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STATEMENT OF JAMES H. JOHNSON, SENIOR VICE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, UNITED SPANISH WAR VETERANS
Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. Chairman and the honorable members of this committee, I would like, first, to correct a statement made here, or a question that was asked.
The widows of the Spanish War, under an act passed by Congress in 1944, had to have 10 years cohabitation with the veteran, and the amount of limit to their income, I believe was $1,440. To widows who were married to a Spanish War veteran before December 31, 1937, there was no limit to their income.
The COUNSEL. The number, Mr. Chairman, is very small; less than 500 out of a total of 81,000 widows on the rolls as the following memorandum shows:
OFFICE MEMORANDUM, UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
Date: April 26, 1955.
To: Assistant Administrator for Legislation.
1. Pursuant to your informal request based upon request from a member of the staff of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the following information is provided.
2. As of March 31, 1955, approximately 450 widows of deceased Spanish-American War veterans were in receipt of death pension benefits pursuant to law including among other factors the factor of dependency as a prerequisite to entitlement.
RALPH H. STONE.
Mr. JOHNSON. There was a question asked which referred to the question of whether those of the First World War or the Second World War should be entitled to the same amount as the Spanish War veterans. The Spanish War veteran widows average over 74 years of age. The widows of the Second World War average around 39 years of age. The widows of the First World War average under
60 years of age.
It is easy to conceive that widows of those ages might be able to assist themselves in receiving an income to help them over the days that are now coming and have been coming in the increased cost of living. Of course, a widow who is 74 years of age needs more medical attention, she needs more assistance, and if she asked for a position anywhere they would probably look at her in astonishment and say they put her name on the list, and that is as far as it would go.
Another condition which happened to the Spanish War veterans is they had very little opportunity for laying aside for themselves an income that would keep a widow even to live in the most dilapidated condition of human existence. What a Spanish War veteran might save in the time that he saved it would be a good income for those days, but that income today would not even be thought of as an income. When the Spanish War veterans were discharged a great majority of them were less physically able than they were when they went in. In World War I and World War II a large percentage of the veterans of those two wars were in better physical condition. Of course, I am not referring to the men who were wounded or injured during those wars.
Our widows-and I know that you gentlemen know this better than I do cannot possibly exist in a respectable manner which is their American heritage on less than $75 a month.
The Spanish War veterans were granted service-connected disability for outpatient treatment principally because their records were destroyed. In fact, I have 5 years of service that were burned.
I believe that in following out the practice of America and our history, our ideas of life and existence, it would warrant giving our widows $75 a month.
You may remember the Spanish War veterans came into being on February 14 at 9:40 in the evening when the battleship Maine was blown up in the harbor of Havana. We have heard a lot about the shot fired at Lexington and Concord being heard around the world. But let us look what has happened. The mine that blew up the Maine was not only heard around the world, but it shook the very foundation of the empires of the world. When the Spanish War started we were not even considered in the book of naval strength. The nation with which we went to war was carried as fourth in strength of the navies. The Spanish War brought into being something that we of America, every man, woman, and child in this country, should be thankful for, especially if they had members or relatives in the First World War.
In the Spanish War we had no medical organization, we had no transportation organization, we had no means of refrigeration. And the reason why there were so many of them sick was that the men in the Spanish War slept on the ground and ate sowbelly and hard tack and canned beef or "canned willy," as the boys called it, for 3 or 4 months before they even had beef. And when they got the beef the fuzz was so thick on it that they had to scrape it off with a knife.
That is one reason why the Spanish War veterans never had as much ability; I believe that 90 percent of them were sick when they got out of service, and that continued. They had dysentery, typhoid fever, jaundice, and several other diseases.
Several of the Spanish War veterans were discharged in the hospital and did not receive pay while they were in the hospital. Several of the officers and men in the Philippines after 1901, June 30, were kept in the Philippines and discharged, and their regiment had been home 3 months before they got home. They received no pay or compensation for that. The mileage given to officers for travel in the Spanish War veterans or the volunteers of the 20 regiments that went to the Philippines was 7 percent, and when they had been discharged it had been reduced to 4 percent.
You know as well or probably better than I that a woman 74 years of age with only an income of $75 is in a very dangerous and very hard position. I know that you gentlemen have lots of things to consider, and I know that the problem of Government spending has increased. But this is a case where I think that humanity, necessity, and the desire to keep up the American standard of life would substantiate our wish.
Mr. ASPINALL. May I ask the witness a question?
What you are doing is basing your plea for this legislation upon present needs, is it not, rather than upon anything that took place
yesterday or any inequities that may exist? Is that not true? You are talking now about the future, are you not?
Mr. JOHNSON. Present needs and the fact that their husbands did not have the opportunity that came in later years to provide for them properly.
Mr. ÅSPINALL. Which has an influence upon their needs.
Mr. JOHNSON. I think so; yes.
Mr. BOYKIN. Thank you.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you very kindly.
Mr. BOYKIN. That was a fine statement, and thank you so much. I want at this time to call Mr. Adin Downer, assistant legislative director of the VFW.
STATEMENT OF ADIN DOWNER, ASSISTANT LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS
Mr. DOWNER. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the privilege of appearing here this morning. This is the fifth time in the past 12 years that the Veterans of Foreign Wars have appeared before this committee to support legislation to recognize the Moro campaign for pension purposes.
This committee four times previously has favorably reported such legislation, and in view of that fact and in view of the statement the chairman previously made this morning, I think it is time for me to apply a lesson I learned years ago, that a lawyer should not overtry his case lest he talk the court out of a favorable decision.
So I will merely mention, Mr. Chairman, that the essential question contained in this legislation is whether or not we are to consider a state of war to be a question of law or a question of fact. That is the basis on which the President vetoed the legislation previously. That is the basis on which negative reports have been filed on the legislation. So I think that all we must decide is that one question.
