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Mr. BOYKIN. Veterans of the Spanish-American War are entitled to outpatient médical and dental care for non-service-connected disabilities. Is this provision available to veterans of other wars?
Mr. THURSTON. No, sir. And, while it has been available in the language of the statute to the Spanish War veteran, at different times inadequate funds have made it inoperative.
Mr. BOYKIN. Yes, sir.
Dr. Long has a bill in now on this dental business. He is a dentist, as you know.
There is one more question, which I think you have covered, but I will see because I want to carry out my instructions.
What is the rate of increase provided in the bills H. R. 2867 and 4684? You have covered that in your statement, I think, sir. Mr. THURSTON. Yes, sir.
Mr. BOYKIN. We thank you very much. It was a great statement and we have heard from a great man, and appreciate it very much. Are there any questions?
Mr. ASPINALL. Mr. Chairman, may I ask a question.
Mr. BOYKIN. Surely.
Mr. ASPINALL. Is the basis for your plea of an increase based upon increased cost of living, or is it based upon the apparent inequities between the benefits given to the recipients as of this time as compared with those who are recipients of other benefits of later wars?
Mr. THURSTON. It could be both, sir. The reason I make the exposition in regard to allowances to subsequent veterans is to show that they had the advantage of the bonuses and other outside benefits which did not accrue to this group, and it could not be reflected in their estate when the veterans died. Correspondingly, their widows have less property to rely upon.
Then, of course, it also goes to the current question of the cost of living.
Mr. ASPINALL. As a new member of the committee, I would like to know, if you have the answer, when were the last amounts determined? Have the benefits ever been increased from their original authorization, and if so, when?
Mr. THURSTON. The widows' allowances?
Mr. ASPINALL. Yes.
Mr. THURSTON. Yes, sir; they have been stepped up. They started out at $12 per month in 1918 and they have been stepped up until now it is $54.18 per month.
Mr. ASPINALL. Thank you.
Mr. BOYKIN. Thank you.
Do you have any questions, Mr. Chairman?
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask one question. As the commander well knows, a lot of the responsibility of this thing falls on my shoulders, and we have a very definite problem in all our veterans' groups as far as widows are concerned. Of course, the Spanish-American War widows and the World War I widows are entitled to a pension. The Spanish-American War veterans without income limitation, and the World War I widows with the income limitation. The World War II widows have no pension without a service connection or with a service connection, and the same thing applies to widows of Korean veterans.
What should be the philosophy of this committee and the Congress as far as widows as a whole group are concerned? Should we follow the philosophy of waiting a certain length of time before we pass bills for widows, or should we try to equalize the widows' pension? Or what should be the philosophy for this committee to follow?
Certainly with your experience as a Member of Congress and national commander of this organization, what you have to say would be very interesting to me.
Mr. THURSTON. First, I would not want to make a statement that would be critical of the Congress, because they made pensions available to the Korean widow immediately upon the death of her husband. The CHAIRMAN. I did not understand that, Commander.
Mr. THURSTON. I say, the service-connected Korean veteran who died, his widow obtains a pension immediately upon the day of his death. Sixteen years intervened before the Spanish War widow was entitled to a pension.
The CHAIRMAN. Regardless of when or how her husband died.
Mr. THURSTON. That is right. And I suppose that might be followed as a rule or as a precedent that some reasonable period should intervene before they are placed upon a pension basis.
The CHAIRMAN. That was a mistake, though, was it not, Mr. Commander? They should never have waited those 16 years.
Mr. THURSTON. I just pointed out that the widow who received the amount upon the death of her husband had a great advantage over the one that was obliged to wait 16 years.
The CHAIRMAN. But do you agree it was a mistake to wait that 16 years.
Mr. THURSTON. No, sir; I wouldn't say it was a mistake. I just say that that was the philosophy of the Congress at that time.
