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Missouri have some problems and one other State, I believe. We do have some work to do in that.
Thank you, Mr. Commander, I congratulate you on your statement.
Mr. Commander, Chairman Teague will serve as chairman of the Subcommittee on Compensation and Pension. I know that is good news for all of you.
Mr. Commander, we have another good Texan here who has always stood by the country first and then of course the veteran. I am happy to present to you another one of your great Members from Texas, Ray Roberts.
Mr. ROBERTS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Commander. I just have one comment and that is: all Texans are proud of Joe Matthews and what he has done for the veterans and we are delighted to work with you, Joe. Mr. MATTHEWs. Thank you.
Chairman Dorn. I am going to present the Democratic members and then I am going to let my distinguished and very good friend, Don Hammerschmidt, present the Republican members.
Mr. Wolff from New York has been to Vietnam a number of times and is always dedicated to veterans and a very cooperative member of this great committee. Mr. Wolff?
Mr. WOLFF. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Commander, I want to compliment you on a very comprehensive statement and one that I want you to know has my full support. In fact, I want to see to it that before any reconstruction is done in North Vietnam or South Vietnam that these programs are initiated. I think it is about time we took care of our own first.
I would like to make two other points before I relinquish the floor, Mr. Chairman, if I have the time.
Mr. SAYLOR. No, Mr. Wolff.
sir. Chairman Dorn. I am going to call on Mr. Hammerschmidt and Congressman Saylor to present the other members now. I will have to go to the Rules Committee.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I too must go to the Rules Committee. Mr. Commander, I want to thank you for a very splendid statement and before I speak to it directly, I would like to say that we are going to miss our former chairman, “Tiger” Teague. We are going to miss our ranking member, the other distinguished Teague. They will still be on the committee along with John Saylor and Jim Haley, both of whom have always been the backbone of this committee. But I wanted to tell you of my pride in being able to serve with these two distinguished men who have been here so long serving the veterans and their organizations so well.
Mr. Commander, without going into too much detail, I want you to know that I share many of the concerns that you do, as reflected in your statements, concerns of the continuing proper care and hopefully, the improved care of our Nation's veterans.
I think your apprehension is warranted because it seems to be re
flected in the budget document and none of us seem to be able to fully comprehend what they have in mind in fiscal 1974 and fiscal 1975 and on down the road. I was, of course, pleased the President did recall the proposed revision of the schedule for rating disabilities distributed for comment by the Veterans Administration. Many members of the committee, as you know, immediately introduced legislation to counteract that. I wrote a letter and was in touch personally with the White House to make sure that the President learned of the significant impact upon the combat disabled. I agree with Mr. Teague and doubt if the President really knew what was happening until he got back to Washington. I was glad that he rejected it. I also assure you of my support of legislation to require congressional approval before any revision of disability ratings can be promulgated. I did note your apprehension in your statement that a national health insurance plan might jeopardize the VA medical care program. I hope your fears are without foundation but I agree again with Mr. Teague that you probably have plenty of room to be apprehensive there too.
I think it might be appropriate to read from a statement by President Nixon on June 16, 1972, at the dedication of a VA hospital in Missouri and just briefly will quote. President Nixon said:
Fulfilling the Nation's obligation to its veterans is a matter of justice and national honor. Meeting their medical needs is one of our highest national priorities. To insure that they are met, I intend to maintain and reinforce the independent system of Veterans' Administration health care facilities when and as required.
I think statements like yours this morning and those that will be coming forth I am sure from the other veterans organizations are very helpful because we want to make sure that the Office of Management and Budget knows that the American Legion and the President are together on this stated policy.
I will take just a moment to recognize the members that are here from Arkansas, our commander, Bill Murphy, our adjutant, Art Cross, our former national vice commander, Claude Carpenter who is now a member of the national legislative commission. While I am on the subject of Arkansas, I would like to commend Herald Stringer who is from Arkansas and is also an Alaskan for being a great director of your national legislative commission and for having a great staff, Chuck Mattingly and Terry Wirtz. Mr. Commander and members of the Legion, if you will excuse me, I will now introduce Mr. Saylor who is one of the senior ranking Members in the Congress and certainly is the senior minority member of this committee.
