Letter to Senator Ralph Yarborough on Proposed Increases in Veterans Educational Benefits.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In line with my talk last Friday1 on the rising cost of living, I must tell you of my deep concern regarding certain provisions of H.R. 11959, now pending Senate consideration.
Title I of this measure, as amended by the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, would raise veteran's educational assistance allowances by an average of 46% over current rates. Such increases would be retroactive to September 1, and would mean added expenditures of more than 393 million dollars over present costs in the remainder of this fiscal year. Together with the costs of the bill's Title II provisions, total extra spending through June 30, 1970, would be nearly 393 million dollars.
The average additional outlay for each of the next four full fiscal years would be approximately 550 million dollars.
I am in sympathy with a justifiable increase in educational allowances for post-Korean and Vietnam Era veterans. Yet, I consider the magnitude of the increases contained in H.R. 11959 to require reconsideration for two reasons. The proposed rates are excessive and their effect would be inflationary.
In comparison to the actual rise in the cost of living since these allowances were last increased, just two years ago, a 46% increase at this time is unrealistic and excessive. And, if we are to stay within the expenditure limit for fiscal 1970, the cost of H.R. 11959 as now drawn could not be borne without imposing severe cuts in other, also important programs.
It is not easy to criticize the pending bill for it promises some appealing benefits to a most deserving group. But our veterans have long known that they must be champions of responsible government. They know the basic truth that a veterans' program not good for the nation as a whole cannot ultimately be of benefit to veterans themselves.
This summer I appointed a Committee consisting of agency heads having responsibility for programs bearing on the welfare and readjustment of returning veterans. I have received an interim report from its Chairman, Mr. Donald E. Johnson, the Administrator of Veterans Affairs. A copy is attached, inasmuch as the Committee's main recommendation bears directly on :the subject matter of this letter.
The Committee on the Vietnam Veteran addressed the issue as follows:
"Educational assistance allowances were last increased October 1, 1967. Since that date the cost of living has risen approximately 10%. Included in that increase is an even more dramatic rise in one of its components, the cost of education. Since the last increase in educational assistance allowances, colleges have increased their charges by roughly 15%. This means that today tuition and fees for an academic year are higher by an average of $94.
"Therefore, your Committee recommends an immediate increase in educational assistance allowance rates commensurate with the rise in education and living costs cited above."
I fully support this recommendation. For this reason and those expressed above, I seek your support in urging the Senate to recognize the inflationary impact that enactment of H.R. 11959 would have. The consequences flowing from its enactment would in the long run more than outweigh any temporary gain that may be realized. As President, I have no option but to view with extreme concern the possible enactment of this measure.
I have sent an identical letter to Senator Javits.
[Honorable Ralph W. Yarborough, Chairman, Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]
Note: Senator Jacob K. Javits was ranking Republican member of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee.
The Interim Report of the President's Committee on the Vietnam Veteran and its letter of transmittal are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, P. 1450).
On October 21, 1969, the White House Press Office also issued the text of a news briefing by Donald E. Johnson, Administrator of Veterans Affairs, concerning the Interim Report.
Richard Nixon, Letter to Senator Ralph Yarborough on Proposed Increases in Veterans Educational Benefits. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239865