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Mr. BOWERS. In Alaska we have heard of one or two instances in which we have been unable to provide them with hospital care, because of the emergent situation that existed, and the difficulties of transportation. We have had no such complaint from Hawaii.
Senator GOLDWATER. That is all I have, Mr. Chairman.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Would not this bill S. 2201 just restore veterans' treatment status in Alaska to the situation that prevailed before statehood?
Mr. BOWERS. Yes, sir.
Senator YARBOROUGH. All it would do would be to put the veteran, as far as treatment is concerned, in the same position he was in before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as States?
Mr. BOWERS. That is correct, sir.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Manifestly, his condition now, if he lives in Alaska or Hawaii, has worsened because of the fact that they have been admitted as States, has it not; his opportunities for treatment have been worsened?
Mr. BOWERS. Well, certainly I believe there would be a distinction between Hawaii and Alaska. As I stated, we feel that we are adequately meeting the needs in Hawaii. The State itself has provided hospital care for veterans in State hospitals in Hawaii.` In Alaska, the situation does not exist. However, it has been our feeling that the 10 beds which we have established as the Indian service hospitals and these hospitals are located somewhate generally in the same area where we were previously using private contract hospitals should provide hospital care on somewhat the same basis as was available to them previously.
Now, there are a few areas in which they would not have facilities immediately available to them.
Senator YARBOROUGH. You would expect the total number of persons receiving care to be less under the new setup than it would have been had the old provisions for medical care in Alaska prior to the statehood been continued?
Mr. BOWERS. We did not anticipate so. We set up the same number of beds that we had previously used, averaging around 40 beds. Senator YARBOROUGH. But it has actually gone down.
Mr. BOWERS. It has gone down, and the drop is in the Indian service hospitals.
Senator YARBOROUGH. We have about 5 minutes left, they say, before the bill on the floor is to be actually voted on. Are the American Legion and VFW both present? We want to hear your positions, of course, on these bills. Do you want to recess, or do you want to file your statements and state your positions on them? Can you do that? I am speaking now to the American Legion and the VFW. Whatever you gentlemen prefer.
Mr. OLSON. I guess we could file a statement for the convenience of the committee.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Will you come around.
Will the Veterans' Administration make room, please, for the American Legion and the VFW.
If you will state your position, we will accept your statement and make as much headway as we can before the vote starts.
STATEMENT OF CLARENCE H. OLSON, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION, THE AMERICAN LEGION
Mr. OLSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Clarence H. Olson. I am the assistant director of the national legislative commission of the American Legion.
We are here to support S. 2201. We do that because of the authority contained in Resolution No. 29, approved at our 1959 national convention, which I would like to have made a part of the record. Senator YARBOROUGH. It will be received and filed and made a part of the record of the hearing.
(The resolution referred to follows:)
RESOLUTION No. 29
(At 1959 National Convention of the American Legion held in Minneapolis, Minn., August 24-27, 1959)
Committee: Rehabilitation commission.
Subject: Continue section 601-4(C) of title 38, United States Code, until such
time as suitable VA hospital facilities are provided in Alaska.
Whereas after the admission of Alaska to statehood, the provisions of section 601-4(C) of title 38, United States Code, regarding the availability of contract hospital services to Alaska veterans is no longer applicable to the State of Alaska; and
Whereas the VA does not have any hospitals in the State of Alaska; and Whereas an area of the same number of square miles within the other 48 States does have an average of 34.4 VA hospitals; and
Whereas a VA hospital within the 48 States can be reached from any point by automobile and other means of transportation within 5 hours 24 hours a day; and
Whereas the main means of transportation in Alaska to hospitals under the -control of the U.S. Government is air transportation and generally available only once in a 24-hour period when weather permits; and
Whereas the eligibility for hospitalization is meaningless unless there are hospitals available to provide care and treatment necessary; and
Whereas there are 14 private hospitals in the State of Alaska well distributed throughout the State; and
Whereas there are no State or county hospitals in the State of Alaska: "Therefore be it
Resolved, That the American Legion in annual convention assembled in Minneapolis, Minn., August 24-27, assist in securing legislation necessary to the continuance of the above-mentioned section of title 38, United States Code, in the State of Alaska until such time as suitable VA facilities are provided to enable Alaska veterans to obtain equal hospitalization benefits which are generally available to all veterans in the other 48 States.