It is my great pleasure to introduce to you, John Saylor from Pennsylvania.
Mr. SAYLOR. After I get through introducing the few over on my side, I am going to tell them if they talk as long as Hammerschmidt did, they are never going to get recognized again.
To my right is the other Teague from California. Mr. Teague.
Mr. TEAGUE of California. Thank you, John. My compliments to the commander on his splendid statement. I welcome my fellow comrades from California who are here. It looks like I have been fired after all those years I have worked so closely with my cousin, Olin. I was faced with the same dilemma as he was. I was elected ranking
Republican on the Committee on Agriculture and some of you people are farmers and you know we face great problems there.
We are meeting every day trying to solve them and our rules say we cannot serve as either chairman or ranking member on more than one committee. Therefore, I am lucky enough to be sitting down here next to Margaret [Ms. Heckler of Massachusetts].
Mr. SAYLOR. Next is the prettiest member of our committee, Margaret Heckler.
Mrs. HECKLER. John, flattery will get you everywhere. Seriously, I want to say, Commander, that I certainly appreciated your statement. It is very thoughtful and, I think, very relevant. It is rather unfortunate that the fashion of times is that parades aren't in order. I think your comment is so true and yet so unfortunate because we do seem to express our joy in private, as we were all joyful on the return of the POW's, and yet in public we only show
our discontent. There is something wrong with that. The fact is, however, you do care and I know that you are expressing the concern of the Legion and the auxiliary. The POW's, too, will be veterans who are returning. I want to make one point only. The hospital system is, to me, the pivotal and most fundamental service that we have provided for the veterans.
Granted, the other benefits are important, but without care, without an attempt to preserve the health of the veterans after they have been injured in miliary service, money alone will really not, in my judgment, be a just reward for patriotism that the veterans have displayed.
I, too, am concerned that the hospital system is threatened today. In fact, there is no doubt of this in my mind, by virtue of the conversations I have had in my office with individuals lobbying for new systems of health insurance. They quite frankly admit that their proposals will, in their judgment, make the VA system of medical care unnecessary. That is their point of view.
You have heard a great deal about OMB, and we do have our continuing difficulties with the Budget Office. While we realize that the President is very much on our side in this question of medical care,
I do think it is very appropriate for the American Legion, and for every veteran's organization, to advance the question to each proponent of a natoinal health insurance bill as to whether or not that individual will continue to vote as a Member of Congress, House or Senate, to sustain the VA hospital system.
I don't think we should wait until these bills come before the committees or the full Congress. For these questions, the time is now. Each proponent, and some have very important national ambitions, each one should be questioned as to where he or she stands in terms of VA hospital system. I suggest that we all live up to my name and heckle a little bit.
Mr. SAYLOR. The next member of this committee is Chalmers Wylie from Ohio.
Mr. WYLIE. Thank you, Mr. Saylor. I do want to commend you, commander, for your statement. I thought it was very lucid. As Čongressman Helstoski said, it is not exactly the words of a shrinking violet and I am glad to see that. I don't find too much in it to quarrel about. I agree with you on the national health insurance statement
which you made on the medical care program, on the disability rating statement, and I especially agree with you on your amnesty statement. You should stick by that. Thank you very much.
Mr. SAYLOR. Mr. Bud Hillis of Indiana. Bud. Mr. HILLIS. Thank you, Mr. Saylor. Mr. Commander, I want to commend you also on this fine statement. I find myself in total agreement with what you have come before the committee and stated this morning and I want you to know that I will do everything I can as a member of this committee in Congress to see that these things come about. Thank you.
Mr. SAYLOR. Now we come to the freshmen members on our side of the aisle. The curly headed fellow at the end is Joseph Maraziti from New Jersey. Joseph.