The CHAIRMAN. If that happened I think it was a mistake. My information is that service-connected compensation was available as early as July 14, 1862, and I will insert later the VA regulation thereon. (The VA regulation was subsequently furnished, as follows:)
SECTION 2501 OF VA REGULATION
2501. GENERAL LAW, APPLICATION AND SCOPE; SERVICE ACT, DEFINITION
(A) General law: Application and scope.-For the purpose of laws authorizing the payment of death compensation, the term “General law" includes all those laws commencing with the act of July 14, 1862, relating to the payment of compensation based on death due to service and in line of duty, incurred since March 4, 1861, excepting World War I legislation and the veterans regulations issued pursuant to the act of March 20, 1933. The general law is presently effective to include all service rendered prior to April 21, 1898, and in cases based on service in the War with Spain, Boxer Rebellion, or Philippine Insurrection, to include July 4, 1902. (May 6, 1952.)
Mr. THURSTON. And I am not criticizing them for any lack of legislation. Only I think sometimes, and I know when I was here we sometimes enacted measures without looking back into the history of legislation on the same subject. I think that probably that has happened in the veterans' field.
I believe that our Congress through the years has been_sympathetic in its attitude toward the veteran, and I might say that I cannot agree with the philosophy of those who say that the Nation does not owe a veteran anything. The man, whether he volunteered or whether he was called into the service, who served on a very inadequate or low
salary basis, has made a very distinct contribution in dollars to his Government, to say nothing of the impairment of his health or the physical disabilities that might have arisen because of that service.
So when the veteran comes before this body seeking some beneficial aid, I don't think it is to be placed on a gratuitous basis. I think there is an established debt which our Government owes the veteran who has served on the low-pay or salary basis for some considerable time.
I do not believe that he comes here as a supplicant, but that he comes to present the situation fairly as he sees it.
The CHAIRMAN. I certainly agree with that philosophy 100 percent, but, of course, then you come to the amount of the debt, and that is where the difficulty comes in.
Mr. THURSTON. I know it is quite perplexing. It is a very difficult problem that the Congress has. But, as I have said before, I think the Congress is a great court of equity between and among all these different entities and all the different branches and the thousands of ramifications that you have. You are trying to get facts and make a just application of the division of funds.
The CHAIRMAN. Again, will you give me some good advice on what to do on this widow situation of all wars?
Mr. THURSTON. I say, of course, one important factor is the age. The other, of course, has to do with the ability of the Government to raise the funds. As the widow advances in age, obviously her earnings diminish. I cannot state a rule in dollars, but as time intervenes I think the Government should be responsive to a reasonable expense for the cost of living of the widow.
On another occasion I made some remarks before another subcommittee under your jurisdiction, Mr. Chairman, which entered the field as to whether the want or whether the material holdings of a veteran should be considered in regard to pension legislation. Of course, I think that is unfair and it is unwarranted. I believe if a veteran serves his country, whatever obligation arises, is to be measured solely on that service and not because he has been frugal and probably had a little savings on the side.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Commander, I would agree with that philosophy if we did not have a dollar limitation on what we can do. For example, as to hospitalization, why should we give veterans hospitalization just because he did not save his money? But when we consider 21 million veterans and try to get hospitalization for all of them, you and I know we cannot do it. So somewhere along the line we do have to put a limitation on it. For that reason I do not believe if you tried you could carry out your philosophy of not having some limitation.
Of course, World War I widows are writing me daily saying that "You people in Congress have passed laws on the Spanish-American War veterans where there is no income limitation. Why don't you do the same thing for us?"
The World War II people say, "You give the World War I veterans and the Spanish-American War widow benefits without service connection. Why don't you do the same for us?"
Mr. THURSTON. In partial reply to that, it could be pointed out, as to the other benefits that have been made available to these certain.
groups which the Spanish War veterans or his widow never had or can have.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, the Spanish-American War veterans have been one of the finest groups that we have ever had to work with, and you, having been in Congress, know that we cannot pass all the bills that come to this committee. We are very anxious to do the best possible for our servicemen and for our widows and orphans, and we appreciate your trying to help us figure out what is the best thing to do.
Mr. THURSTON. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Our next witness will be Mr. William J. Otgen, a former past commander and distinguished jurist.
Mr. BOYKIN. I wonder if you would mind hearing from this Congressman. We always have them, as you know, first, and then we will be delighted to have him.
