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Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees About Improvements in the Veterans Disability Compensation Program

March 04, 1974

I AM WRITING to ask that your committee, the Senate [House] Committee on Veterans' Affairs, work with us in giving special consideration to ways that we can improve the benefits received by disabled veterans and their survivors.

Of the twenty-nine million living veterans in America, over two million have been disabled in the military service of their country. Those who have died of such disabilities have left nearly 375,000 survivors who look to a grateful nation for assistance.

In a sense, the Nation can never fully repay these men and women and their families for their devotion and sacrifice. We can assure, however, that the value of the benefits they receive from veterans programs keeps pace with the cost of living, and we can act to assure that VA compensation to service-disabled veterans provides full compensation for impaired earning ability.

In the past, the Nation has generously responded to the needs of these veterans and their families in a number of ways-through VA compensation payments, medical care, vocational rehabilitation and education, and specially adapted housing, automobiles and life insurance. In total, the Veterans Administration budget will provide $5.3 billion for these programs in fiscal year 1975, an increase of 56 percent over the amount spent in 1969.

It is nonetheless true that many disabled veterans are under-compensated today. As you know, the Congress has been reviewing along with the Administration the results of an in-depth survey of service disabled veterans. The survey was designed to determine the accuracy of the VA compensation rating schedule and thereby the ability of VA compensation payments to meet the declared objective of this program: to compensate veterans for impairment of their earning capacity. Preliminary results of this survey, already shared with your Committee, together with further analysis recently completed, confirms the need for structural change.

These survey results show that many disabled veterans are under-compensated by a rating schedule basically unchanged since 1945 and that the degree of under compensation is greatest for many of the severely disabled. Accordingly, I have asked the Administrator of Veterans Affairs to work with your Committee to develop proposals for basic improvements in the veterans compensation program, including those structural changes which would assure more equitable treatment of the seriously disabled.

As a first step, the Administrator shortly will be sending the following proposals for consideration of the Congress:

--Increases in benefits paid to all recipients of veterans compensation and dependents and indemnity compensation (DIC). The objective is to lift all benefits by the amount of the increase in cost-of-living since increases for these programs were last enacted in August and January of 1972 respectively. This would be accomplished by a 12 percent increase for veterans compensation and a 14 percent for DIC. I propose that these increases be made effective March 1. The total cost of both increases will be $432 million in the first full year following enactment.

--Protection of compensation and DIC benefits in the future. An automatic adjustment in benefits is needed to recognize future increases in the cost-of-living, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This feature would resemble that which I have proposed already for protection of VA pension recipients.

---Structural changes in veterans compensation which will bring the disability ratings of underrated veterans up to a level corresponding to what survey data show to be their actual degree of impairment. Such action can target VA compensation increases to the veterans suffering the greatest degree of economic hardship imposed by their disability. The cost-of-living adjustment which I am proposing for all disabled veterans, together with the further increases provided by these structural adjustments, will result in far greater percentage increases in compensation for seriously disabled veterans than any across-the-board increase now under consideration.

I know that the Congress shares my concern for disabled veterans and their survivors. Just as this Administration and the Congress are cooperating to develop immediate and needed improvements in the veterans' and widows' pension programs, I look forward to a similar cooperative effort to develop promptly the needed improvements in the veterans compensation program.

With every good wish,



Note: The letters were addressed to the Honorable Vance Hartke and Clifford P. Hansen, chairman and ranking Republican member, respectively, of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee; and to the Honorable William Jennings Bryan Dorn and John P. Hammerschmidt, chairman and ranking Republican member, respectively, of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

On the same day the White House released a fact sheet on the veterans disability compensation program.

Richard Nixon, Letter to Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees About Improvements in the Veterans Disability Compensation Program Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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