A History of the Denial of Benefits to U.S. Veterans

 

Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin has had to follow-up on an inquiry she initiated last spring (2014). She was surprised and frustrated when there was no action and she learned that in inquiry had been iniated in 2011 because of complaints and nothing had been done. We regret to inform Senator Baldwin that the denial of disability claims for in-service injuries started back in 1975.

Senator Baldwin Responds to Tomah VA Investigation
CBS Wausau, Wisconsin
Jan 20, 2015

Senator Baldwin said she received an inquiry about the issues at the [Tomah] VA Center last spring. She said she immediately reached out to the facility and brought the issue up to The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Inspector General of the VA.

"What was outrageous and very, very frustrating for all of us is that the Inspector General had been actually looking at this issue since I think it was 2011, based on some complaints that had come up long before my time as a U.S. senator," Senator Baldwin said.

For the sake of conscientious Congresspersons, such as Senator Baldwin, we have compiled some documents that will shed some light on the history of the denial of benefits to U.S. Veterans, including ones with service injuries.

Until a recent case, Cushman vs Shinseki, Veterans were denied due process of law, which they had been protecting for the American citizens. Note that at the Shinseki had a team of 5 attorneys while Cushman had one pro bono attorney from San Francisco. V.A. cases are all pro bono because 38 U.S.C. 3404/5 make it a crime for an attorney to charge a Veteran a fee. At one count, the V. A. had 750 attorneys on staff to work against the vets claims.

The articles below start with the beginning of denial of Veterans' benefits and moves to present times.

Historical events in the denying of disability and other benefits to U.S. Veterans:

Precedent: Denial of payments to World War I Veterans:

In the spring of 1932, 15,000 World War I Veterans marched on Washington, D.C. to redeem their "Bonus" Coupons for the wages ($1. to $1.25 per day) for their war service. They were demand was immediate cash payments of their certificates. " Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArtur commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned.

Eisenhower later wrote, "the whole scene was pitiful. The veterans were ragged, ill-fed, and felt themselves badly abused. To suddenly see the whole encampment going up in flames just added to the pity."

PBS Documentary: The March of the Bonus Army  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSC1lbfXfRQ

__________________________________

A FACELESS MAN'S PLEA [Real life case history]
Mike Royko, December 10, 1973 & December 11, 1973, Chicago Daily News

Excerpt from VA letter to faceless man: "It is regretted that payment on the above cannot be approved, since the treatment was for a condition other than that of your service-connected disability.

"Outpatient treatment and/or medication may only be authorized for the treatment of a disability which has been adjudicated by the Veterans Administration as incurred in or aggravated by military service.

"Any expense involved for this condition must be a personal transaction between you and the doctor."

I can't even begin to comprehend what they can be talking about. Until he was hit by a rocket, he had teeth. Now he has none. He had eyes. Now he has none. He had a nose. Now he has none. People could look at him. Now most of them turn away. . . So how can this surgery be for anything else but his "service-connected disability?"

________________________________________

Terminating Entitlements: Veterans' Disability Benefits in the Depression

Michael Wallerstein, 1976: Policy Sciences, pp. 173-182

Excerpts: FDR reasoned that, by offering himself as the scapegoat for the cuts, Congress would jump at the chance to achieve economies which it was politically constrained from enacting on its own. Thus, as one of his first actions after assuming office, Roosevelt convened a surprise meeting of bi-partisan Senate leaders to convince them to support a radical proposal to slash $350 million from the Veterans' entitlement and to reduce federal employee wages up to a limit of 15%-thereby saving an additional $150 million-for a total reduction of $500 million....
     When President Roosevelt signed the Economy Act into law on March 20, 1933, he received virtual
"dictatorial powers" over the now totally uprooted system of Veterans' compensation, as well as over federal employee wages.

_________________________________

Open Forum Letter regarding denial of disability claims by V.A.

Richard P. Fox, Attorney, 1983: The Los Angeles Daily Journal

Excerpt: Space does not permit me to describe even some of the travesties of which I am aware, perpetrated on Veterans by the V.A. in denying disability claims.   This is especially true since about 1975 when there seemed to begin an effort to deny benefits whenever possible.  Suffice it to say that V.A. rating boards, secure in knowing no court can review their decisions, sometimes reach conclusions that are totally insupportable logically or even on a common-sense basis. . . 

______________________________

Social Welfare Programs: Federal Outlays in Billions of Constant 1991 Dollars

1992: The Washington Post

Note: The Great Society of the Nixon and Johnson eras did not include Veterans. See the graph at the bottom of the page compiled by the Congressional Research Service for the 26 year period from 1965-1991. It shows a flat line for "Veterans Benefits"—actually, a turn downward in 1975, as reported in the above article by Attorney Richard P. Fox.

_______________________________________

Chief Justice Startled by Government Errors in Veterans Cases

Marcia Coyle, 2010: The National Law Journal

Excerpt: [Justice] ROBERTS: Counsel, do you — do you dispute your friend's statement that 42 percent of the time in Social Security cases the government's position is unjustified, and 70 percent of the time in veterans' cases?

_______________________________________________

American Bar association analyses and concludes:
Cushman's Due Process right was violated by the process he received from the Regional Office (RO), the BVA, and the Veterans Court


Excerpt: Cushman’s due process right was violated by the process he received from the Regional Office (RO), the BVA, and the Veterans Court. Cushman acquired a legitimate claim of entitlement to Veterans benefits due to a spinal injury while serving in a combat infantry battalion in Vietnam. That Cushman received numerous hearings was not relevant to the question of whether he received a fair hearing. His initial TDIU determination was tainted by the altered medical record, and that taint affected all subsequent hearings. Thus, none of the subsequent hearings satisfied Cushman’s due process right to a fair hearing.

DUE PROCESS AND THE AMERICAN VETERAN: WHAT THE CONSTITUTION CAN TELL US ABOUT THE VETERANS‘ BENEFITS SYSTEM

Michael Allen, 8-8-2012 University of Cincinnati Law Review , Volume 80 Issue 2

Excerpt: This Article concerns a recent and important development in the area of veterans‘ benefits determinations, one that has significant implications for both the practical workings of the process as well as for how we consider that system at a fundamental level. The CAVC‘s decisions may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In 2009, the Federal Circuit held in Cushman v. Shinseki that applicants for veterans‘ benefits have a constitutionally protected property interest in their application for benefits. Accordingly, such applicants are entitled to constitutionally prescribed procedures in connection with their claims for benefits under the terms of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

_________________________________

Veterans say legitimate claims routinely denied or ignored

Keith Rogers, Dec. 13, 2014, 11:03pm  Las Vegas Review Journal

Excerpt: Mahoney, who served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea in 1950, suffered wounds and mental problems from a mortar blast that heaved him 15 feet into the air. After a hospital stint in Japan, he was taken to Fort Hood, Texas, where he underwent a series of electro­shock treatments in 1951 that “blotted out my memory for nine months.”

Two Army evaluation boards determined he was 100 percent disabled, but a third said he was only 10 percent disabled. The Army then told him he was cured and discharged him in 1952.

The VA immediately opened a claim but never processed it or issued a decision and never told him about it.