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SPANISH WAR VETERANS' BENEFITS

THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 1955

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPANISH WAR OF THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS, Washington, D. C.

The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10 a. m., in room 356, Old House Office Building, Hon. Frank W. Boykin, chairman of the subcommittee, presiding.

Mr. BOYKIN. Gentlemen, the committee will come to order.

I just want to say that this is a subcommittee, but we are going to have our great chairman here with us to guide us.

This meeting this morning is to consider some 25 bills which have been referred by the chairman to the Subcommittee on Spanish War. The author of each one of these bills or resolutions has been invited to appear before the subcommittee if he or she wishes to do so. In addition, the United Spanish War Veterans have asked to appear, and representatives of that organization are here. Also the national commander of the Naval and Military Order of the Spanish-American War has been advised of the hearings as have the Retired Officers Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

As usual, we have our friends from the Veterans' Administration to express the view of the executive branch.

As is customary in most of such hearings, we will hear first from Members of Congress who have introduced legislation pending before the committee, and then that will be followed by representatives of the United Spanish-American War Veterans.

Without objection, I will insert at this point in the record the text of the bills pending before the committee, as well as reports from the Veterans' Administration thereon, together with other material pertinent to this hearing.

(The material referred to follows:)

VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION,

OFFICE OF THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS,
Washington 25, D. C., February 1, 1955:

Hon. OLIN E. TEAGUE,

Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,

House of Representatives, Washington 25, D. C.

DEAR MR. TEAGUE: This has reference to your request for a report by the Veterans' Administration on H. R. 707, 84th Congress, a bill to extend pension benefits under the laws reenacted by Public Law 269, 74th Congress, August 13, 1935, as now or hereafter amended, to certain persons who served with the United States military or naval forces engaged in hostilities in the Moro Province, including Mindanao,

or in the islands of Samar and Leyte, after July 4, 1902, and prior to January 1, 1914, and to their unremarried widows, child, or children. This will also serve as a reply to your request for a report on a similar bill, H. R. 754, 84th Congress.

The purpose of H. R. 707 is to provide a service pension under the conditions and at the rates prescribed by the laws reenacted by Public, No. 269, 74th Congress, August 13, 1935, as now or hereafter amended, for any person who served in any unit of the United States military or naval forces while such unit was engaged in hostilities in the Moro Province, including Mindanao, or in the islands of Samar and Leyte, after July 4, 1902, and prior to January 1, 1914, who was honorably discharged from the enlistment in which such service occurred, and for the surviving unremarried widow, child, or children of such person. H. R. 754 has the same purpose, except that it would extend such benefits to any person who served in the Philippine Islands while hostilities were in progress in the locations and during the time indicated. For the ready reference of the committee there is furnished herewith a table showing the pension rates currently payable to veterans and their dependents under the mentioned laws.

These bills are similar in purpose to bills which have been introduced in the Congress over a number of years. The most recent examples are H. R. 55, H. R. 252, H. R. 417, H. R. 1310, and H. R. 2715, 83d Congress, on which the Veterans' Administration submitted a report under date of March 11, 1953 to the committee (Committee Print No. 14). After hearings on these and other legislative proposals, your committee favorably reported a bill, H. R. 5380, to the House on June 10, 1953 (H. Rept. 534), where it was pending at the close of that Congress. One of the subject bills, H. R. 707, is identical with H. R. 5380.

Persons comprehended by the bills are presently entitled to all benefits prescribed by law for former members of the Regular Establishment, or as they are sometimes called, peacetime veterans. It is felt that a brief reference to benefits now available to such veterans and their dependents would be helpful to the Committee in its consideration of these bills.

