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in the right direction. As you know, Tiger Teague is now chairman of the Science and Astronautics Committee, or Space Committee, as we usually say. I think it is a wonderful committee and perhaps the independence and defense of the Nation could possibly depend on our continuing ascendancy in the field of space. I am happy to present to you this morning to introduce our distinguished guest, Chairman Tiger Teague.
Mr. TEAGUE of Texas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to all of you. It has been the joy of my life to work with the American Legion back through the years. You have a great staff here in Washington and a great office and the American Legion has done a great job in this country of ours and, as Bryan said, we worked together for many years.
I didn't want to go to the Space Committee but I had no hesitancy in going in knowing this committee and knowing Bryan Dorn. As Bryan said, I think that committee over there is most important. The work will be much more difficult than that in the committee over here. I think probably the country that leads the world in technology in the next 20 or 30 years will be the country that leads the world and I hope to do everything I can to see that our country is the one that leads the world.
I had asked at your national convention last year for the opportunity of nominating Joe Matthews. It turned out I was in Moscow that day and I couldn't very well do it. Now the most important thing about Joe really is that he is a constituent of mine. It is really a pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity of presenting Joe, and his wife has already been presented but I am going to present her again. I am not going to tell you all the details of Joe's life. I am sure all of you know that. He was born in Pennsylvania and I guess he chose Texas by choice and not by accident. He had a distinguished war record in the Pacific.
He, in my opinion, he and Pinkie are the ideal type of people to come up through the ranks, which they have done, to become national commander. Joe and Pinkie have done about everything there is to be done coming up through the ranks and beyond that they have taken part in the civic life of our country all the way from Joe being an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster to his present position here today. He is the kind of person who gives credit to the State of Texas and to the whole country.
It is a pleasure to me to present to you your national commander, Joe Matthews and Mrs. Matthews. Pinkie, would you and Joe stand please. [Applause.]
Mr. MATTHEWs. Thank you very much. Mr. TEAGUE of Texas. May I say another word, Joe? In case you don't know it, Joe took about the same trip through Russia that I did and we both came home with two very definite opinions. One was that we were damned glad to get home and the other is that they have got the sorriest food in the world.
STATEMENT OF JOE L. MATTHEWS, NATIONAL COMMANDER OF
THE AMERICAN LEGION
Mr. MATTHEWS. Thank you very much, Congressman Teague. I don't know of anybody I would rather have introduce me to the Veterans' Affairs Committee than a friend of long standing and also my own Congressman. I would like to take the opportunity to introduce my vice commanders and some of our national officers who are here this morning. I will introduce them en masse if you please : Vice Commander Al Muller from New Jersey, Vice Commander Ray Novak from South Dakota, Vice Commander Don Druenbaum from Ohio, Vice Commander Dan Craig from North Carolina, Vice Commander Sam Gray from California, my historian, Letty Phillips from California, my National Sergeant At Arms Howard Larson from New York. Also with us this morning we have the chairman of our resolutions subcommittee who is from one of the Carolinas, I believe, Mr. Chairman, South Carolina, Roy Stone.
Mr. Chairman and members of this very distinguished committee, I appreciate the opportunity of appearing here today before this great committee of the Congress—a committee that has done so much for the war veterans of this Nation. The American Legion is proud of this committee for the programs it has initiated and established. Through the years you have recognized the unique status and specific needs of those who fight our Nation's wars. You have demonstrated a full awareness of the problems confronting today's veteran in this complex, difficult and demanding society in which we live.
For the first time in 18 years we appear before this committee with a new man at its helm. I congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your election to head this committee and express to you the warm, good wishes of the American Legion national organization. You are no stranger to us. As former chairman of the Subcommittee on Compensation and Pension, and ranking majority member of this committee, you are well known to the Legion and your colleagues in the Congress for your efforts on behalf of veterans. We pledge you our full cooperation and support and look forward to a continued close association with you and your staff.
I would also not want this opportunity to pass without paying tribute to my own Congressman, a champion of the veteran during his 26 years in Congress, and chairman of this committee for 18 years. The American Legion is grateful to Olin Teague for his efforts on behalf of our Nation's veterans and we wish him every success in his new position. Although he is no longer chairman, he maintains his interest in the veterans program as ranking majority member of this committee and we are certainly happy that he is still aboard.
The American Legion, in 1972, with a membership of over 2,700,000 veterans in 16,000 posts throughout the country, is now approaching its 54th anniversary of services to America and its veterans. The organization in 1972 recorded its eighth consecutive year of membership growth. For 54 years we have worked to protect the rights of the war veterans and their dependents and to assist them in making a better life for themselves and their families. We are proud of this record and proud of our long and friendly association with this committee.
I cannot compliment this committee without at the same time expressing our thanks and appreciation to your very able staff director and the entire committee staff. Their expertise in the field of veterans affairs, and their cooperation with the American Legion and its staff, are invaluable to us as we carry out our responsibilities to the Nation's veterans.
Before speaking to some of the major concerns that will occupy our energies and attention in 1973, I again invite each of you to be the Legion's guest tomorrow evening at our annual dinner honoring the Congress. Legionnaires gathered in Washington from every part of the country, many of whom are with me here today, look forward to meeting with Members of their congressional delegations in an atmosphere of hospitality and friendship.
We hope that we shall have the pleasure and privilege of seeing all of you at our congressional dinner tomorrow evening. As most of you know, Congressman George Mahon will receive the American Legion Award for Distinguished Public Service at that time and many of his friends and colleagues in the Congress will be present to honor him on this occasion.
I shall now direct my remarks to some of our major areas of concern in the field of veterans affairs.
The Veterans' Administration fiscal year 1974 budget:
The American Legion is deeply disturbed over the current and projected funding of the medical and hospital program for which the Veterans’ Administration is responsible. Although the Veterans' Administration budget for fiscal year 1974 is the second highest in the history of the agency, the American Legion considers it to be insufficient in several respects, particularly in the appropriation requests for medical care and prosthetic research.
To illustrate this conclusion, we refer to the 1973 medical care appropriation. Approved by the President, the appropriation request, as increased by the Congress, authorized $2.606 billion, an amount sufficient to maintain the average daily patient census at 85,500 and to continue the approved staff-patient ratio at all Veterans Administration hospitals at 1.49 to 1–1.64 in medical bed sections, 2.07 in surgical bed sections, and 1.05 in psychiatric bed sections—with an increased average daily operating bed level of 98,500. To provide the added staffing for the increase in average daily patient census from 83,500, Congress had increased the medical care appropriation by $54,808 million.
According to the 1973 budget request for medical care, the end of the year full-time permanent employment target was 144,745. Actually, as a result of continued administration control over Federal employment and an announced reduction effort to decrease full-time permanent civilian employment, the 1973 end of year figure will be 142,678 with a further reduction to 142,404 on June 30, 1974, a reduction of 2,341 full-time permanent employment below the administration appropriation request for fiscal year 1973.
Staff-patient ratio for the general medical, surgical, and neuropsychiatric bed sections show an increase from 1.49 to 1 in 1973 to 1.5 to 1 in the appropriation request for fiscal year 1974. While this is a small improvement, it was accomplished at the expense of a 5,500 decrease in the average daily patient census, the equivalent of 11 600-bed hospitals. The administration staff-patient ratios for 1974 are projected on an ADPC of 80,000.
Similarly, it can be shown that full-time permanent employment in medical and prosthetic research suffered a reduction from 3,945 in the 1973 authorized appropriation request to 3,669, a loss of 276.
As you know, the medical research program is a necessary functional ingredient in providing quality medical care for veterans. Research, training and treatment go hand in hand in any system of quality medical and hospital care.
This program is also essential for the development and testing of prosthetic, orthopedic and sensory aids to improve the care and rehabilitation of disabled eligible veterans, including amputees, paraplegics and the blind.
And last but not least, the knowledge gained in Veterans' Administration medical and prosthetic research is made available to other public and private health care and rehabilitation programs.
Mr. Chairman, there are other areas of dissatisfaction to us in the Veterans’ Administration fiscal year 1974 budget request. These will be covered in our statements before the Appropriations Subcommittee in both Houses.
NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE AND THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION
MEDICAL CARE PROGRAM
In his appearance before this committee last year, my distinguished predecessor, National Commander John H. Geiger of Illinois, discussed the potential impact of national health insurance legislation on the Veterans Administration medical care program. The continuing development of the debate on the subject of national health insurance makes it necessary to once again bring this matter to the attention of the committee.
The American Legion believes the national health insurance proposals are a threat to the Veterans' Administration medical care program. Last year an American Legion Special Committee on Veterans Medical Care studied the situation exhaustively. The committee's work included meetings with many different persons, agencies and organizations considered knowledgeable in this area. It met, of course, with officials of the Veteran's Administration, with members and staff of this committee. Its conclusions were incorporated into a policy statement that was approved by our national executive committee last April and ratified by our national convention in August. Copies of the statement were provided to all of the Members of the 92d Congress. The statement is brief, concise and clear as to its findings. A copy is attached to this statement, and I respectfully request that it be made a part of the record of this hearing. Additional copies are available to any members who would like to have them.
[Statement referred to, to be provided:]
The principal conclusion of the committee was that there is a threat to the Veterans Administration medical care program posed by any national health insurance plan that may be enacted into law.
While it may seem premature to express this concern, we feel there is solid ground for our apprehension. And experience has taught us through 54 years of legislative activity in the field of veterans affairs, that it is unwise to wait until a danger has become imminent before taking defensive measures.
Our estimate of the existence of a threat to the Veterans Administration medical care program is based essentially upon the conviction
that when national health insurance, in whatever form, has become reality, at some time thereafter efforts will be made to incorporate the Veterans Administration medical care program into it in the interest of economy, efficiency and the achievement of the ultimate goal of cradle to grave medical care for all citizens, perhaps at public expense. As a matter of fact this idea has already been discussed. And while the suggestion did not receive a great deal of attention when it was made, in the absence of any existing
national health insurance program, it is our firm conviction that the idea will be restated, and that it will receive attention when there is a national health insurance program in existence, and when the national interest in the welfare of veterans may have waned as time passes following the conclusion of the Vietnam war.
With an eye to the growing debate on the acceptable form of a national health insurance program, the national convention of the American Legion, meeting in Chicago last August, authorized the appointment of a Veterans Medical Care Advisory Committee as a continuing part of the committee structure of our national organization. I have appointed the committee, and two of its members are here with me today, Mr. W. F. Lanker and Mr. Clarence Horton, both of whom were introduced earlier.
It is the responsibility of the Veterans Medical Care Advisory Committee to monitor the debate on national health insurance, to keep our member's informed about the progress of that debate, and to lead the necessary effort by the American Legion against any threat that may develop to the integrity of the Veterans Administration medical care program.
If and when such a threat does take form, whether it happens in the near or distant future, the American Legion will be prepared to meet it with the support of our friends in the Congress. I know this committee and each of its members will do whatever is necessary to maintain the present Veterans’ Administration medical care program as one that is dedicated to the care of veterans and to maintain its present status as the finest single medical care program in the world today. I pledge to you our continuing support in this endeavor.
VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION SCHEDULE FOR RATING DISABILITIES
Although by the direction of the President, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs has recalled the proposed draft revision of the Veterans Administration disability rating schedule, we are not assured that this is the end of efforts to reduce budget outlays for serviceconnected compensation.
In outlining veterans benefits and services, the budget for fiscal year 1974 states:
New compensation rating schedules will be implemented and other structural reforms will be proposed to relate payments more equitably to earning impairment.
Under perspectives for Veterans' Administration outlay savings from program reductions and terminations, 1973-75, the following appears:
Reform Veterans Benefits administratively to align benefits and need-outlay savings—$160 million Fiscal Year 1974 and 1975.