Mr. OLSON. Mr. Chairman, the statement I have was prepared by the director of our national rehabilitation commission, Mr. John J. Corcoran, who is unavoidably absent because of a meeting of considerable importance in Indianapolis. His statement is quite complete, and I would like to have it submitted for the record, too.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you. We will accept that. (The statement referred to follows:)
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN J. CORCORAN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REHABILITATION COMMISSION, THE AMERICAN LEGION
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate this opportunity to present the views of the American Legion on S. 2201, a bill to amend section 401 of title 38, United States Code, with respect to the definition of the term "Veterans' Administration facilities."
The intent of the legislation is to make it possible for the Veterans' Administration to provide veterans in the State of Alaska with medical care in private facilities. It is true that the language of the bill would apply equally to the State of Hawaii, although we understand that veterans residing there are not experiencing the same difficulties with respect to hospitalization as are the veterans of Alaska.
The American Legion strongly supports S. 2201 and respectfully urges your subcommittee to favorably report the bill to the full committee.
We wish to make clear, however, that the American Legion does not generally favor use of private facilities for treatment of Veterans' Administration patients. The Legion stands firm on the principle that it is the Veterans' Administration's responsibility to treat within its hospital system service-connected veterans and non-service-connected war veterans who are unable to pay for care elsewhere. It is only under the unusual circumstances presented in Alaska and Hawaii that we subscribe to the use of private facilities for these purposes.
The Veterans' Administration has no hospital facilities of its own in Alaska. While Alaska was a Territory, the Veterans' Administration was authorized— under 38 U.S.C. 601 (4) (C) (iii)—to contract with private facilities for hospital beds in which to treat eligible veterans. With the advent of statehood for Alaska, January 3, 1959, this authority terminated.
Hospitalization may now be provided Alaskan veterans in hospital facilities of other Government agencies, for which the veterans' Administration is still authorized to contract, or in VA facilities in continental United States.
After Alaska became a State, the Veteran's Administration increased the number of beds under contract in hospitals maintained by other Government agencies with a view to compensating for the inability to make further use of private facilities. The increased beds are principally in Public Health Service hospitals which are primarily for the care of the native Indians and Eskimos, and the beds are available only when not needed for such patients.
It is our understanding that this arrangement has proven to be impracticable. Our representatives in Alaska insist that the only answer to the problem is return of the authority for use of beds in private hospitals. The loss of use of these beds on a contract basis has created hardships which are unique to Alaska because of distance, communication, and weather barriers.
Department officials of the American Legion in Alaska have recently advised our office as follows:
"We feel that, under the present law, veterans in Alaska are being burdened with additional expenses for non-service-connected hospitalization and treatment that they cannot afford. In many instances the American Legion post and auxiliary units come to the aid of these veterans by paying their hospital bills and help with providing aid to the veteran's family. In other cases Legion members or sympathetic friends furnish their personal moneys. We often approach the local welfare and State agencies to come to the assistance of this veterans, either by contributing to his hospitalization expense or to feed and help his family meet the daily expenses in maintaining the household."
Obviously, this situation is not in keeping with proper discharge of the Nation's obligation to its war veterans in need of medical care. We earnestly urge your prompt and favorable action on S. 2201.
Thank you for your interest in the views of the American Legion.
Mr. OLSON. In connection with the bill, Mr. Chairman, we note that there is a limiting clause in the bill which says that this would only affect hospitals as of this date.
The American Legion would not like at some future time for the Veterans' Administration to eliminate veterans' hospitals in the other States to make way for a program of contract hospitalization. Our experience with contract hospitals in the past has not been too good. However, we feel in Alaska it is a necessity now; and even in the future, should the growth of the State warrant a veterans' hospital, the distances might necessitate contract hospitals in spite of that fact. Senator YARABOROUGH. I appreciate your raising that one technical point, and I am going to direct Mr. Fred Blackwell, the counsel for the committee, to study that point in connection with the Veterans'
Administration officials and with your representatives, confer with you on that, to be certain that is clarified.
Do you have any position on the other two bills?
Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you very much.
What would the Legion's attitude be toward a bill to establish veterans' hospitals in Alaska and Hawaii?
Mr. OLSON. Well, sir, I am not prepared to answer the question. I do not believe we have given ample study to voice an opinion at this time. There are approximately, according to VA figures, 13,000 veterans in the State at the present time
Senator GOLDWATER. În Alaska?
