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Mr. WHITTINGTON. You mean to Mrs. Meyer's statement or to the plan.
Mr. HALLBECK. The statement and the plan. She made the statement that despite any wrongs that might be inherent or might be contained in the plan, it was far more important that the plan be adopted immediately than that those wrongs be corrected. I believe Dr. Judd offered some disagreement and I find upon discussing the matter that most of the organization at least agree with Dr. Judd.
We believe it is far better to correct Reorganization Plan No. 2 even if it delays for a period of 60 days the application of that plan.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. In other words, as I understand it, you are opposed to the section that has to do with the compensation commission?
Mr. HALLBECK. Yes. We have found that to be a very well managed, well organized, group that is operated at a minimum of expense, and with equal justice to the employees and to the Government of which it is a part.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. Without meaning to detain you, we are glad to have your statement. Let you keep in mind, as you leave us, that there are many claims that are investigated by agencies that are not denominated as nonpartisan. When the employees' organization was organized, we had about a billion dollar Government for the first time. Take, for instance, a few of them. The Veterans' Administration has a single head.' That examines the claims of probably fifteen to twenty-five million people. They do it with a single administrator, and they do it by appeals boards that have been provided. There is no agency in the Government that handles more claims than the Administrator of the Veterans Affairs in the United States.
Secondly, this method is pursued by the Social Security Board that is being transferred here, and they adjudicate by agencies ånd committees that they appoint. This method has been pursued in the Board of Immigration Appeals, the method of setting up an agency. I know how you feel and know how others feel, but I doubt personally from my experience in 20 years that any member of the Board of Compensation knows whether the claimant is a Democrat or Republican. I have never heard that matter injected in it.
But, anway the Board of Immigration Appeals and these agencies that everybody set up under the Department of Justice provide for this same type of appeal. Then in the case of patents, there is a similar provision. When we came to adjudicate the claims, it amounted to billions and billions of dollars in the more recent legislation; instead of putting up what you might call a nonpartisan board, they provided for these boards of apeals in the contract settlement cases, and in the Department of Interior there have been these cases set up for many, many years where boards of appeals have been set up with final decision by the Secretary. Then in the War Contract Price Adjustment Board, whatever you say about it, instead of these agencies being called non partisan as they were when they had just a few adjudications years and years ago—personally, I do not thing the matter of partisan ought to ever enter into it. I want you to keep in mind whatever disposition either the Congress or this committee makes of the matter of transferring one of these boards called bipartisan, that that policy has long ago been abandoned in the Veterans Administration and in agencies to which I have referred.
Mr. CHURCH. Mr. Chairman, you are referring to activities that have to do with the old-line Federal activities, Veterans' Administration, posttal
employees and such. It is different when you come to mattere that affect housing, the work of the individual activity in the States, it's entirely different.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I understand that.
Mr. HALLBECK. I would say that the main difference in that is that one is more or less of a welfare activity. Many of those which you enumerated, particularly social security, are of a welfare nature. I do not believe it can be considered that compensation is a welfare agency.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. I understand that.
UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION The functions of the United States Employees' Compensation commission are transferred to the Federal Security Agency and shall be performed in such manner and under such rules and regulations as the Federal Security Administrator shall prescribe. Such regulations shall provide for a board of three persons to be designated or appointed by the Federal Security Administrator with authority to hear and, subject to applicable law, make final decision on appeals taken from determinations and awards with respect to claims of employees of the Federal Government or of the District of Columbia. The United States Employees' Compensation Commission is abolished.
The enactment of the Employees' Compensation Act in 1916 was the result of years of effort by employees of the Federal Government to obtain for themselves and for their families and dependents protection against the misfortunes which follow injury or death from accidents at work or from disease contracted from their employment. Of major concern to all employees is the guaranty of fair and impartial administration of the law.