Present benefits include compensation at peacetime rates for disabilities resulting from personal injury or disease contracted in line of duty or for an aggravation of a preexisting injury or disease contracted or suffered in line of duty and not the result of the person's own misconduct. Compensation at peacetime rates is also payable to dependents on account of the death of such veterans from serviceconnected causes. Compensation is payable at wartime rates for disabilities incurred in line of duty as a result of armed conflict or extrahazardous service, including such service under conditions simulating war, and for death from such disabilities, pursuant to paragraph 1 (c), part II, Veterans Regulation No. 1 (a), as amended. Veterans entitled to compensation at wartime or peacetime rates are entitled to additional compensation for dependents if their service-connected disability is rated at not less than 50 percent.

Veterans comprehended by these bills who were discharged for disability incurred in line of duty or who are in receipt of compensation for service-connected disability are also entitled on the basis of such disability to other benefits, such as hospital treatment or domiciliary care, including medical treatment by the Veterans' Administration,

such prosthetic applicances or aids to the blind as the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs may determine to be necessary, burial allowances, and a burial flag. Financial assistance is afforded certain veterans in acquiring specially adapted housing which they require on account of permanent and total service-connected disability due to certain conditions. Preference in Federal civilian employment is also granted under the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944 (58 Stat. 387), as amended (5 U. S. C. 851-869), to veterans who served during a war or a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or who have established the existence of a service-connected disability, or who are receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension by reason of public laws administered by the Veterans' Administration or service departments. Preference is also extended under certain circumstances to otherwise eligible dependents of such veterans. In connection with such preference in employment, it should be noted that the Departments of the Army and Navy have authorized issuance of a Philippine Campaign Medal to personnel of the respective services who meet the necessary service requirements. In accordance with laws administered by the Department of the Army, these veterans and certain of their dependents are also eligible to be buried in a national cemetery and to be furnished headstones or grave markers.

With reference to the delimiting date July 4, 1902, made applicable in the subject bills to service in the Moro Province, the attention of the committee is invited to the fact that under the laws reenacted by the act of August 13, 1935 (49 Stat. 614), as amended or supplemented (38 U. S. C. 368), service in the Moro Province to July 15, 1903, is recognized as wartime service.

While both bills propose to extend pension benefits under the conditions, and at the rates prescribed by the laws reenacted by Public Law 269, 74th Congress, August 13, 1935, as now or hereafter amended, they contain certain provisions which appear to be at variance with the provisions of such laws. Specifically, both bills would require the veteran to be honorably discharged and would extend benefits to unremarried widows. Further, H. R. 754 contains a service requirement of 90 days or more. It should be noted that under the laws reenacted by the act of August 13, 1935, as amended or supplemented, only a discharge or release from active service under conditions other than dishonorable is required, and pension is authorized in the case of a remarried widow whose marriage to a veteran occurred prior to January 1, 1938, if her subsequent marriage or marriages has or had been dissolved either by death of her husband or husbands, or by divorce on any ground except adultery on the part of the wife. Finally, the mentioned laws provide for the payment of service pension to veterans of less than 90 days' service if discharged for disability incurred in service in line of duty, and for payment of a service pension at a lesser rate to veterans with 70 to 89 days' service.

The intent of the provision in lines 8 and 9, page 2, H. R. 754, "Pensions to such persons entitled shall be retroactive as of their sixtieth birthday", is not clear. This ambiguity arises particularly in view of the fact that under the service pension laws referred to in the bill no provision is made for payment of a pension to a veteran at age 60 and age is not a factor in determining eligibility for death pension of widows who married the veterans prior to January 1, 1938.

Otherwise eligible widows who married the veterans on or after that date are entitled to death pension only if they are at least 60 years of

age.

From time to time bills have been introduced in the Congress which have had as their purpose the conferring of wartime benefits on the group who served in the Philippines for periods subsequent to the termination of the Philippine Insurrection on July 4, 1902 (July 15, 1903, as regards service in the Moro Province). During the 78th Congress, one such bill, H. R. 4099, was introduced, designed to confer a wartime status on those who served with the United States military or naval forces engaged in hostilities in the Moro Province, including Mindanao, or in the islands of Samar and Leyte, between July 5, 1902, and December 31, 1913, by extending the official ending date of the Philippine Insurrection to December 31, 1913, in such cases. The bill passed the House of Representatives on March 27, 1944, and the Senate on November 27, 1944, but was returned by the President to the House of Representatives without his approval on December 8, 1944. In his veto message (H. Doc. 804, 78th Cong.), the President stated:

This measure would grant special benefits to a particular group and exclude other members of the Regular Military and Naval Establishments who similarly have been called upon, on numerous occasions, to engage in similar military operations in times of peace. I believe that it is sound in principle to abide by the official beginning and ending dates of wars in providing benefits, heretofore described, and feel that extension of the period of the Philippine Insurrection, beyond that established in conformity with recognized legal precedents, would constitute sufficient deviation from that principle to invite further exceptions for additional groups with service in military occupations, expeditions, or campaigns other than during a period of war.

With respect to the mentioned precedents, it is deemed pertinent to note that July 4, 1902, is the date of the President's proclamation (32 Stat. 2014) that the Philippine Insurrection was at an end and peace established in all parts of the Philippine Archipelago except the country occupied by the Moro tribes. July 15, 1903, the date regarded by the then War Department as the termination of the Philippine Insurrection in the Moro Province, is the effective date of the Act No. 787 of the Philippine Commission providing for the organization and government of the Moro Province under civil authority. It is further noted that these delimiting dates have received legislative sanction most recently under the act of August 4, 1951 (65 Stat. 174; 38 U. S. C. 370g et seq.).

While the subject bills remove one of the objections made to H. R. 4099, 78th Congress, in that they do not extend the official ending date of the Philippine Insurrection or confer a wartime status on those affected by the bills, they would confer a special benefit, heretofore generally limited to war-service veterans and their dependents, upon a particular group of peacetime veterans and their dependents, to the exclusion of other peacetime veterans and their dependents, including those who served in other campaigns, expeditions, and occupations. For your information, a list of such campaigns, expeditions, and occupations is set forth on pages 974-1013 of the hearings of April 28, 1953, on H. R. 55, 83d Congress, and other bills, before the Subcommittee on Spanish War of your committee.

In keeping with the policy of Congress to recognize the primary responsibility to veterans having service-connected disabilities, and their dependents, veterans encompassed by the bills and their dependents are presently entitled to compensation for service-connected disability or death, and at wartime rates under conditions mentioned earlier in this report. It has been the long-established general policy of the Congress, however, to restrict service pension to veterans of wars and dependents of war veterans. An exception to this policy was made by the act of May 11, 1951 (65 Stat. 40, 38 U. S. C. 745) under which pension benefits, among others, were extended to veterans of the Korean conflict period, and to their dependents. Enactment of the subject bills would constitute a further exception to the general policy since the service in question was not performed during a period of war. Attention is invited to the fact that by applying Spanish-American War pension criteria, these bills, if enacted, would grant to eligible peacetime veterans and their widows and children generally more liberal pension benefits, both as to rates and eligibility criteria, than are provided for veterans of World War I, World War II, or the Korean conflict period, and their widows and children.

Enactment of the proposed legislation might serve as a precedent for requests for similar legislation on behalf of veterans of our Armed Forces who served in other campaigns, expeditions, or occupations, including members of the occupation forces after World War I and World War II whose only service was rendered in other than a war period. There is also for consideration what precedential effect the enactment of these bills might have with respect to requests for additional wartime benefits, such as hospital and domiciliary care and burial benefits, for the group within the purview of the bills, and other comparable groups.

There are no records in the Veterans' Administration on which to base a worthwhile estimate of the cost of the proposed legislation.

In view of the discriminatory features of H. R. 707 and H. R. 754, their departure from what is considered sound policy governing the granting of pension benefits, and as either bill could be a precedent for costly legislation, it is my opinion that neither bill should be enacted.

Advice has been received from the Bureau of the Budget that enactment of the proposed legislation would not be in accord with the program of the President.

Sincerely yours,

H. V. HIGLEY, Administrator.

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