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Viewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 online

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cans, of which 95 percent were volunteers. I think that speaks for
itself. We are of a Warrior Society, and I want to explain what a
Warrior Society is among Native Americans. We are not ruthless
in that way. We are not a ruthless, murdering society, and we pray
to live in harmony with all creatures. We say a prayer before we
enter combat. We say a prayer always. I grew up in the woods of
Canada on an Indian reserve, and when we would go hunting or
when we hunt for buffalo, we pray for the animals before we shoot
them. I want to stress that part. We are not ruthless in that way.

I was pleased to talk with Representative Maxine Waters yester-
day about the impact of Native Americans. Our voting record is 80
percent, which is very, very high. As Representative Waters stated,
that in some states, like Arizona, New Mexico and certain counties;
for whom our Native Americans vote may tilt the elections and
thus make the difference, in the ellections.

Regarding Indian health, I am hoping that you and others of this
panel, Mr. Chairman, will be able to help restore the 13 percent
cut that is being made against the Indian Health Service.



40

As Peterson Zah, the eminent Navajo, said: "It is time to place
on the Supreme Court a Native American." He certainly feels that
he has excellent judges on his reservation that represent some
210,000 Navajos.

We have had outstanding Native Americans. Many people do not
realize that Charles Curtis, who was a Vice President, was a Na-
tive American. And we have other outstanding American Indians
which I will mention later.

(Subsequently, Dr. Richardson furnished the following informa-
tion:)

Houston B. Teehee, a Cherokee was Treasurer of the United States for many
years; Scott Monaday, a Kiowa was a famous Puhtzer Prize Winner; Maria Tall
Chief, her sister and four other Indian Women danced in Russia as Prima Balle-
rinas, the Cherokees and the Choctaws had Ambassadors at the Court of St. James
in England; Kateri Kekawitha, a St. Regis Mohawk is being processed through the
Catholic Church for Canonization, Tecumseh; a Shawnee Chief was a Brigadier
General, on the Citizen's Ticket with Barry Commoner; LaDonna Harris was the
first female Vice Presidential Candidate in USA; Sacajawea, a Shoshoni, the first
transcontinental guide; Sequoyah, a Cherokee, the only person to invent an alphabet
all by himself; Billy Mills the Gold Medal winner in the 10,000 meter Olympic race
in 1964; Jimmy Thorpe, a Fox-Sac Indian, in all countries is labeled the world's
greatest athlete; Winston Churchill and David Eisenhower mothers were part In-
dian; the Navajo Code Talkers were the only group of individuals to develop a code
the Japanese couldn't break; the U.S. Constitution was derived from the Iroquois
Confederacy; the escape and evasion tactics taught at West Point Military Academy
is modeled after Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce; and a wheel was found among toys de-
veloped by Indians over 50,000 years ago.

Billy Mills, who was an Olympic runner and has the Running
Strong for American Indian and Youth, mentions a problem we
have with nutrition. Indians, many of them, going to school only
get one meal a day. On the weekends, on Friday, they steal rolls,
bread or biscuits because that is all they are going to eat on the
weekend.

We need 100,000 more homes for our people, and I think that it
is important to realize that now is the time for self-determination.
Self-determination has a mixed approach because when you give
self-determination to a group of people, they should also have the
funding to be more able to be self-determining.

But we are independent nations. We have our own sovereignty,
and we want that to be respected. I am sure you are fully aware,
that of all were made none of them were honored. None of them.
That is over 800 treaties.

Also, in Public Law 93-644, which is self-determination, we are
trying to assist the Indian governments. We are trying to develop
stability. Furthermore, we are anxious to help them in their spir-
ituality. Spirituality is very important with our people.

I was pleased to be able to talk with you yesterday about the
problems with the Environmental Protection Agency. In many
areas, our people have been exposed to radiation and extremes that
are unbelievable. There are over 7,000 waste disposal areas among
Native American areas. We have uranium tailings all over the
country. Not only in the Southwest; but also in Minnesota and
many other places such as in South Dakota, and other places. Of-
tentimes, the children are pla3dng on these uranium tailings. Even
cattle and sheep graze on these hazardous area. Our people are
eating the products that grow there, and in Red Lake and in Mole



41

Lake in Wisconsin, the Menominee and the Potowatomee Tribes
have protested about these hazardous places.

There are many things I would like to say, but I would like to
close with two thoughts. One, Governor Wilfred Pehrson, a Penob-
scot, said: "The land and the air and water creatures are all living
creatures. They are interwoven and essential to life. Man may take
what is needed. Taking must be done with respect and responsibil-
ity. To use and to poison our natural resources is truly suicidal."

And the other thing I would like to mention is I hope we are able
to continue with the same interest that you Mr. