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The CHAIRMAN. How much of the $25,000,000 that we gave you in the last deficiency bill and the $32,000,000 which we gave you in the regular annual bill have you expended?
Mr. BREINING. $24,800,000.
Mr. BREINING. The obligations are problematical. I should say twelve to fifteen million dollars.
The CHAIRMAN. The cash balance means that you have that much in the Treasury!
Mr. BREINING. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. How much have you on deposit with these institutions where you are having your patients cared for?
Mr. BREINING. How much have we allotted ?
The CHAIRMAN. You have cash balances in the allotments; how much have they rendered against them!
Mr. ROUTSONG. Take the Public Health Service, for example; the allotments we have made to the Public Health Service do not come up to their encumbrances according to their statement to us up to this time, and in order to take care of this quarter, that is, January, February, and March, it will be necessary to allot $9,000,000 more to them to carry them through the quarter.
The CHAIRMAN. Out of the $24,000,000 you have on hand?
Mr. BREINING. Contract hospital bills, medical services, fee examinations.
The CHAIRMAN. This $9,000,000 is for what period?
The CHAIRMAN. That would be at the rate of about $12,000,000 a month?
Mr. BREINING. No; the figure I gave you is up to last month, $24,800,000. That leaves $15,000,000. We spent $6,600,000 last month.
The CHAIRMAN. You have $24,000,000 on hand now!
The CHAIRMAN. And you propose to allot $9,000,000 out of that which will meet your obligations up to the 31st of March?
Mr. BREINING. Only for the Public Health Service.
Mr. BREINING. We have to allot enough to carry them to the 31st of March.
The CHAIRMAN. So you have only three activities to provide for? Mr. BREINING. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You begin the three months with $15,000,000, having already provided for the Public Health Service, the Army and Navy, and the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, and you add $20,000,000 to that. That gives you $35,000,000 from the 31st of March?
Mr. BREINING. From the $35,000,000 I have to take $10,000,000 encumbrances and for two months $6,000,000 for administrative expenses, drugs, physical examinations and direct treatment from our own bureau, $6,500,000 from the 1st of April.
The CHAIRMÁN. You have $19,000,000 left, according to that, for the three months?
Mr. BREINING. $6,500,000; that would be $19,500,000.
COST OF MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS,
The CHAIRMAN. What about the cost for these medical examinations?
Mr. BREINING. They have been reduced because the director has inaugurated a policy that wherever possible to make our own examinations. I think we stated the amount paid out for examinations.
The CHAIRMAN. What is the highest rate?
Mr. BREINING. That is the standard price. For anything over $5 there has to be a special reason such as a special examination made by a specialist in mental and nervous diseases.
COST OF DENTAL WORK.
The CHAIRMAN. What about the cost of dental work?
Col. FORBES. We have new regulations on that; we have reduced that.
The CHAIRMAN. Can anybody get dental work if he wants it? Col. FORBES. Yes, sir; practically.
The CHAIRMAN. Why is that? Is all he has to do to say he wants to have it done?
Col. FORBES. Practically; yes, sir.
Col. FORBES. Men are entitled to dental treatment under the Sweet bill even though they have a disability of less than 10 per cent. Heretofore, a man must have had a disability of 10 per cent or greater.
Mr. Woon. Some of those cases run up to $100 or more?
Mr. Wood. There is a minimum of about $10, and a maximum of about $45.
Col. FORBES. That may be true in some cases.
Mr. ROUTSONG. I think they gave you the average figure, which is around $47. I have personally seen many of the bills from the designated examiners or contract dentists, and they run up as high as $300.
Mr. Woon. Under their scheme of treatment they have attempted to relieve the situation of a lot of these cases coming in where the dentist could do any amount of work that he wanted.
Col. FORBES. I would like to say that the change in that program was made by the Veterans' Bureau. We have a dental schedule as to what a man can charge for his work, and we have also dental treatment defined so that any man can not get all of the dental work that he wants unless clearly entitled to same under the law.
The CHAIRMAN. Who decides that?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you have some board to pass on how far the dentist can go?
Col. FORBES. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. And they must confine themselves within the limits of that authority?
Col. FORBES. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Let us go back, if we can, to this proposition of the $24,000,000, from which you take $9,000,000 to carry you up to the 31st of March, leaving $15,000,000. Then, you ask for $20,000.000 more?
Col. FORBES. We have $10,000,000 obligated. Mr. BREINING. I figure that we paid out $12,000,000 after the 1st of July last year. It is purely an estimate.
The CHAIRMAN. What is it obligated for?
Mr. BREINING. Mostly for contract hospitals. When they present their bills—they are supposed to send their bills every month. Of course, if they do not present the bills we do not go out after them.
The CHAIRMAN. Can you tell us how many patients you have in the contract hospitals that are not paid for?
Mr. BREINING. I could, of course, by going all over the country. The CHAIRMAN. Do you not know where they are?
Mr. BREINING. We know where the patients are, but we would have to go out and check up the records to see what was the charge in each individual case. We check that up when the bill comes in.
The CHAIRMAN. What is this $6,000,000 ?
ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES FOR FEBRUARY AND MARCH.
Mr. BREINING. The $6,000,000 is for administrative expenses during February and March. That is to carry us up to the 1st of April. The CHAIRMAN. What period ?
Mr. BREINING. From January 31, but I gave you the $24,000,000 as unobligated.
The Chairman. The $6,000,000 came out of the hospitals, purely for hospital service?
Mr. BREINING. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You have already paid your obligations up to the present time for administrative purposes?
Mr. BREINING. The figure that I gave you was up to January 31.
The CHAIRMAN. You figure that it will cost $6,000,000 from January 31 to March 31 ?
Mr. BREINING. Yes, sir; or $3,000,000 per month.
Col. FORBES. Yes, sir; it is, and we are reducing it. As I told you this morning, this committee that I sent out in the field has as its principal function the reduction of the cost of operation.
The CHAIRMAN. When do they have to report back?
Col. FORBES. They have just finished at Boston, and are in New York now.
They will come back this way, or I will have them come back this way. I gave them a questionnaire to take with them covering all of the subjects that they were able to check up on and correct, if they found a wrong to exist. They will bring that data back to us, and they will meet with our board here in the central office.
The CHAIRMAN. Do these men in the district offices have authority to use these funds indiscriminately in employing services?
Col. FORBES. No, sir; they must obtain authority from central office before putting people on the pay roll.
The CHAIRMAN. How do you know whether their recommendations are justified or not?
Col. FORBES. Most of the men they ask for are taken from the civil-service lists, and the volume of work is checked against their requisitions for personnel.
The CHAIRMAN. Is there any disposition to increase the number of those people?
Col. FORBES. If such occurs, it is remedied by me.
INCREASE IN SALARIES.
The CHAIRMAN. Have there been any increases of compensation granted out of the lump-sum appropriation to employees in the service?
Col. FORBES. I do not quite understand you?
Col. FORBES. On the recommendation of the district managers and chiefs of divisions.
The CHAIRMAN. But we do not allow anybody to do that anywhere else, and why should you do it?
Col. FORBES. As I said, the district managers make recommendations that certain salaries be increased, and occasionally we grant the increases.
The CHAIRMAN. We have an inflexible rule in this committee that no increases in salary shall be allowed out of lump-sum appropriations. We have not allowed any statutory salaries to be increased, and this seems to be the only place where that practice has gone on.
Mr. BREINING. Most of those increases are where men have been assigned to higher positions. Of course, there have been promotions in positions and should have corresponding increase in pay commensurate with added responsibilities.
The CHAIRMAN. If it only applies to cases where men are transferred from lower to higher places, where there is a vacancy, there can be no objection to it, of course, but if the higher places are created just for the purpose of paying higher salaries, that is another proposition.
Col. FORBES. It is not the rule of the bureau, nor will it be, to create jobs for the purpose of increasing salaries. The rule of the
bureau is to reduce the cost of operation to the limit and do away with positions rather than increase them.
The CHAIRMAN. We have adopted a uniform rule here to be followed by every department of the Government, and that rule is to allow no increases under any circumstances. That applies to statutory positions, and, of course, where lump-sum appropriations are made we want the same rule applied to them.
Col. FORBES. We do exactly what Congress directs us to do in that regard.
The CHAIRMAN. I suppose the way to do it is to tie it up by restrictions so that you can not grant increases. We can tie it up with limitations and fix you up in that way.
Mr. BREINING. There is one thing that must be considered in that connection, and that is that in opening up the district offices and sending to them compensation claims in the field, positions must necessarily be created. That is something we did not have before, because we had one claims division here. It was not necessary then to have 14 different claims divisions out there in the field. It is necessary now to have claim examiners, and we put a heavy responsibility upon them. Of course, we must increase the salaries commensurate with the increased responsibilities. As a matter of fact, the salaries being paid now are ridiculously low as compared with what is paid by outside institutions for the some or similar work.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not quite agree with that. Of course, that is always the argument.
Mr. Wood. How much have you increased the personnel by reason of this reorganization?
Col. FORBES. Our greatest increase has been in the rehabilitation division or for vocational training purposes.
Mr. Wood. You got down to less than 5,000 at one time.
Mr. BREINING. No, sir; that was the old Bureau of War Risk Insurance.
Mr. Woop. Somebody told me that you were up to about 23,000 now?
Mr. BREINING. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. They have 5,097 here. They claim in their testimony that they took over 6,000 from the old Bureau of War Risk and Public Health Service and about 1,000 from the Vocational Training Board. If you add them to the number that they had, it would make 7,097, and they have reduced to 5,097, including those that were added. They have 13,500 people in the district and suboffices.
Col. FORBES. Decentralization has increased the force very materially.
RENTS. The CHAIRMAN. There is a great deal of complaint about the exorbitant rents that you are paying at the division headquarters.
Col. FORBES. In reply to that, I will say that we are occupying to-day about 200,000 additional square feet of space, and we are doing that without any material increase in the rent. We have reduced rents.