Mr. OLSON. In Alaska, as I understand it, and possibly a VA hospital for that number might not at this time be warranted. That is just a guess on my part.
Senator GOLDWATER. Thank you.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you, sir.
STATEMENT OF FRANCIS W. STOVER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES; ACCOMPANIED BY NORMAN D. JONES, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REHABILITATION SERVICE, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. STOVER. My name is Francis W. Stover. I am the director of the national legislative service for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and on my left is Norman D. Jones, director, national rehabilitation service, VFW.
Very briefly, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, the Veterans of Foreign Wars does not have any position at all with respect to the private bill S. 299. That is, we have no views respecting the private bill dealing with the relief of Dalworth Ebner.
Concerning S. 2201, which has been referred to as the Alaska bill here this morning, the Veterans of Foreign Wars is in favor of this legislation. In fact, the Veterans of Foreign Wars favors additional VA hospital beds and is in favor of construction of a hospital in every State in the Union to take care of the veterans of this country. However, as to Alaska, by virtue of the fact of its geographical position, its long distance from the State of Washington, the nearest State, we realize therefore that it is impossible for the VA to take care of the many veterans of that State under present law, and therefore the VFW favors the reporting and passage of S. 2201.
With respect to the other bill, which is S. 2235, the Veterans of Foreign Wars does not have any position. However, there are some merits in that bill. But officially, we do not have any position on it; and lacking any position, I cannot say the VFW is for or against this legislation.
However, Mr. Jones, would like to make a brief comment concerning some aspects of this bill which have come to the attention of his service and may be of some value to this subcommittee in its deliberations.
He is Director of the VFW National Rehabilitation Service, which takes care of the needs of our veterans with respect to the several readjustment acts. Mr. Jones is formerly of Kansas and a former director of the Kansas Veterans Commission, has had considerable experience with the education programs administered by the VA, and I believe has some cogent remarks concerning this bill.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Chairman, Senator Goldwater: I believe that this bill has more merit than perhaps some of the previous witnesses have indicated. I think, for the benefit of the committee, I will ask for the privilege of the VFW submitting a statement later, because time is short this morning.
Senator YARBOROUGH. That will be granted, and the VFW's full statement will be received.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Stover mentioned we have no resolution of our last convention on this point. Of course, we did support the Korean GI bill, and therefore we support the inclusion of all elegible groups that should be brought in.
Senator YARBOROUGH. We will accept the VFW statement and be glad to have it. Will you have enough copies sent for each member of the committee, so that he can see it.
(The following supplementary statement was later received for the record :)
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE UNITED STATES,
Senator RALPH YARBOROUGH,
fare Committee, Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENATOR YARBOROUGH: This is in reference to the request of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States to submit additional information with respect to S. 2235 which was granted at the hearing held before your subcommittee on May 2, 1960.
As indicated at the hearing, the Veterans of Foreign Wars does not have any nationally approved convention mandate with respect to S. 2235. With that in mind, the VFW neither supports nor disapproves of this legislation. However, questioning revealed that this legislation might have some merits but, because of an official rollcall vote on the Senate floor, permission was granted to furnish this information for the benefit and consideration of the subcommittee.
As you know, the Veterans of Foreign Wars strongly supported the passage of both the Korean GI bill and the War Orphans Educational Assistance Act. More recently, pursuant to a nationally approved convention mandate, the VFW has been vigorously supporting the advancement of the so-called peacetime or cold war GI bill (S. 1138) since it was introduced by you during the 1st session of the 86th Congress. At the same time, the Veterans of Foreign Wars has officially endorsed various pieces of legislation designed to improve the administration of both the World War II and Korean GI bill and War Orphans Educational Assistance Act in those instances where inequities have manifested themselves or unintended oversights have been brought to light during the administration of these laws. For example, you will recall the VFW supported your bill S. 1050 and the companion bill H.R. 4306 which was considered by your subcommittee a few weeks ago which bills propose to include the children of deceased peacetime veterans for benefits provided in the War Orphans Educational Assistance Act.
With this history and experience in mind, it seems fair to conclude that the Veterans of Foreign Wars has been out front in its efforts to persuade the Congress to provide ample and generous educational and training benefits for the veterans of this Nation and their orphans.
As previously stated, the VFW is without any position respecting S. 2235. However, the following arguments are being presented for your consideration in determining whether or not this legislation should be favorably reported by your subcommittee: