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Veto of Bill for the Relief of Fred P. Hines.

July 20, 1953

To the United States Senate:

I return herewith, without my approval, S. 152, "An Act For. the relief of Fred P. Hines."

The bill directs the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs to pay to Mr. Fred P. Hines, the sum of $778.78, representing the amount claimed as the cost of private hospital and medical expenses incurred in 1948 in treating a disability not connected with his active military service.

Mr. Hines served in the United States Army during the Spanish-American War and was honorably discharged on November 18, 1898. He did not incur a disability while in the military service and he has not suffered any service-incurred disability since then.

This veteran is eligible for medical care and hospitalization in a Veterans' Administration hospital for conditions not of service origin, provided facilities are available and he is unable to pay for such care elsewhere. He has availed himself of Veterans' Administration treatment on numerous occasions. On the occasion in question he chose not to do so.

The record, I believe, reasonably supports the conclusion that this veteran had personal knowledge of the limiting rules and policy governing his case. He was aware that they precluded the Federal Government from assuming responsibility for the costs of private care. In 1947, he requested the Veterans' Administration to pay a private hospital bill which he incurred for a non-service-connected condition. By letter dated February 21, 1947, Mr. Hines was advised by the Veterans' Administration of the denial of his claim for the reason that the expenses were incurred for treatment of non-service-connected conditions.

Despite the legislative finding in the bill, the record establishes that a medical emergency did not exist when Mr. Hines first began to incur the private medical and hospital expenses involved in his claim. In my judgment, no question of professional or administrative malfeasance is involved.

The extenuating factors advanced in the Committee reports for special legislation do not, I believe, present acceptable grounds for equitable relief for Mr. Hines or the basis for exceptional and preferred treatment.

The plight of this elderly veteran provokes a spontaneous desire to lighten his burden. Were this an insolated case, I would have no hesitancy in approving this bill. But it is not. We have twenty million veterans who are eligible for hospital care in Federal hospitals under varying restrictive conditions. The precedent that would be established by approval of this bill cannot be dismissed. Many, many other cases have been denied similar relief. The Veterans' Administration annually, by administrative action, disallows more than 500 similar claims of Spanish American War veterans alone for reimbursement of medical and hospital expenses based on equally justifiable reasons. The Veterans' Administration estimates that the same kind of claims filed annually by veterans of other wars aggregate several thousand annually.

I believe that in a Federal program as large as the veterans' hospital program it is particularly important to administer the laws and regulations uniformly and with special favor for none. Yielding to compassion or special pleas would eventually destroy the effectiveness of the program. The end result would be to set aside the sound and desirable distinction between service-connected and non-service-connected disability cases. From every standpoint the choice presented by this bill is the same. If the bill were to be approved, it would mean acceptance of the premise that any veteran should be given the right to determine when and where and under what circumstances he may commit the Federal Government to the payment of private medical and hospital expenses for non-service-connected disabilities. I believe that the establishment of such a policy would be unsound and indefensible.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Veto of Bill for the Relief of Fred P. Hines. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231782

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