The pension is paid to compensate men for the conditions that they endured during their service, which is a factual thing and not a legal thing. And, as a matter of logic, it seems quite apparent to us that since the conditions which they endured were identical to conditions that exist during the time of legal war, and since the precedent has already been established by extension of benefits to the Korean campaign, the same thing holds true for the Moro Province.
I thank you very much.
Mr. BOYKIN. Thank you very much.
At this time we will hear from Capt. F. O. Willenbucher.
STATEMENT OF CAPT. FRANZ 0. WILLENBUCHER, UNITED STATES NAVY (RETIRED), EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND LEGAL COUNSEL OF THE RETIRED OFFICERS ASSOCIATION
Captain WILLENBUCHER. I am Capt. Franz O. Willenbucher, United States Navy, retired, executive vice president and legal counsel of the Retired Officers Association. I appear to represent the president of the association, Lt. Gen. Willard S. Paul, United States Army,
The Retired Officers Association appreciates the opportunity to be present today to offer its views concerning the bills H. R. 4945, H. R. 5055, H. R. 5056, and various other bills now under consideration by this subcommittee today.
H. R. 4945: During the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the China Relief Expedition a number of doctors and dentists served as contract surgeons and contract dental surgeons. They were civilian employees of the Army, although they wore the Army uniform and served with troops in the field, and were all but technically a part of the Army.
The Career Compensation Act in sections 202 (a) (3), 412 and 511 recognizes that service as a contract surgeon was active service, and provides for its inclusion in service for computing pay.
Veterans Regulation No. 10 (IV) provides that for the purpose of hospitalization the term "veteran of any war" shall include persons who served overseas as contract surgeons of the Army between April 21, 1898, and August 13, 1898. Thus there is ample precedent to declare contract surgeons and contract dental surgeons who served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, or the China Relief Expedition to be veterans for all purposes.
The case which brought this matter to our attention is a retired Army colonel who served as a contract surgeon in the Spanish-American War before he was commissioned in the Regular Army as a medical officer, and who was later retired. The pending bill, H. R. 4945, proposes to credit this civilian service to those who performed it for the purpose of the laws administered by the Veterans' Administration.
An identical bill, S. 1211, has been introduced in the Senate, concerning which the Veterans' Administration in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, on March 24, 1955, voiced its opposition to the enactment of this proposed legislation, stating the reasons of the Veterans' Administration. While respecting the views of the Veterans' Administration in this regard, our association cannot agree that the objections raised should influence Congress against the enactment of this meritorious proposal.
Basically, these objections stem from the fact that veterans' benefits have heretofore been extended only to those who served as members of the Armed Forces, strictly as such, under the various standards in the laws relating to veterans' benefits.
Certainly, there should be no exception to such requirement unless the type of service is so military in character as to justify the exception. A general rule of application is not weakened by the adoption of an exception if the exception is so compelling as to justify its adoption. Such, in the opinion of the Retired Officers Association, is the case here.
Dealing more specifically, the objections of the Veterans' Administration in its letter to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance were the following:
(1) There is no precedent for such action; (2) the Judge Advocate General of the Army in 1901, in opinions held, among other things, that contract surgeons have no military rank or status and called them "creatures solely of Army regulations and orders which are executive mandates wholly powerless to constitute them officers of the Army"; (3) Congress has long differentiated between active mili
tary service and civilian employment with the Armed Forces and it is stated that this proposal would constitute a departure from that policy; (4) enactment of the legislation might well serve as a precedent for similar requests by other civilian groups; and, finally, (5) that advice from the Bureau of the Budget shows that the Bureau concurs in recommending against favorable consideration of this legislation. With reference to the first of these objections, the Retired Officers Association contends that progress lies in the establishment of proper precedents and can see no difficulty in this respect by the enactment of the pending bill. As already stated, the Congress under the Career Compensation Act of 1949 in section 202 (a) (3), 412, and 511 recognized the military service of contract surgeons as active service and provides for its inclusion in the computation of military service pay. This, from the point of view of Congress, established the precedent and recognized the merit of regarding this service as military service. With reference to the second objection, the association believes the opinion of the Judge Advocate General of the Army of 1901 is erroneous in philosophy, however proper in law the opinion might have appeared at that time. Since 1901, in all recent wars, medical and dental personnel have been fully under military status. It is for that very reason that the association asks to have this former service so recognized, since all who have performed the service in World War I and World War II are veterans under our laws in view of the changed status of such personnel in those wars, as compared with those in the Spanish-American War.
With reference to the third objection, the association sees no reason why Congress should not continue to differentiate between active military service and civilian employment with the Armed Forces, but the association does not consider that such differentiation should stand in the way of recognizing this specific type of service as military in character, in view of the nature of the service and its subsequent recognition in World War I and World War II as military in character.
With reference to the fourth of the objections that there might be similar requests from other civilian groups, the Retired Officers Association knows of no other type of civilian group which could have equal justification for asking military recognition. Certainly Congress can recognize this service in this legislation and refuse to recognize other requests less meritorious in character or perhaps without any merit at all.
Finally, with reference to the objection of the Bureau of the Budget, the Retired Officers Association feels the objection to stem from the same objections outlined above and that, if Congress enacts this proposed legislation, the decision in the Bureau of the Budget could well be otherwise than to oppose approval of such a law.
The association wishes to point out that, since more than 50 years have elapsed since the Spanish-American War, very few individuals would be affected by the enactment of this proposal.
The Retired Officers Association feels simple justice requires that the service of contract surgeons and dental surgeons in the war with Spain, the Philippine Insurrection, and the China Relief Expedition should receive recognition for the purposes outlined in the bill, and recommends favorable action and enactment of H. R. 4945.