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REPORT No 885
AN ACT TO AMEND THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT,
1924, AS AMENDED
JUNE 9 (calendar day, JUNE 11), 1930.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. SHORTRIDGE, from the Committee on Finance, submitted the
[To accompany H. R. 10381)
The Committee on Finance, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 10381) to amend the World War veterans' act, 1924, as amended, having had the same under consideration, report it back to the Senate with certain amendments and recommend that the bill do pass.
Your committee in this report will discuss each provision of the bill as it passed the House of Representatives, and where any change therein has been made the discussion will embrace, first, the provision as it passed the House ; second, the provision of the present law, and, third, suggested amendments of your committee, or the reasons for the omission of the House amendment. Such changes will be indicated by reference to the pages and lines in the bill appearing immediately before the explanation of the section in which the change is made.
Page 1, line 11, and page 2, lines 1 to 6:
Section 1 of H. R. 10381 as it passed the House of Representatives amends section 5 of the act by providing that, in making regulations with reference to home treatment for service-connected disabilities, the director shall not discriminate against any veteran solely on the ground that such veteran left a Government hospital against medical advice or without official leave. There is no specific provision in the present law regarding this matter. However, it has been the policy of the Government to afford treatment in Government insti. tutions. To this end millions of dollars have been spent in erecting hospitals. Your committee is not aware that there is any sentiment for a change in this policy. If the Government offers a man hospitalization and he refuses, it would not seem that home treatment should be afforded him. Otherwise, men could leave hospitals at their pleasure and demand home treatment. Your committee therefore has eliminated from section 1 of the bill this amendment, as it is of the opinion that any differences which may have arisen other than as to the existing Government policy can be corrected under the present law by appropriate regulations, and that the enactment of a specific provision regarding the matter would be a dictation of the methods of procedure, which is a matter of medical administration.
Section 1 of the bill also amends section 5 of the act by directing that regulations relative to evidence shall provide that due regard be given to lay and other evidence not of a medical nature in connection with the adjudication of claims. It is the feeling of the committee that in certain border-line cases a more liberal evaluation of lay testimony would enable the bureau to grant relief under the law. Although under existing law the bureau has the authority to consider such evidence in its proper light, it is felt that this amendment will constitute the express will of Congress regarding such evidence, and will enable the director of the bureau to issue more elastic regulations with regard thereto.
Section 1 of the bill further amends section 5 of the act by providing that where service incurrence or aggravation of a disability has been found by the bureau to exist, and such finding has continued in effect for a period of five years, the finding shall be final, except in cases of fraud participated in by the claimant. The period of limitation is to run from the date that the finding was made, irrespective of whether that period began prior to the passage of the amendatory act. It was felt by your committee that, if a veteran or other claimant has been lulled into a sense of security by reason of having a finding made in his favor stand for a period of five years, that finding in the absence of fraud should remain undisturbed even though subsequent differences of opinion might indicate that administratively a change therein should be effected.
Section 2 of the bill amends section 10 of the act by adding thereto a paragraph authorizing the director to secure such recreational facilities, supplies, and equipment for the use of patients, in hospitals, and for employees at isolated stations, as he may deem necessary, and the appropriations made available for the carrying out of the present provisions of section 10, which relate to the furnishing of medical and hospital treatment, are authorized to be expended for this purpose. The bureau is authorized under existing legislation to provide recreational facilities for patients in hospitals, but has no authority to provide such facilities for employees. Many of the employees are stationed at isolated places, so far removed from facilities provided by municipalities or clubs that it is practically impossible for them to avail themselves thereof. The committee, therefore, believes that the director should be authorized to provide facilities as part of the hospital reservation where they are needed.
Page 4, lines 3 to 14:
Section 2 of H. R. 10381, as it passed the House of Representatives, amends section 10 of the act by authorizing and directing the transfer of the Battle Mountain Sanitarium and the Battle Mountain Sanitarium Reserve from the jurisdiction of the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers to the bureau. It is the opinion of your committee that this amendment is not properly a part of this legislation, as no good reason is seen for singling out this particular institution. There is now pending before your committee another bill which has been passed by the House of Representatives (H. R. 10630), which is a general bill providing for the transfer of all such institutions to the jurisdiction and control of a new bureau to have charge of all matters affecting veterans. It is believed that if the transfer is to be effected it should be by means of a bill such as H. R. 10630, equally applicable to all such institutions.
