertion if they returned to their units but this was while the Civil War was still going on. As far as I am able to determine, there is no instance of granting total amnesty at any time during our history and I think it would be bad to set a precedent.
So I agree with that, too, and I agree with you on your position about our national holidays, especially Armistice Day. I voted against the bill when it came before Congress in the first instance. The significance of Armistice Day was the fact that the armistice in World War I was signed on the 11th day, the 11th hour of the 11th month. That has great national significance.
To say that Armistice Day is the fourth Monday in October means very little historically and patriotically as far as I am concerned.
Mr. BRINKLEY. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. WYLIE. Yes.
Mr. BRINKLEY. When you are referring to the Civil War, you do mean the War Between the States?
Mr. WYLIE. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. If you want to call it the War Between the States, that's fine. I understand what you are saying. That is the gentleman from Columbus, Ga. I happen to be from Columbus also, Columbus, Ohio. We kid about that once in a while. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman DORN. Thank you, Mr. Wylie. Mr. Commander, I am very happy to present to you a lovely lady member of our committee, Mrs. Grasso.
Mrs. GRASSO. Mr. Sanson, I am pleased and proud to join in welcoming you here today. I want to again extend to you my regrets I wasn't able to see you when you came to Connecticut. I was pleased that Mr. Ramsey, who is in the back of the room, came to Connecticut and visited with us. I am hopeful that the next time you return I will be able to receive you and accompany you on your visits to various posts. I want to thank you for your splendid presentation and also for the special eloquence that you gave to the problems of the Vietnam veteran. Because of all the tragic victims of this tragic war, their case seems to be most poignant. All of our efforts the efforts of veterans organizations and the Congress through its various committees to help bring them back into the mainstream of American life is high priority on all our lists.