« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
lion was added to previous VA budgets, above and beyond that amount which was requested. So that the veterans care would be maintained and the quality would not be weakened or deteriorated. And most of that money has been spent.
I believe, to sum it all up, that we really have two problems. We have this year's 1973 VA budget and we have next year's proposed 1974 VA budget.
The 1973 VA budget, the Administration, the VA is impounding or not spending, depending on how you define the word impounding, about $135 million. Of this, $64 million represents medical care. And this is very unfortunate, because, as you know, Mr. Chairman, as has been stated here so many times today, the congressional mandate of a minimum 85,500 census is not being carried out. The VA, in effect, is violating the law.
And the other big impoundment is $65 million for new construction. Again, this is most unfortunate, and we hope that these moneys will carry over and will be eventually spent. We are urging the President to release these impounded funds as I have incorporated in my statement here. Our Commander in Chief, Patrick Carr, is urging the President to release these funds before the end of this
Now, as far as the VA's testimony today, Mr. Chairman, as my statement indicates, the head of the VA, as we say is Casper Weinberger. We like to think it is Donald Johnson, but I don't know if it really is. Mr. Weinberger, the "Supercrat” from your State of California, is now running the VA, and it is rather distressing.
We also realize he is the head of HEW, and we have long held that the VA should remain independent of HEW. But we feel that Mr. Weinberger, who has responsibility over the VA medical program, together with Mr. Ash, the head of Office of Management and Budget, these two gentlemen together make VA policy. Remember, Mr. Weinberger was just previously the head of OMB—and I might add he is the one whose nickname is "Cap the Knife" for his budget cutting propensities. This budget cutter and head of HEW is the man who is calling the shots. He is the gentleman who has told the VA “Now you tell it like it is, this is the budget that has been handed to you and we want you to sell it.”
And this is what we heard here today from these very highly regarded people on the VA, Mr. Wilson, and his associates. And we know the Congress wants to find the truth. The VFW is going to furnish this committee and the Congress with a lot of cases, a lot of examples of how the VA has managed to hold down the number of veterans being admitted to VA hospitals. So that the staff/patient ratio continues to look good or even better. This is the name of the game. We are going to supply you with rejected cases of hospital applications, Mr. Chairman.
A recent study indicates that 1,000 veterans who applied for veterans hospital care, about half of these people never made it to a VA hospital
. They were rejected to begin with, they were put on pre-bed care, then they were rejected later or they got tired and withdrew or they could not wait and they went to a community hospital nearby or in some extreme cases they died.
So, these, Mr. Chairman, are the views of the VFW. We are up in arms about this. We feel that this is no time to be cutting veterans programs.
Six million Vietnam veterans have come home in the last 5 or 6 years. As you have stated so many times, this is the most crippling war in our history. These disabled veterans will require longterm, sophisticated care, very extensive, and they need a lot of rehabilitation.
And, in addition to that, the VA budget has been swollen by over $2 billion for G.I. bill assistance, which is probably starting to level off. So, when you talk about cutting, what would we say is the cost of war? Veterans benefits are a cost of the war, an extension of the cost of war, and with that in mind, the war is still going on insofar as veterans programs are concerned. And we don't feel that our programs are in the same category as so-called nonwar programs. In other words, programs carried out by most other agencies.
I would say this in response to questions I heard you ask here today. We do have about 300 solutions, but we do not have any which recommends cuts in other agencies.
When this year's VA budget proposed a $160 million cut in the compensation payments to Vietnam veterans, the VFW was stunned. Since that time, I have noted a rising discussion in the VFW about aid to North Vietnam and Southeast Asia, vis-a-vis cutting benefits for Vietnam veterans and veterans in general.
So, we don't have a position on that at the moment, but we will have a national convention next August.
Senator CRANSTON. Do you have any recommendations for any cuts within the VA budget itself?
Mr. STOVER. No, we have looked through the VA budget and, unfortunately, of course we don't know whether there might be some excess fat, but just on the basis of the overall figures we don't see any basis for any cuts this year.
Senator Cranston. There probably is some fat somewhere, if you could find it.
Mr. STOVER. I am sure that in $12 billion there probably is, but we hope that there is not.
Senator CRANSTON. Maybe they don't need to pay Donald Johnson's salary, since either Cap Weinberger or Roy Ash is director. I don't know which.
Mr. STOVER. Maybe he does not need that limousine either, that Senator Proxmire talked about.
Senator CRANSTON. I wonder if they have air-conditioning down there. There is another place we should shut off their air.
Mr. STOVER. I think that they do including the limousine.
Senator CRANSTON. That could be saying that we found two items in 1 minute. Let's keep at it. Where else?
I know that the organization that you represent will stand with us in our efforts to restore the VA budget to insure the veterans receive their fair due.
Mr. STOVER. We certainly will, Mr. Chairman.
Senator CRANSTON. I want to ask you the same question I asked others. Would you please get to us any information about veterans denied admission to a VA hospital, who wound up in a community hospital ?
Mr. STOVER. We will
give you every one of them, yes, sir. Senator CRANSTON. I thank you for your very kind remarks about what we on this committee have managed to accomplish. I want to reiterate that we would not have achieved much of that without your help. I am delighted that, as you indicate, you are urging VFW members to tell it loud and clear about the true situation, Frank, about veterans hospital care. We are trying to do the same thing in our way.
I think the statement by Patrick Carr, the commander-in-chief of the VFW, that there is only one way that the President can provide veterans with the medical care and needs in this area is to release the money he has arbitrarily impounded, which Congress appropriated and directed to be spent, is very appropriate. I hope he will get
Mr. STOVER. We are doing our darndest.
STATEMENT OF FRANCIS W. STOVER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE
SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee: The Veterans of Foreign Wars is extremely pleased that you are holding these hearings at a very crucial time in our history on veterans programs of intense concern to the 1.8 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
My name is Francis W. Stover and my title is Director of the National Legislative Service of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars has been deeply distressed that the Veterans Administration hospital system has been continually shrinking over a period of years. The source of this policy is the Office of Management and Budget. There is irrefutable evidence that the Office of Management and Budget and its predecessor, the Bureau of the Budget, have been pursuing a policy to continually reduce veterans hospital care. To accomplish this purpose, the Veterans Administration has come under the thumb of the Office of Management and Budget. In its reaction to OMB control, VA Hospital Directors and other VA spokesmen are issuing confusing and misleading information regarding VA hospitals. This is a most disturbing and alienating development, Mr. Chairman, and for this reason alone these hearings are most important and significant.
In the last analysis, it is the Congress, an equal branch of our government, which can set the record straight regarding veterans hospital care. We are urging VFW members to tell it like it is. The American people, especially the approximately 100 million veterans and their dependents, want to know the truth about VA hospitals and veterans medical care.
In that regard, Mr. Chairman, the Veterans of Foreign Wars commends you and this Subcommittee for the extremely important evidence obtained by your Subcommittee in previous Congresses. Your personal appearances before your own Appropriations Committee to make comprehensive recommendations for additional funds, personnel, and services for VA hospital and medical programs were crucial in obtaining favorable consideration by your Appropriations Committee. The full Senate and the Congress prevented an even deeper cut in veterans hospital care. As the result of the action of this Subcommittee and the leadership of its Chairman, Mr. Cranston of California, over $400 million was added to the VA hospital and medical care budget above the amount requested in the President's budget for the VA in recent years. Without this extra money the Congress forced the VA to accept and spend, conditions in VA hospitals would be much worse.
It is hoped that as the result of these hearings that you will obtain the evidence and documentation to leave no doubt that the VA hospital system is in desperate need of a massive infusion of funds and personnel if it is to continue to provide the high quality medical care for veterans which Congress has authorized and which veterans deserve.
Unfortunately, as this Committee knows, the Veterans Administration is not spending all of the funds which Congress has appropriated for this current year. The faceless, anti-veteran officials of the OMB and other high-policy making officials in the Administration have decreed that some money appropriated by the Congress for veterans medical and hospital care shall not be spent this year. I am referring, Mr. Chairman, to an amount which totals about $135 million, which was earmarked for veterans hospital and medical care programs for fiscal year 1973.
Most tragic is the $64 million which is being spent for veterans hospital care. This includes the extra $54 million added by the Congress to carry out the Congressional mandate that the VA shall maintain a minimum level of inpatient care in VA hospitals. Very amazing to our concept of orderly process and good Government is the VA's thumbing its nose at the Congressional mandate that the VA maintain an average daily patient census in its VA hospitals on an annual basis of not less than 85,500 and that it operate not less than 98,500 beds. A recent survey by the General Accounting Office reveals that the VA is not carrying out this mandate. In other words the VA is knowingly and wilfully violating a Congressional mandate. To compound the situation, the VA is not spending the $54 million together with another $10 million of regularly approved funds for medical care, which, if spent, would go a long way toward fulfilling the Congressional mandate of maintaining an average daily patient census of 85,500.
In this regard, Mr. Chairman, the V.F.W. issued a statement on April 11, 1973, calling upon the President to release these impounded or unspent funds, which have been authorized by the Congress for veterans hospitals and medical care programs. This is the statement of our Commander-in-Chief:
V.F.W. URGES PRESIDENT TO RELEASE IMPOUNDED VETERANS FUNDS
WASHINGTON, D.C.-April 11, 1973,—The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. today strongly urged President Nixon to carry out his pledge of two weeks ago to “keep faith with our returning veteran.”
Patrick E. Carr, Commander-in-Chief of the 1.8 million member V.F.W., said "There is only one way that the President can provide the veteran with the medical care he needs and deserves. That is to release the money he has arbitrarily withheld after the Congress appropriated it and directed that it be spent."
Carr did not discuss the legal aspects of Presidential impoundment of appropriated funds. He said, “This clearly is a moral issue. As the President said in his radio address on March 24, ‘Words of thanks are not enough . we must demonstrate the gratitude we feel by the actions we take.'”
Carr pointed out that in 1972 the Congress, indicating the will of the people who elected them as legislators, required the VA to provide 98,500 beds in VA hospitals and care for an average of 85,500 patients each day. To assure the veteran the care he needs, Congress voted $54.5 million for this purpose.
Ignoring the will and direction of Congress, the President not only withheld the amount approved by Congress, but refused to spend a total of $64,080,000 for medical care in VA hospitals so that the veteran today is unable to get the medical care he needs.
The Acting Comptroller General of the U.S. recently informed Congress that, “The Veterans Administration has not provided an average of 98,500 beds, nor has it furnished treatment to an average daily patient load of 85,500 . . . In our opinion, the Veterans Administration has not complied with the law."
In addition to the $64 million for medical care, more money for medical associated items is being held back although Congress has approved its expenditure. Over $70 million has been impounded which should have been spent this year for the construction of hospitals and medical research.
Carr said, “The President, in his radio broadcast, indicated the VA hospital system was providing high quality hospital care, but that ‘We intend to keep improving on this record.' If this is the case, why has the President not spent a total of almost $135,000,000 of Congressionally approved funds for medical care and facilities?
"If the President is serious in his pledge to assist those who have served America and need help, let the government machinery needed to release approved money be put into motion,” said Carr.
Carr suggested that the taxpayer not be made the scapegoat for needed veterans care. “An increase in income taxes caused by necessary veterans programs does not seem to be needed. What is needed is a look at priorities. Cut waste and inefficiency rather than required medical care for the needy veteran who has given so much for his country.”
The V.F.W. holds to the thesis that the costs of veteran medical care are an extension of the costs of war. Coupled with this thesis is that those who have made one sacrifice by their service in the Armed Forces in time of war or great national peril should not be required to make a second sacrifice at the expense of their health. That is why the delegates to V.F.W. National Conventions have repeatedly urged that there be no budget cutting or personnel restrictions at the expense of veterans programs.
VA hospitals need more personnel. Despite what the VA is telling the Congress and the public, more and more veterans are beginning to realize that they are not getting the service which comparable community hospitals are providing. More and more are telling us about their problems. Examples are long waits for admission to a VA hospital ; lack of service in wards, practically no usual hospital services in some hospitals at nights and on weekends, overcrowding and similar instances caused by budget cutbacks and reductions in personnel.
The program requiring the VA to deescalate its grades has had a bad effect on employee morale. In addition, because of the grades having to be deescalated, lesser experienced personnel are being hired, which has its effect on the quality of care. Bear in mind, the V.F.W. commends the dedicated personnel in VA hospitals who are doing a tremendous job under very trying circumstances. It is not their fault if there are instances of less than the best care. VA hospital personnel are doing all they can under the personnel and budgetary restrictions under which they must work. The VA hospital Directors have been muzzled. Some appear intimidated when the answer to a question contravenes VA policy. The employee situation has steadily deteriorated, and unless the VA is permitted to hire the people it needs, there is no question that the quality of medical care in VA hospitals will continue to go down.
Basic to good medical care are the buildings in which VA hospitals are located. The VA has a number of hospitals which are 20 years or older. The VA must continuously carry on a renovation, and modernization program for the approximately 5000 buildings which comprise the VA hospital and medical care system. Again, we see a callous disregard for this physical plant of the VA hospital system, as evidenced by the impounding of another $65 million appropriated by the Congress last year for construction and maintainance of VA hospitals. These VA hospitals must be kept in first-class condition and be operative to the service which they carry out.
They must not be permitted to deteriorate and become obsolete, as has happened to the hospitals embracing the Public Health Service. Public Health Hospitals provide an example in miniature of what could happen to VA hospitals. The Office of Management and Budget has starved the Public Health hospitals to death over a period of years. Now the agency having the responsibility over Public Health hospitals, the head of HEW, is closing these hospitals on the argument that its personnel can obtain better medical care some place else, and that these hospitals are worn out and obsolete. This could well be what the OMB has in mind for a large number of our VA hospitals.
Funds for construction and medical care are the two major programs for which funds are being impounded or not being spent. There is money, being impounded however, for research and administration, which are also very important. The total not being spent is around $135 million. It is the hope of the V.F.W. that this money will be released by the President in time to be put to effective use before the end of this fiscal year, and we will keep urging him to do so.
Mr. Chairman, the 1974 VA budget was received by the V.F.W. with the greatest of alarm. At our recent Washington Conference, which was held here in Washington, D. C., March 2-6, 1973, the callous and indifferent VA budget was given the highest attention by our National Officers and Department Commanders from all over the nation. In that regard, there was issued at the VFW Conference material outlining that the regressive 1974 VA budget contemplates saving over $1 billion. Programs will be drastically reduced, while other programs are recommended for elimination. It will be deeply appreciated, Mr. Chairman, if copies of this material, identified as “VA BUDGET HURTS YOU” will be made a part of my remarks at the conclusion of my statement.