Page 4, lines 20 and 25, and page 5, line 5:
Section 3 of the bill as it passed the House of Representatives contained three typographical errors in the use of the word “renewal.” This has been changed to renewable.”
Section 3 of the bill amends section 16 of the act and authorizes the refund of premiums paid beyond the date of maturity on war risk term insurance. The bureau has always refunded such premiums, but the Comptroller General recently held that the bureau appropriations were not available for such purpose. In view of the fact that no risk attached to the Government for the period covered by these premiums, and that it is the practice of commercial insurance companies under similar circumstances to refund premiums, it is believed that this amendment is proper.
Section 4 of the bill amends section 19 of the act by authorizing the courts, as part of the judgment, to direct the refund of premiums. This amendment, which is in line with the preceding one merely constitutes legislative approval of a practice carried on by the bureau prior to a recent decision of the Comptroller General.
Section 4 of the bill also amends section 19 of the act by extending the time during which suits on insurance contracts may be instituted one year from the date of the approval of the amendatory act. Under existing law, suits may be instituted within six years after the date the right accrued for which the claim is made or prior to May 29, 1929, whichever is the later date. Certain exceptions are made in the statute to protect the interests of minor and incompetent beneficiaries, and the running of the limitation period is suspended for the period elapsing between the filing in the bureau of the claim sued upon, and the denial of said claim by the director. The committee is of the opinion that the further extension of time for filing suit-one year after the passage of this amendatory act—is warranted, in order that no veteran may be deprived of his right to enforce his contract of Government insurance merely because of lapse of time. It was pointed out to the committee by representatives of the ex-service organizations that many men were not familiar with their right to bring suit until after the time limit in the existing law had expired.
Section 4 of the bill also amends section 19 of the act in the following respects:
(1) Authorizes the issuance of subpænas for witnesses who are required to attend trials and who live at a greater distance than 100 miles from the place where the case is to be tried. This provision is extremely important from the point of view of both the veteran and the Government, as under existing law it is necessary that the testimony of such witnesses be taken by depositions, which is highly unsatisfactory.
(2, Authorizes the payment of regular travel and subsistence allowances to attorneys of the bureau when assigned to assist at the trials of cases, and to employees of the bureau when ordered in writing by the director to appear as witnesses.
(3) Authorizes the director to order part-time and fee-basis employees of the bureau to appear as witnesses in suits against the Government under this section and to pay them in his discretion a fee in an amount not to exceed $20 a day.
(4) Authorizes official leave for bureau employees subpænaed to attend trials as witnesses for veteran plaintiffs in suits under this section. At the present time these employees are required in answering subpænas to take their time on annual leave. This is a hardship of which the committee believes they should be relieved.
(5) A paragraph is added to define the meaning of the term " claim ” and the term “ disagreement” as used therein. It has for its purpose the establishment of a definite rule that before suit is brought a claimant must make a claim for insurance and prosecute his case on appeal through the appellate agencies of the bureau before he shall have the right to enter suit. Your committee felt that in view of the fact that the Government has set up in the bureau expensive machinery for hearing claims it was unfair for a veteran to disregard this machinery on the basis of the disallowance of his claim by some subordinate board and enter suit.
(6) À savings clause was added at the end to protect the suits already brought, from adverse effect by any amendment included in this section.
Page 9, lines 14 to 18:
Your committee has eliminated from the provisions of section 4 of H. R. 10381, as it passed the House of Representatives, that part which refers to the individual claim of Hal R. Johnson, XC-423901, since that amendment deals specifically with the adjusted-service certificate of the deceased veteran and is not believed to be properly a part of this general legislation. However, for the information of the Senate, under a recent ruling of the Comptroller General the claim can now be paid without amendatory legislation.
Section 5 of the bill adds a subdivision to section 21 to place authority in the director to pay compensation to the person having custody and control of an incompetent or minor beneficiary during the time compensation payments to a guardian may be suspended or withheld under section 21 of the statute as it now stands. At the present time, when the director suspends payments to a guardian, there is no authority to pay any compensation unless the veteran is in a hospital, in which case all or any part of the compensation may be apportioned to his dependents, if any, and also to the medical officer in charge of the hospital for the benefit of the veteran himself under authority of section 202, subdivision (7). Section 23 of the