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e: In matters pertaining uttend to very often, we n Bureau we do not have thi or Mr. McCarl to
Captain BETTELHEIM. We regret very much the institution in the Veterans' Bureau of the so-called preaudit unit. We believe it is unfair; we do not believe that any Government should feel it necessary to preaudit veterans' cases. If a question arises where their legal division in the bureau can not handle a case, then they might send it to the Comptroller General; but it seems to me that the Veterans' Bureau employs a very good and able legal staff and, in my opinion, they are capable of deciding these questions, and I hope that some means may be arrived at by which they can eliminate that so-called preaudit unit in the Veterans' Bureau. A wording to the effect that the decision of the Director of the United States
Veterans' Bureau was final would preclude any necessity of reference to a preaudit. Mr. DALLINGER. You know the reason for that installation, do
you not? What happened before that was this: That after we had labored long and diligently to get a case through and got it through the Veterans' Bureau and had notified the veteran at home that he had been allowed compensation, then Comptroller General McCarl would disallow it and the veteran would not get the money. So that the reason why the so-called preaudit unit was installed was in order that there might be a branch of General McCarl's department in the Veterans' Bureau so that the Veterans' Bureau could know beforehand what the Comptroller General was going to do and thus avoid the disappointing occurrences to which I have referred.
Captain BETTELHEIM. I am inclined to believe, Mr. Dallinger, that a little too many of the cases are referred to Mr. McCarl, or the preaudit unit, and that a lot of those cases should go along on their own; that is, on the director's decision.
Mr. DALLINGER. Do you remember that a few years ago I introduced a bill to provide that the Attorney General's opinion should prevail over General McCarl's opinion?
Captain BETTELHEIM. Yes.
Mr. DALLINGER. And we had quite extensive hearings before the Judiciary Committee?
Captain BETTELHEIM. Yes, sir.
Mr. DALLINGER. The Judiciary Committee took no action on the bill, although I understand that "General McCarl, for a time at least, refrained from assuming to overrule tribunals established by Congress
for the ascertainment of the law and facts in certain cases. Mr. COCHRAN. A very interesting question is brought up here, and in my opinion this committee should give it a great deal of consideration. I have had a great deal of experience on this subject. I just want to cite you one instance which shows that General McCarl's office and not the Veterans' Bureau is deciding soldiers' cases in a great many instances. Here is an instance of just a few days ago to which I want to call attention. I have the case of a man who served six months in the Army during the war. He was discharged from the Army with tuberculosis, chronic, 100 per cent disabled. The Veterans Bureau wants to give the man compensation. General McCarl's representative sits in the Veterans' Bureau and holds, because the War Department report does not say " tuberculosis, active, chronic," that this man is not entitled to compensation under the law, and refuses to approve the recommendation of the Veterans
Bureau to allow the man compensation. Now, I fully believe if General McCarl is going to render decisions for the Veterans' Bureau that this committee should consider, if it recommends this bill for passage, whether or not we should place in the bill some provision that will make the Director of the Veterans' Bureau the court of last resort and not the Comptroller General of the United States. He has no physicians in his office and he is deciding medical questions, and the medical questions are being decided by lawyers.
Mr. COLTON. Of course, that question can arise whether this consolidation takes place under the Veterans’ Bureau or any other department. That fault lies with Congress in giving that authority to the Comptroller General.
Mr. COCHRAN. I advance that for consideration now.
Mr. DALLINGER. The contention we made before the Judiciary Committee at the time of the hearings on my bill, was that General McCarl had usurped powers which it was never the intention of Congress to give him. I believe with Mr. Cochran that, in this bill, we might possibly insert certain provisions that would set up in the Veterans' Bureau a legal tribunal whose judgment will be conclusive on questions of law and fact.
Captain BETTELHEIM. I can speak, of course, definitely for my own organization, but I am sure all of the veterans' organizations would favor such an action. Of course, we realize the situation Mr. Dallinger spoke of, that it would be difficult to tell the boy he was going to get his compensation and then find, a few weeks later, that the Comptroller General had disallowed it; but I want to point out that the Comptroller General would not disallow it if it was not referred to him. That is one thing that might be remembered.
Mr. GASQUE. That is the only reason why I would hesitate to say whether I would be willing to vote for a bill that would consolidate those agencies under the Veterans' Bureau. I have been a Member of Congress for several years and have handled thousands of cases of veterans, World War veterans and Spanish-American War veterans. I have no trouble whatever with the Pension Bureau; I got the service then and get it right now, and, when a pension is due, it is paid. But when I get up in the Veterans' Bureau, unless it is going to be run a little more on a business basis, I would hesitate to put anything in it.
Captain BETTELHEIM. Congressman, I do not try to hold a brief for any Government agency.
Mr. GASQUE. That is the reason why I want to get your idea of where they should be consolidated.
Captain BETTELHEIM. I do not hold a brief for any Government agency, but I do not want to close my statement without saying that the Veterans of Foreign Wars have continually gone on record as appreciating the work General Hines is doing in bringing that bureau to the condition that it is in to-day. I would not want to close my testimony without making that statement, because we believe the Veterans' Bureau is a very efficient organization. Of course there is not much organization in the national board for Volunteer Soldiers' Homes, but we would not want the record to close without
sponsibility. It was a wonderful accomplishment of the Congress of the United States when in early 1920, it combined those parts of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, the United States Public Health Service, and the Federal Board for Vocational Education, that had to do with veteran relief, under one head and called it the United States Veterans' Bureau. Now this legislation you have before you is merely one step further in that progress of consolidation. It has for its purpose the consolidation of all veteran agencies that have to do with all veteran relief.
There are very few Civil War veterans living to-day, so that the problem which you have to consider mostly is the problem of the Spanish War veterans—and that includes those who served in the Philippines and in Cuba—the general service veterans—by which I mean the man who comes under the general pension laws, having served in the Army during no particular war or campaign—and lastly, the World War veterans.
A large majority of those men who served in the Spanish-American War also served in the World War. Many of them received ranking commissions, many of them received warrants as sergeants and corporals. So that they have dovetailed. At the hearing last year you asked me to have quoted in the record on page 36 a questionnaire written on the back of all pension applications, which shows the necessity of correspondence between the Pension Office and the Veterans' Bureau when a man files his claim for pension, and the same thing exists in the Veterans' Bureau if a man is a Spanish War man. These two bureaus by correspondence have to ascertain whether or not the applicant is drawing a pension or compensation before they can act on his claim. This takes time and extra work. In other words, as you all know, a man can not draw his pension and compensation at the same time; therefore, it necessitates the checking of that man's file in the Pension Office or in the Veterans’ Bureau to see if there is any duplication. If we have a consolidation, the veteran's complete file is there in one folder and you have all the information together and it can immediately be decided as to whether or not he is to get a pension or compensation. Of course, he has his own election in that matter, but he can not have both, and the question can be decided quickly and in his favor. This also pertains to the widows or aged mothers of these boys. Many of the mothers were widows of Spanish War veterans. If their folders were all combined into one general folder, it would net in a quick and easy adjudication of their case.
We believe that this consolidation will assure to the older veteran the same ideal and up-to-date hospitalization which the World War veterans are now receiving.
There was a memorial meeting here in the Capital on February 18, 1927, when at the instance of Col. Rice Means, then the Senator from Colorado, the national commanders of all the principal veteran organizations recognized by Congress met, and it was at the instance and the plea of Corporal Tanner—Mr. Tanner, who was the register of wills here, I believe, and was at one time commander in chief of the Grand Army and at that time was acting as the personal representative of the then commander in chief-it was at his in
stance that the consolidation of all agencies of the Government having jurisdiction of the relief and hospitalization of veterans of all wars under one head was considered. “As a result of his plea, these national commanders so went on record. Carrying that out, they have expressed the same opinion through their various organizations until February 4 of last year, when they again met in the Capital and again reiterated their stand. I imagine when they meet here again this coming February that they will again reiterate their stand, because they all seem to be in favor of it.
I believe, Mr. Chairman, that is about the extent of our testimony. I suppose what you committee is mostly interested in is as to whether or not the veterans favor this legislation. The means of bringing it about is your function, about which we have no right to make any comment other than to place before you the major proposition, and we urge at an early date the enactment of such legislation.
Mr. GASQUE. I am thoroughly convinced this consolidation ought to be brought about. In your opinion, would it be better to consolidate all of these agencies under the Veterans' Bureau or to combine them under the Pension Bureau of the Department of the Interior ?
Captain BETTELHEIM. Congressman, I believe I answered that question last year, propounded to me by Mr. Schafer, by saying that so far as the Veterans of Foreign Wars are concerned, we are merely interested in consolidation. We do not attempt to tell to the Congress whether it should be consolidated under one bureau or under another bureau. However, we are on record that it should be placed under one head responsible to the President. We do not believe it should be placed under the Department of the Interior, because the Secretary of the Interior has other vast activities and interests which he must take care of—the Indian Service, water projects, General Land Office, and so forth; but we do believe and hope it should be placed under a single head responsible to the President of the United States. If it should be the Veterans' Bureau, well and good; if it should be another bureau and given another name, well and good; but we hope there will be a consolidation. Now if you want to name it the Veterans' Bureau or want to name it something else, well and good; all we are interested in is that it should be under one head.
Mr. GASQUE. And not under the Interior Department; you do not stand for that?
Captain BETTELHEIM. I say the Interior Department, because we had the experience of going through the Secretary of the Interior to the Assistant Secretary and right on down until we finally got to the commissioner and found the commissioner's hands were tied.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean the Commissioner of Pensions?
Captain BETTELHEIM. The Commissioner of Pensions. I would say that same thing if it had been in the Department of Commerce; I only cite that department as an example.
Mr. GASQUE. Now, I want to get this angle: In matters pertaining to the Veterans' Bureau that we have to attend to very often, we run up against Mr. McCarl. In the Pension Bureau we do not have that trouble. Now, you would put all of this under Mr. McCarl to check in addition to what is sent to the Veterans' Bureau ?