This concern was evident at the time the law was being considered by the Congress. At that time employees' representatives, the American Association for Labor Legislation, which was active in support of the legislation, the Commissioner of Labor Statistics of the Federal Department of Labor, who administered the old inadequate benefits of the 1908 law, and others stressed the importance of administration by an independent commission.
The Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives in its report of May 11, 1916, recommending the enactment of the compensation law stated:
It seemed to the committee that the administration of this act could best be performed by an independent commission. It is a matter concerning the relations between the Government as a whole and its employees as a whole and should not be placed under the supervision of any one department.
It is significant to note that the report of the committee of Congress represented the considered judgment of its members after hearing and weighing the views and recommendations of those whose interests are directly and vitally affected by the administration, of the compensation law and of impartial experts on the subject of workmen's compensation. It is of greater significance to note that in the development of the plan to abolish the bipartisan independent commission form of administration the Bureau of the Budget did not hear or apparently consider the views of representatives of the postal service or of any other organizations of employees or of any interests affected by the law. Mr. Harold D. Smith, Director of the Bureau of the Budget,
testifying before this committee, stated the Bureau was not concerned with the views or opinions of parties outside the Government and that it made no attempt to ascertain how the interests of such parties would be affected.
That the Bureau was not concerned with the administration of the compensation law is clearly confirmed by the letter transmitting plan No. 2 to the Congress which reputedly was drafted by the Bureau for the signature of the President. The letter states that the action abolishing the Compensation Commission and transferring its functions to the Federal Security Agency where such functions will be diffused and integrated with a national welfare and health program is intended “to strengthen its (the Security Agency) internal organization and management."
There is a very obvious danger to the interest of postal workers and all Federal employees inherent in the abolition of a bipartisan independent commission to consider and decide their rights under the compensation law and the transfer of this function to a single administrator, subject to all the vagaries of partisan control.
Under the proposed new method of administration, the compensation law will be merged with the administration of a general welfare program. This is a new concept of workmen's compensation. It is a radical departure from the universally accepted view that workmen's compensation benefits is a substantial fundamental "right" and not a gratuitous grant or insurance plan for relief or welfare. It is the substituted right of an employee against his employer for the older common law action. While I am not a lawyer, I believe that this represents the judicial view concerning all workmen's compensation legislation.
Concerning the Federal employees' compensation law, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Posey v. T.V. A., stated :
This compensation is the sole remedy ordinarily available to an injured employee of the United States because of the general refusal to permit suits for torts. It is not a gratuity or grace but a measured justice operating on the same general basis as State workmen's compensation laws.
This fundamental right of Federal employees under the plan designed by the Bureau of the Budget is merged with a national welfare program. Decisions affecting such rights are to be made by the administrator of the welfare agency whose appointment is on a partisan political basis. Appeal from his decisions will be to a board of three members appointed by him and consequently subject to his control. The results where partisan administration of State workmen's compensation law has been tried are all well known. It is for this reason that three-fourths of all State laws have an independent commission form of administration and alone is a compelling reason for employees to protect such form of administration. Defeat of Reorganization Plan No. 2 for this reason alone would be justified.
Not least mysterious in the plan of the Bureau of the Budget to abolish the Employees' Compensation Commission is the fact that such action is proposed in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Commission has operated efficiently and economically.
The Compensation Commission in 1945 paid out more than $14,000,000 for compensation benefits for the injury and death of Government employees. Its administrative cost connected with the Federal Employees' Act amounted to approximately $900,000, or 6.4 percent of the benefits paid. The Commission is one of the few agencies of the Government to receive a compliment rarely bestowed by a congressional appropriations committee for economy in administrative expenditures. In reporting the annual appropriation for the Commission for 1942, the House Committee on Appropriations stated :
The committee desires to commend the Commission for the economical way in which the Commission has been operated. Such a record is deserving of a real plaudit.
