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Mr. TEAGUE of California. Thank you, John Paul.
I won't attempt to match the eloquence of my old friend, John Saylor, except to say that I am in very substantial agreement with what
he had to say.
You constitute a wonderful organization, one for which I have special appreciation because of the disability factor which qualifies you, of course, for membership.
I honestly think you do not have to worry. It is a proper concern, but
you have no real reason to fear that there will be a reduction in the rates of compensation for service connected disabilities.
I was one of the cosponsors of a bill which would prohibit it. And we will keep our guard up here, and I really believe your organization will win.
I would like to welcome everybody here from California and particularly my old-time friend, Wayne Newton, who is the commander of the department in California, and who lives in the town where I used to practice law and where I have my present district office.
Wayne, it is awfully good to see you. I will see you tonight. [Applause.]
Mr. HAMMERSCHIMIDT. It is now my pleasure to introduce to you a young lady known affectionately to the committee as Peggy. She is the ranking member of the education subcommittee from Massachusetts "Tenth District--Margaret Heckler. [Applause.]
Mrs. HECKLER. Commander, I too would like to compliment you on a very fine and
relevant statement. I am impressed with the DAV, especially the DAV in Massachusetts and in my district. I am happy to see that the rest of the country is equally active and vocal in your organization.
I would like those who are from Massachusetts to stand and be recognized. [Applause.]
I am delighted to see that you have no generation gap and that your organization has brought in younger members. I feel, frankly, the great joy that all Americans are experiencing today at the return of prisoners of war, and the understandable feeling of elation and relief we feel for them should also be mirrored in our feeling toward the returning veterans who is not a prisoner, for whom we should also be equally grateful, equally joyous.
The fact is that we are concerned with all the veterans of every war, but we particularly like to see that the younger members are becoming active in the veterans' organizations, because activism is what keeps organizations healthy. And the one thing we don't need is apathy. We can't afford that.
I feel that you have covered many of the basic issues in which I am in full agreement, and that there is only one other that I would like to mention.
As to the disability rating schedule, that proposed list of changes was so shocking that I found it even more incredible than Watergate. [Applause.]
The changes will never happen. You can rely on that. [Applause.]
And I do agree with John Hammerschmidt that this committee will not tolerate it, no matter what the attitude is in OMB.
There are two subjects I also want to cover. One is that of hospitals. We have heard recent criticisms of hospital care, and I think these criticisms should be leveled, if they are just and valid. We should, in this committee, consider them. And I think that you should, of course, bring them to our attention.
But criticizing the system and destroying the system are two separate things and I think the criticisms that have been leveled can be attributed to budgetary cutbacks and not to the system itself.
I personally think that it is extremely important to preserve the VA hospital system. [Applause.]
However, like all other worthy goals, it will not be achieved merely by pushing and I do feel that our problem today is that we have unconscious, unwitting foes who at this point do not realize that they may be on the other side of the issue.
Now, I am not just talking about OMB. They are very conscious folks. We know their position and they know ours and we will deal with them in due course, through the usual legislative procedures. However, for every new proposal of a national health insurance plan, the question should be raised : will the VA system of separate hospital care be maintained ? [Applause.]
Commander, do not wait for us to raise the question in legislative halls, because by that time attitudes are hardened, positions will have been taken in public and public officials would not be likely or willing to veer from the attitude that they have expressed before their constituency:
The questions have to be asked of these proponents of all of the health care plans, national health insurance plans throughout the country, at your DAV meetings, of your Senators and your Congressmen, and by you on the national level.
And now, before positions become hardened. [Applause.]
I believe that this has to be the subject of your constant effort if we in Congress are going to be effective for you.
There is a second issue that I would like to just touch on--before turning the microphone over to the other important speakers on this committee who have issues to raise with you.
It is an issue that has not come up, and which I do feel strongly about. We have discussed the job question, and although I do believe that the veteran should be given the greatest concern and opportunity in terms of employment, I am interested in providing jobs with a future, not merely jobs. And in order to turn the jobs now available into jobs with a future, then the job applicant, the veteran, has to make himself or herself, qualified for the future.
I am deeply disturbed that the educational benefits which this committee and the Congress have made available to veterans have not been utilized. And I am concerned because I think it is a waste of a very, very valuable resource.
I believe that it should be the basic function of your organization to encourage especially the disabled veterans to go on and to become further educated, whether it is on-the-job training for a particular skill, or whether it is general education. I realize for many this will involve a sacrifice because they are not easily mobile. But the sacrifice is going to be worth it in the long run.
And in pursuit of this, I would like to see that the GI educational benefits be made available to older veterans also, whose skills may become obsolete because the jobs in which they are employed are no longer attractive on the marketplace.
With international competition in many fields—which I see in textiles and in shoes, in New England-people with those skills are losing jobs every day and we have got to give them new job opportunities. [Applause.]
I would urge you and beseech you to stress the GI educational benefits, especially for the disabled. They have had physical handicaps. They face them. Let's overdevelop another part of their abilities, whatever their skills, particularly their minds. This will provide the greatest opportunity.
I support your program. Thank you. [Applause.)
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. Mr. Chairman and Mr. Commander, it is my pleasure to present to you a man who serves from the 15th District of Ohio, serves along with Mr. Saylor, on the important Compensation and Pension Subcommittee, Chalmers Wylie.
Mr. WYLIE. I do appreciate the opportunity to serve as a member of the Disabled American Veterans. I have been a member of the organization for some 25 years and have a sympathetic interest in your problems and in your program.
I think actions speak loudly, too, and I think my actions in the past will bear that out.
I am sorry I was not here for the beginning of your presentation, Commander, but, as you know, we all
serve on several committees of the Congress, I asked to be put on the Compensation and Pension Subcommittee, which looks into the very serious problems of the disabled American veteran. I, therefore, felt that I should be present for this meeting here this morning.
I wonder if I might call upon your expertise for just a moment to ask you a question concerning the vocational rehabilitation program of the Veterans Administration and its relationship with the vocational rehabilitation program which is administered by HEW.
Do you know, Mr. Commander, about that?
Mr. HARTNETT [Norman B. Hartnett, national director of employment, DAV]. The vocational rehabilitation program is restricted generally to those veterans with service-connected disabilities of 30 percent or more who require vocational rehabilitation. This is distinguished from the HEW program which does not have as a criterion the necessity of service in the military.
Mr. WYLIE. The reason I am asking about this is that there is a vocational rehabilitation bill on the President's desk at the present time that has appropriated some $2 billion. And the statement was made on the floor of the House that this vocational rehabilitation program was designed to help the veteran returning from Vietnam. But I do not believe any moneys from that program go for this purpose, do they?
Mr. KELLER. There is a possibility that those veterans who have acquired_nonservice-connected disabling impairments could qualify in the HEW program if they did not qualify in the VA program.
Mr. WYLIE. I notice that there are additional amounts, both in educational benefits and in vocational rehabilitation. And I am glad to see that in this area. They are aware of the problem.
Commander, I want to thank you very much for being here.
I think I would be remiss, since Mrs. Heckler asked if there was anyone here from Massachusetts, not to recognize an outstanding delegation from Ohio. I wonder if the Ohioans in the audience will please stand.
Thank you very much, John Paul.
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. It is now my pleasure to introduce to the commander and to the audience, from Indiana's Fifth District, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Housing, on the minority side, Elwood Hillis.
Mr. Hillis. I am going to limit my remarks.
Mr. Commander, I want to congratulate you on an excellent statement. I agree with everything you have said here to the committee this morning. I know in my own case you could enlighten me on the problems that make each of you members of the Disabled Veterans of this country. I am a member of the Hospital Subcommittee, and I want to pledge
that I will work to maintain the integrity of the veterans' hospital program, and to keep it a separate and distinct program. I certainly think you should take the word of “Peg” Heckler very seriously. And between you and the committee, we could get this job done.
I share your apprehension about the fight over the downrating of disability, and I am a sponsor of H.R. 4763.
I am concerned also about the unemployment situation with particularly unemployed veterans. And I will cooperate in every way to help with this program, too.
I agree with you on the amnesty decision. I think you very succinctly framed this issue for America today.
And in closing I want to say thank you for coming before us, and God bless you all. [Applause.]
Is there anyone here from Indiana? [Applause.]
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. The next colleague I would like to introduce is James Abdnor from South Dakota.
Mr. ABDNOR. Mr. Hammerschmidt, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Commander, I suppose it is obvious to you that some of us are the freshmen, sitting down here. I am a freshman and I am proud to have been given a position on this committee.
I would just like to say, Mr. Commander, that I was very impressed by your presentation here today and all the great services that your organization performs. I think you surely ought to be commended. You: have problems and your organization has found the means to perform these services, which I think is very commendable.
You are sharing a responsibility that probably belongs to the Government, and I am sure we all appreciate that.
I, for one, thank you on behalf of all of South Dakota for the help. you gave us in our State when we had that flood disaster last June. That was very much appreciated. I am very proud of that organization: and what they do out there.
I assure you that when I see some of the militant groups in this country in some way tapping our Government for money, I don't think there is any limit to what we should be willing to give to the veterans of this country for what they have done. [Applause.]
I would be happy to have my name on that resolution, to be reviewed for the pension cut, and I will be watching it carefully also. I have a great interest in veterans' hospitals. We have some fine ones in South Dakota and I know of the great job they do. I am going to do everything I can to keep them in operation from the vantage point of being a member of this committee.
Again I want to say I appreciate having a chance to be on this committee, and I am going to be looking forward to working with your organization and Mr. Huber, and you will find my office open to you at all times.
Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. May I present the gentleman from the 18th District of Michigan, Mr. Robert Huber?
Mr. HUBER. We are very interested in what is coming up on Vietnam. We are the first Congress in a long time not engaged in war. Now we will be interested in the defense budget. We have a motto which says there will never be universal peace in this country until the strongest Army, Navy, and Air Force is in the hands of the most peaceful nation. [Applause.]
The Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared," is of great interest to me. I will be watching you to get your position, because you and veterans like you have been most important, in my view, in expressing the right to be heard on these subjects.
Thank you. [Applause.]
Mr. HAMMERSCHMIDT. I now present, from New York's 33d District, Bill Walsh.
Mr. Walsh. I want to compliment the commander on a very, very fine statement.
I am interested in the hospital program because I have three hospitals in my district. And the day that Ralph Nader made a statement about hospital care I was visiting one of the hospitals.
One of the things that I did run into, and it is a very practical; problem, as to which perhaps some of your servicemen could comment, is the fact that there is a severe nursing shortage in the hospitals. It is a matter of recruitment. And I think possibly if the service officers gave this some thought they might be able to help.
I found the hospitals well run. I found plenty of space. I did not see: that they were overcrowded and I want to assure you that I have a great interest in continuing the hospital program in the Veterans' Administration.
Again, my congratulations. [Applause.]
Chairman DORN. Mr. Commander, I want to present to you George Danielson from California.
Glad you came over, Congressman, because we need a little help over on this side.
Mr. Danielson. Thank you, Chairman William Jennings Bryan Dorn.
You know, first of all, I want to join my many colleagues in welcoming to Washington all the members of the DAV who are here, and of course, an especially warm and affectionate welcome goes to my members from California.
I associate myself fully with the remarks of my colleagues. You