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Mr. Soderholm farmed in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Oregon. He has served in most of the offices in the Veterans of World War I, starting with barracks sergeant at arms, through department and national offices, to now the position of national commander.
He has served on a number of department and national committees. He is a 55-year member of the American Legion; a member of the Governor's Advisory Committee to the Director of Veterans' Affairs. He developed, patented and built the first self-propelled pickup Filbert Harvester.
He organized and edited a senior citizens periodical, Oregon Silver Threads, which it has been my privilege to read through the years. He has been active in veterans programs since his discharge.
He retired in 1961 and has devoted all of his time to veterans affairs and senior citizens.
He was elected national commander in September of 1972 at the Palm Springs convention, and his term expires October 4, 1973.
He is accompanied here, Mr. Chairman, by Herbert M. Houston, the legislative director for the World War I Veterans; and Floyd Henderson, the national adjutant.
The Veterans of World War I are extremely fortunate to have a man of the experience and capacity of Mr. Soderholm, and, indeed, it is a great privilege and a great honor for me to present him to you now, Mr. Chairman, Commander Soderholm.
Chairman DORN. Thank you, Mr. Ullman.
Commander, before you begin, I would like to present the members of the committee.
Mr. Haley is our only World War I veteran on the committee, and, as you know, he is the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Interior.
You know, we have a whole battery of committee chairmen on this committee: Mr. Teague of Texas, Mr. Haley, and Mr. Dulski.
May I also present Mr. Montgomery; Mr. Edwards, another fine committee member of the committee; and Mr. Brinkley. We will have a member on the Republican side in a moment or two. Mr. Hammerschmidt is a very fine member of our committee, and sits on my right here. They are marking up the highway bill this morning and this is why he can't be here. They are actually writing the bill, and, you know, this is most important to Arkansas, otherwise, he would be right here. He is a very diligent, hard-working member of the committee.
I might mention this, I don't know whether Congressman Ullman knows this or not, but your distinguished national legislative director here is, I believe, a great-nephew of Gen. Sam Houston, and he has been very helpful to the committee also over the years. Mr. Soderholm, if you would just proceed in any way you care to.
STATEMENT OF COMDR. A. O. SODERHOLM, NATIONAL COMMANDER, VETERANS OF WORLD WAR I OF THE U.S.A., INC., ACCOMPANIED BY COL. HERBERT M. HOUSTON, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR; AND FLOYD HENDERSON, NATIONAL ADJUTANT Commander SODERHOLM. Mr. Chairman, my Congressman says he was honored to introduce me.
I assure you we feel particularly honored-particularly I do that he would come here, as many things as he has to do, and I don't know how we can thank him.
He has already introduced our Colonel Houston, our director; and Mr. Henderson, whom you are better acquainted with than you are with me; but they are going to present our program for the coming
Chairman DORN. Colonel Houston, you go right ahead.
Mr. HALEY. Commander, I want to say that-you say you are surprised, and so forth, that Congressman Ullman could be here.
I will assure you that he will be anywhere that he can serve the constituents that he so ably does here. He will go along with you on helping you any time, any place, anywhere, and I might say he is capable of doing just that.
Mr. ULLMAN. Well, let me respond by saying how proud I am that Mr. Haley is here.
I have appeared before his Interior Committee many, many times. There is no more dedicated Member of this body than the gentleman from Florida.
I would like to also recognize Mr. Edwards, Mr. Brinkley, and Mr. Montgomery, who are really dedicated members of this committee and this body.
Commander SODERHOLM. Mr. Chairman, could I add another word? Maybe Mr. Edwards knows this, but our next national commander will be Halsey Fink, from Paradise, Calif.
Mr. EDWARDS. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I was hoping that announcement would be made.
We Californians are going to be very proud when that election takes place, although we are going to regret your retirement, sir. Chairman DORN. Colonel Houston.
Colonel HOUSTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of this distinguished committee. We wish to thank you for the privilege of appearing before you and for the opportunity of presenting the views of the Veterans of World War I of the United States of America, Inc., which represents the thinking of the membership, as reflected by resolutions adopted at our last national convention held in Palm Springs, Calif.
We would like to point out that World War I was fought before the deterioration of American patriotism and before the days of draft card burners. To the veterans of that war, refusing to obey orders or desecration of the flag is unthinkable.
This patriotic spirit remains with these veterans as strong today as it was 55 years ago. They are disturbed as they witness the disrespect for constituted authority, the downgrading of the uniform services of our country, the expendable attitude toward veterans in the streets and in high places.
This diminishing group of veterans, whose experiences go over the past half century, can see in this attitude a parallel to the nations of the past whose names are just history.
We call upon the veterans of all wars to become alerted to the sedulous forces against us who would relegate us to oblivion.
It is with pride that we address you members of this distinguished committee, who, of your own volition, seek to render a service to this Nation by recognizing the needs of, and acknowledge by ways of legislation, remuneration for the service rendered by the veterans of America's wars and their dependents.
We also recognize the opposition you face in your desire to render this service.
At a time in our Nation's history when our veteran population is at its peak, with thousands of young veterans just returning from the battlefields of Vietnam requiring hospitalization, many requiring long periods of physical therapy, there are nearly 6 million of these young
There are also nearly 6 million Korean war veterans, many of whom require VA hospital care.
Then there are 14 million veterans of World War II, who are growing older and in the near future, an increasing number of these veterans will require increased hospitalization.
Add to this the 1,200,000 veterans from World War I, who are an average of 78.1 years of age. A higher percentage of these require hospital care, and an increasing number of them now need nursing home care because they have no one to care for them in their homes. Increasing numbers of them have no homes and cannot enter VA nursing homes because they are not permitted to enter a VA hospital so they can be transferred to a nursing home.
With these alarming statistics, well known to all veterans' organizations, and all veteran minded citizens, the recent request for the fiscal year 1974 budget by the Veterans' Administration calls for a cut in funds for the VA operation.
Evidently those who made the request have been anesthesized by the antiveteran attitude of the Office of Management and Budget under the guise of saving money, and have betrayed the trust for which the Veterans' Administration was created.
They would arbitrarily reduce the daily patient census in VA hospitals by 5,500. With the veterans being denied hospitalization this year because of the lack of available beds, due to the withholding of funds, they would slash additional funds, making even fewer beds available. The VA takes pride in the turnover, making statistics look good, while some of these statistics are World War I veterans sent home, unable to care for themselves, and die because of the need of care they could not receive because there was no one to care for them.
Others have been taken to a VA hospital by friends and waited all day in the waiting room without attention, because there was no one to receive them, or even see what the problem was with them. They were taken then back home, where the veteran died because of the lack of medical care.
The fiscal year 1974 budget proposed by the Office of Management and Budget would be the equivalent of closing down eleven 500-bed hospitals.
The VA medical employment is also scheduled for a 1.8 percent further reduction in staff-patient ratios in VA hospitals, and a $6 million slash in medical research funds.
Hospital construction would be slashed by 51 percent in major construction and 30 percent in minor construction. And not one dime has been provided for assistance in the construction of the eight new medical schools authorized by the 92d Congress.
The Office of Management and Budget, with concurrence of the VA, has evidently decided to phase out the VA hospital system by attrition.
To this the Veterans of World War I strongly protest and urge the Congress to mandate the use of appropriated funds.
We are in the process of emerging from our longest war in the history of this country. The cost of this war cannot be measured in dollars spent for equipment; it must be considered in terms of casualties as well as material.
The medical care of, and compensation for the returning veterans must be our concern for years; it is part of the cost of this war.
The VA would turn back the pages of history to 1933 (sic) after the close of the First World War. They would restore in the 1970's a new version of the Economy Act by revising the rating of compensation to disabled war veterans.
Fortunately, the expressed opposition by the Congress, and with the cooperation of the news media, they were forced to retract their orders to make the proposed revision of compensation tables, after finding a scrapegoat.
These veterans just recently from the battlefields must have been set back on their heels. "What price peace?" must have been their reaction to this move to discriminate against them, as had been done to their grandfathers of World War I.
This subject will need to be watched closely so that the planners do not slip the proposed plan in some other way.
The only way to stop the cost of veterans' care is to stop wars. Veterans' care is a cost of war. It would be as humane to stop the supplies in battle as to stop the care of the veterans after the battle is over.
The pension system is in a state of chaos. Thousands of those who received a pension in 1972 had their pensions terminated as of January 1, 1973, and many thousands more had their pension greatly reduced.
If it is a question of saving money, if the economy of this Nation requires the slashing of expenses, the veteran is willing to take a proportionate share.
If the Office of Management and Budget and the Veterans' Administration would be fair with the veterans, the fair thing would be for them to start with themselves and take a proportionate salary slash from top to bottom. If this was done, the veterans of this country would see that they were being fairly treated and would bear their share willingly.
The 92d Congress enacted laws to provide a 20-percent increase in social security and railroad retirement monthly payments, retirement programs in which the recipient and the Government or railroad participate.
These laws were designed by the Congress to provide a cost-of-living increase which is laudable; however, as of this date, every recipient of these benefits received a 20-percent increase except the veteran.
The 92d Congress adjourned without passing any legislation to protect the veterans pension, and thousands whose pensions were terminated have less income in 1973 than they had in 1972. Instead of the promised increase, they received a net loss.
The Veterans' Administration has stated that no one would lose any aggregate income because of the 20-percent increase in other income.
This is not being honest with these veterans, as letters from these veterans received daily in our headquarters attest.
Cases where the veteran received an increase in social security, and his wife received one, common among these letters. The two small increases caused the veteran to go over the income limitations, and his pension was terminated, thereby receiving less money in 1973 than he did in 1972.
The law now, in effect, is saying to this veteran and his wife, "If you want to receive a pension, you will have to get a divorce, then you can both draw your social security and the husband can draw a pension also."
Thousands of single veterans have had their pension terminated, and have a net loss in income for the year 1973.
This situation would be ludicrous if it was not so pathetic. The credibility of the VA has sunk to a new low in the minds of the veterans. We do not propose to argue with the Veterans' Administration for their findings as shown by the computer, but we will question the ones who fed the data they had into the computer.
We feel that the veterans know more about their personal situation than those who fed the data into the computer. They say that their income for 1973 will be less than in 1972, counting the 20-percent increase in social security. This takes us back to our statement, "Every recipient of these benefits received a 20-percent increase except the veteran."
Mr. Chairman, this is not a new experience, it has been going on for years. The Veterans of World War I have been calling this to your attention each year; however, the Veterans' Administration has been telling you another story.
The Congress has been taking the statements furnished by the VA as factual, and we have contended that they were not.
Now we have the facts as revealed by thousands of letters from veterans that our statements have been correct.
We would like to review the past 5 years.
Each time there would be an increase in social security benefits authorized by the Congress-may I add a statement here-designed for an increase in the cost of living, we would ask for an increase in the veterans income limitations so that the veteran would not lose a part or all of his pension.
In each instance, the VA would not approve a bill which would protect all those on pension. The Congress has taken the advice of the VA, and in each instance, thousands of veterans have had their pensions terminated, and many thousands more have had a reduction.