Mr. MARAZITI. Î too would like to compliment you, Mr. Commander, and the American Legion for the very fine presentation this morning. I am in basic agreement with your legislative goals and I will support them. I too am especially pleased at the position the Legion has taken in opposing amnesty. Our law provides for those who have conscientious objections to fighting, and we understand this, because of religious principles and there is a means and method by which these people who are conscientious objectors can serve by serving in hospitals or in other ways to help their Nation. As you so properly stated, they chose to run and as far as I am concerned, I will vigorously oppose any attempt to grant amnesty to them under any condition.
I am also pleased that you are concerned for the plight of the returning Vietnam veteran. As you have pointed out on page 13, they return under different conditions, which all of us understand. Therefore, we must make a special effort to see that they receive the honor and benefits that all veterans deserve and along those lines, as one indication of what we are trying to do, I have introduced legislation to encourage the employment of POW's and the Vietnam veterans so that the employers who are willing to hire them receive a tax benefit. We think that this type of benefit will go a long way toward giving to the returning veteran the support and consideration he or she should have. Thank you.
Mr. SAYLOR. We have another member who has just come to our committee from South Dakota, former lieutenant governor and a World War II veteran. He was in the Army and, of course, we Navy men have to appreciate that.
Mr. James Abdnor.
Mr. ABDNOR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Commander Matthews, I too want to compliment you on your excellent presentation and tell you that I share your concern about the various issues you talked about today. For instance, I think my stand on amnesty is well known to people in South Dakota. I stated my amnesty views in the Legion paper sometime ago. I would also like to repeat what Congressman Teague said earlier, you are a great organization with a great program and a great record. I am proud to be one of your 2,700,000 members. South Dakota has an outstanding Legion group as attested to by the fact that over a dozen members are here today, led by Commander Slade. That is not too bad for a State as far away as South Dakota.
I would also like to say that I have cosponsored a bill with the chairman which would freeze the disability rates as of January 1, and bring the Congress into participation and direct review of any future changes in the rate program as may be proposed by the VA. This is sound legislation, and I am looking forward in the months ahead to working with you folks in the American Legion on this and other legislative programs which benefit our veterans. Thank you.
Mr. SAYLOR. From the great State of Michigan, we have Mr. Robert J. Huber. Mr. Huber.
Mr. HUBER. Thank you, Mr Chairman. I am a freshman but I am no freshman to veterans problems, being both a veteran and being involved for many years. In addition to the Legion, I intend to demonstrate my support for you on the floor of the Congress. Thank
Mr. SAYLOR. The next freshman on our side of the new members is Mr. William Walsh from the 33d District of New York. Mr. Walsh.
Mr. Walsh. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Commander, I guess I can sum it all up here right now by saying that I am mighty proud to be a member of the Legion today. Thank you
Mr. TEAGUE of Texas. The most eligible bachelor in the Congress of the United States, Mr. Montgomery from Mississippi. Being a bachelor, Sonny has spent nearly every Christmas for the last several years in Vietnam. He has done a great job on this committee. Sonny.
Mr. MONTGOMERY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for that unique introduction. Commander Matthews, we certainly appreciate your testimony today and I commend the American Legion and you for supporting the President to bring this war to a conclusion and I think it will be a peace with honor. However, we do have our problems pertaining to Vietnam, and I speak mainly of the prisoners of war and missing in action. You American Legion people are going to have to keep the pressure on the administration and on the Congress to be sure we get all these prisonsers of war back from that faraway land and also that we get a complete accounting of those missing in action. This is very, very important that we find out what happened to these Americans.
I might say we probably should guard our statements about Southeast Asia and about the agreeemnts until we get all of our prisoners back. We now have a problem. One hundred and forty of them have been held up and were not released today as they should have been under the agreement.
I have been asked by the Legion to introduce a bill and I hope my colleagues will sign the bill pertaining to a resolution which you passed at your convention. Because I am a member of the Armed Services Committee, to which this bill we be referred, is probably the reason I was asked to introduce it and I hope my colleagues on this committee will join. It is a bill that would provide that when any retired member of the armed services dies while a patient in any hospital in the United States, the cost of transporting the body to the place of burial should be borne by the Department of Defense. It seems to me it would not cost the Government a lot of money, and I certainly will do all I can to pass this piece of legislation.