The importance to employees of the Federal Government of the administration of the Federal employees' compensation law is emphasized by the report of operations under such law. The Compensation Commission reports show that in the 542 years between January 1, 1940, and June 30, 1945, the Commission received more than 625,000 reports of injury to Government employees. The estimated compensation benefits payable in such cases amount to more than $51,000,000. Nearly $6,000,000 of such benefits are in connection with employees of the Post Office Department. During such period 99 postal employees suffered fatal injuries and the average award of death benefits in such fatal cases was $12,064 per case.
Postal employees generally have a very substantial interest in the administration of the compensation-for-injury law. The experience of our organization, dating from the enactment of the law in 1916, leads us to the conclusion that the interests of the employees may best be served by the present bipartisan commission form of organization,
I therefore respectfully urge that the committee in its wisdom favorably report House Concurrent Resolution No. 151 submitted by Mr. Pittenger.
I want to thank the chairman and the members of the committee for this opportunity to express the views of the National Federation of Post Office Clerks.
I would like to say one word more. I was glad to hear the member from Pennsylvania of the Judiciary Committee say that that committee considered plan No. 2 beyond legality.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. With all due deference, it will not be the first time that that committee or any other committee made a mistake.
Mr. CHURCH. The questions of compensation and the handling of those matters, do they essentially all conflict with the problem of welfare? They are two essentially different ideas.
Mr. HALLBECK. One is a substitute for a legal right.
Mr. CHURCH. If one dominates the other, then you have lost in your case the benefit of representation for the interest of the compensation problem, does that summarize your statement?
Mr. HALLBECK. Yes.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. We are glad to have your statement. Mr. Clarence F. Stinson, with the National Association of Letter Carriers, desires to make a statement.
STATEMENT OF CLARENCE F. STINSON, SECRETARY, NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS Mr. STINSON. Mr. Chairman, I only desire to take about 2 minutes. My name is Clarence F. Stinson, :I am secretary of the National Association of Letter Carriers, an organization of over 70,000 letter carriers, located in every city in the United States. On behalf of my organization, I appear here for the purpose of opposing plan 2. I note here in plan 2 that the President in his message said that this proposes to reduce expenditures and promote economy, and to increase efficiency.
I have been down here as legislative representative of my organization for many years. I have had personal contact with the Compensation Commission ever since it was organized in 1916. I know of no governmental agency in the entire governmental set-up that has a representation for fairer dealing and more efficiency than the Compensation Commission.
Under the plan which you have proposed here, it is proposed to set up a board of three to whom we can go with our cases. In the past, we have had the most difficult cases with the Compensation Commission. It must be remembered, with all due respect to your statement, that I can see no connection whatsoever between the Compensation Commission and the various agencies to which you refer, because in each and every one of these cases, personal injury is involved. The question as to whether or not the man was actually injured while performing his duty is involved.
Perhaps if the examiner turns down tho case, we have the opportunity of personally appearing before the Board of Commissioners themselves, the three men, and it takes a majority vote to decide on the case. We have got a wonderfully efficient agency and you propose to set up something untried and unknown. It appears to me somewhat similar to an epitaph that appears on a tombstone up in the Boston cemetery. It runs something like this: "I was well. I wanted to be better. I saw a doctor and here I am.” That is what you propose to do here. You propose to give us something new. I sincerely hope that this committee might see its way clear to kill plan No. 2 for the time being and later on bring the other features of this plan into effect.
Now, the AFL, with which our association is connected, is also opposed to this legislation. With your permission, I desire to read here a copy of a letter which has been sent to every member of this committee. [Reading:]
Over a period of years conventions of the AFL have adopted resolutions calling for a continuance of the United States Employment Compensation as an independent bipartisan agency. We believe the plan will not meet the intent of the bill as passed by Congress insofar as economies are concerned, and that the plan in regard to the compensation commission is unlawful and unconstitutional. We, therefore, oppose Reorganization Plan No. 2, and request its rejection. Your attention is also directed to a letter I wrote to Chairman Manasco on May 23, 1946, regarding the Government reorganization plans, of which I am mailing you a copy.
WILLIAM GREEN, Président of the AFL.