At this time we would like to have Congressman Siler from Kentucky make his statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. EUGENE SILER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KENTUCKY
Mr. SILER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I will just take this opportunity to speak very briefly about my House Joint Resolution 281, which is a resolution to extend the canopy of pension entitlement to the Moro veterans.
I believe you have already had several other resolutions or bills introduced on the same subject, and you have also had testimony about the merits of this proposed legislation.
It seems to me that this is an equalization proposition and, as the preceding witness indicated, Congress is an equity body, and equity means equalization.
According to the information at hand, veterans of the Moro conflict were active over a period of 11 years, and they were in 150 engagements. Out of that conflict came awards to 15 of those so engaged of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Down in my country in Kentucky we would say that "These men shore fit."
When you consider that there were 150 engagements and that the period of time was 11 years and that 15 of them were Congressional Medal of Honor winners it is something that we should give serious consideration to. I do not know of any conflict, American conflict, in which more patriotism and valor was demonstrated than in this Moro conflict.
You find at one place in the Scripture a statement "Except your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven", leaving the implication that if your righteousness does exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
It seems to me that the patriotism and valor of the Moro soldiers exceeded that of the soldiers of any other conflict that I can think of. They put on the whole armor of our country during those 11 years, and there is a matter of simple justice and equalization.
We, in my opinion, should extend the benefits of Public Law 269 so that it might cover the veterans of the Moro conflict which extended from 1902 until 1914.
It was established at the 83d Congress, which was about 2 years ago, that at that time there were 500 of these veterans in the whole country, and that there were 300 widows of such veterans, and the average age was 78, and that the cost of this legislation for the first year would amount to $798,000. If that is true, with the mortality rate being what it would be at that age of 78, it seems to me at the present time you could not count on more than possibly 400 of these veterans being in existence, and you could count on the cost of it being substantially less than $798,000 for the first year.
There is a very high death rate among those veterans. So, in simple justice and equity, it seems to me that this legislation is justified by our present Congress.
I thank you so much for this opportunity.
Mr. BOYKIN. Thank you, Congressman Siler, for this great statement, and we appreciate your coming over.
Mr. SILER. Mr. Chairman, I will submit my statement for the record.
(The statement referred to follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. EUGENE SILER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KENTUCKY
Mr. Chairman and my committee colleagues, it was my pleasure to introduce House Joint Resolution 281, to extend the Spanish-American War Service Pension Act to the few remaining old veterans who served in the Moro Province and in the islands of Leyte and Samar after July 4, 1902, and prior to 1914. Several of these veterans live in my district.
While I do not profess to know as much about this legislation as the older members of our committee, I observe that the proposition has been the subject of ` intense exploration. In the 83d Congress the committee found that not more than 500 of these veterans were then living; that the average age was then 78 years; that the first year cost would not exceed $798,000 and that the death rate for this age group is very rapid.
Actually, clearly, simply, these men fought a continuation of the Philippine Insurrection; and during more than 11 years of combat they took part in about 150 engagements. There were more casualties during that time than for the entire period of the Spanish-American War. I note, too, that 15 of these men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
While the Presidential Proclamation of July 4, 1902, proclaimed the end of the Philippine Insurrection in all parts of the Philippines except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, the hostilities actually continued in the islands of Leyte and Samar as well as in the Moro Province for many years. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the veterans of the later hostilities have been denied pension and other veteran benefits; but surely it is not too late to correct-in part at least the President's miscalculation. This is the only case, so far as I know, in our history where a war is held to have ended 11 years before 150 engagements · were fought.
It has been argued with considerable force that enactment of such legislation might serve to create an undesirable precedent by opening the door to others who were engaged in other and wholly unrelated "peacetime police actions." It appears to me, however, that such contentions have no bearing on this issue. Here, we are dealing with a specific war-or insurrection. We are seeking to overcome the effects of a premature ending date, and the unrelating campaigns, expeditions, occupations, etc., should stand or fall upon their own merits.
Some have claimed that service pensions should not be paid for any service in : the absence of a declaration of war; however, from our beginning as a Nation, the Congress has readily recognized irregular hostilities as periods of war. The veterans of all Indian hostilities between 1817 and 1898 have been pensioned whether or not the service was during a formally declared war; the veterans: