The President today signed an Executive Order continuing the fifteen percent reduction in compensation of Federal officers and employees until June 30, 1934.
The Department of Labor reported two sets of findings. The first, based on the cost of living for families of wage earners and lower salaried workers in 32 cities scattered throughout the United States, reveals that the average cost of living for these groups in our population was, during the last half of 1933, 21.1 below the average of the base period of December, 1927, and June, 1928. In this set of findings the decline in the cost of living in the District of Columbia for similar families was 17.9.
The second set of findings resulted from a special study of the cost of living of Government employees in the District of Columbia and was made during the past three months by the Labor Department. These show a decline in the cost of living of 14.6 percent.
In view of the above and because the law provides for index figures covering all parts of the country, it is necessary to continue the present scale until June 30, 1934.
March 27, 1934. Veto of the Appropriations Bill.
To the House of Representatives:
I return herewith without my approval H. R. 6663 entitled "An Act making appropriations for the Executive Office and sundry independent executive bureaus, boards, commissions, and offices, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1935, and for other purposes." I am impelled to do this on a number of grounds, any one of them sufficient to require disapproval of the Bill.
In March, 1933, the Congress passed, and I signed "An Act to maintain the credit of the United States Government." This law became one of the principal pillars of national recovery for the clear reason that for the first time in many years the recurring annual expenses for the maintenance of the Government were brought within the current revenues of the Government. It is true that very large but wholly distinct funds are being dispensed daily for emergency purposes, but these funds are going directly to the purpose of saving farms, saving homes and giving relief and employment to millions of our fellow citizens. They are nonrecurring in nature, while the increases contemplated in this Bill are continuous and permanent.
Furthermore, the Budget submitted by me to the Congress on January 4, 1934, laid down a definite program of expenditures and a definite estimate of receipts. Because of the emergency expenditures for relief and unemployment, the expected total deficits this year and in 1935 are necessarily large; but at the same time a program for a completely balanced budget by June 30, 1936, was determined upon as a definite objective.
This Bill exceeds the estimates submitted by me in the sum of $228,000,000. I am compelled to take note of the fact that in creating this excess the Congress has failed at the same time to provide a similar sum by additional taxation. Moreover, to the extent that the amount of money appropriated by the Congress is in excess of my Budget estimates, and in the absence of provision for additional revenues, there must be a decrease in the funds available for essential relief work.
This Bill increases the compensation for employees of the United States Government $125,000,000 over my Budget estimates for this purpose. I have great sympathy for the employees, but I cannot forget that millions of American citizens are today still without employment, and reduction in the compensation of Federal employees has been and still is on the average less than the reduction in compensation that has been patiently endured by those citizens not in the employ of the United States Government.
Let me be specific. This Bill makes a portion of the restored compensation retroactive to February 1, 1934. I believe it unwise to establish this precedent, and I cannot overlook the serious administrative difficulties involved in paying back pay to individuals, many of whom are no longer in the employ of the Government.
The Bill also contains several discriminatory provisions, such as paying employees in some departments of the Government 48 hours' pay for 40 hours' work.
In submitting the Budget estimates last December, I recommended compensation restoration of 5 percent for the next fiscal year. The cost of living seems to be rising slowly. The present authority is not responsive enough to changing conditions. I therefore shall be glad to confer with the Congress on improving the methods of restoring Federal pay so that in actual practice the pay will keep ahead of the cost of living increases instead of lagging behind. Adjustments can well be made immediately on the passage of appropriate legislation followed by more frequent adjustments in the future.
I come now to the provisions in this Act relating to World War veterans. First let me speak of principles. Last October I said this to the American Legion Convention:
"The first principle, following inevitably from the obligation of citizens to bear arms, is that the Government has a responsibility for and toward those who suffered injury or contracted disease while serving in its defense.
"The second principle is that no person, because he wore a uniform, must thereafter be placed in a special class of beneficiaries over and above all other citizens. The fact of wearing a uniform does not mean that he can demand and receive from his Government a benefit which no other citizen receives. It does not mean that because a person served in the defense of his country, performed a basic obligation of citizenship, he should receive a pension from his Government because of a disability incurred after his service had terminated, and not connected with that service.
"It does mean, however, that those who were injured in or as a result of their service are entitled to receive adequate and generous compensation for their disabilities. It does mean that generous care shall be extended to the dependents of those who died in or as a result of service to their country."
I am very confident that the American people, including the overwhelming majority of veterans themselves, approve these principles and in the last analysis will support them.
Applying them to the provisions of this Bill I cannot give it my approval.
Last year it was determined—and I had hoped permanently-that a service-connected disability is a question of fact rather than a question of law. In other words, each individual case should and· must be considered on its merits and there is no justification for legislative dicta which, contrary to fact, provide that thousands of individual cases of sickness which commenced four, five or six years after the termination of the War are caused by war service. Therefore local boards were established—boards on which three out of the five members were in no way connected with the Veterans Administration and on which two-thirds of those serving were ex-service men. These local boards approved disallowances in the case of 29,000 veterans and these decisions were unanimous in 94 percent of the cases. Not content with that, I created a Board of Appeals the majority of which again are in no way connected with the Veterans Administration and a majority of which are ex-service men. This Board is now engaged in hearing appeals of those cases disallowed by the local boards.
A few weeks ago I gave approval to an amendment the purpose of which was, pending the determination of their appeals to restore to the rolls at 75 percent of their compensation, those veterans in whose cases the presumption of service connection was disallowed by the local boards. This, however, was rejected in the Congress. I intend now by regulation forthwith to direct an appeal by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs in each and every one of these disallowed 29,000 cases with the further direction that in the final determination of these cases every reasonable doubt be resolved in favor of the veteran, and every assistance be rendered in the preparation and presentation of these cases. While these cases are pending, the veterans will be paid 75 percent of the compensation they received prior to the time they were removed from the rolls. If the appeal is allowed they will receive back compensation. Only in cases disallowed by the Board of Appeals will the veteran thereafter be permanently removed from the rolls. This regulation will be put into effect at once.
By reason of the fact that many totally and permanently disabled veterans have been the recipients of benefits from their Government for a long period of time, it is difficult in the event of a disallowance of service connection by the final Board of Appeals to remove them completely from the rolls. Existing regulations therefore provide that if their cases are disallowed and if they are found to be totally and permanently disabled they shall, notwithstanding fundamental principles enunciated, if in need, receive $30.00 a month and domiciliary care and hospitalization.
It is a simple and undeniable fact that the United States, in terms of compensation and in terms of hospitalization, has done and is doing infinitely more for our veterans and their dependents than any other Government.
I come now to the provisions of the Bill relating to Spanish-American War veterans. To this group of ex-service men I have devoted much thought. Because of their age, they command sympathy. Nevertheless, we must recognize also that many abuses have crept into the laws granting them benefits.
The Spanish-American War Veterans' Amendment to this Act provides for service pensions. This violates the principles upon which benefits to veterans should be paid and the principles to which I have referred in this message. Moreover, if that principle should in the future be applied to the World War veterans at the same rate as contemplated for Spanish-American War veterans by this Bill, the annual and continuing charge upon the people of this country by 1949 will amount to more than $830,000,000 for that item alone. This would be in addition to the large cost of all existing veterans' benefits and future hospitalization. This I cannot approve.
However, I am today directing the restoration to the rolls of those Spanish-American War veterans who in 1920 were receiving pensions as a result of having sustained an injury or incurred a disease arising out of their war service.
By Regulation 12 a presumption of service origin was extended to Spanish-American War veterans on the rolls on March 19,1933. In order to take the same action which I am taking in regard to World War veterans, I am directing the restoration to the rolls, as of this date, at 75 percent of the amount they were receiving on March 19, 1933, all Spanish-American War veterans pending a final determination of their cases before the Board of Appeals.
Without going further into all of the details relating to the treatment—past, present and future—of Spanish-American War veterans, it seems sufficient to repeat that I am wholly and irrevocably opposed to the principle of the general service pension, but I do seek to provide with liberality for all those who suffered because of their service in that War. As in the case of World War veterans, I shall not hesitate further to alter or modify the regulations in order that substantial justice may be done in every individual case.
What you and I are seeking is justice and fairness in the individual case. I call your specific attention to the fact that since the original regulations were established a year ago actual experience has shown many cases where these regulations required modification. I have not hesitated to take the necessary action and have issued regulations which have made many changes. These changes based on principles of justice to the individual veteran involve additional expenditures of approximately $117,000,000. It goes without saying that I shall not hesitate to make further changes if the principles of justice demand them.
On the basis of the original regulations following the Economy Act, the annual cost to the United States of veterans' relief was $486,000,000. Since that time by Executive Order the addition of $117,000,000 increases to $603,000,000 the total cost for veterans' relief for the fiscal year 1935.
My disapproval of this Bill is not based solely on the consideration of dollars and cents. There is a deeper consideration. You and I are concerned with the principles herein enunciated. I trust that the Congress will continue to cooperate with me in our common effort to restore general prosperity and relieve distress.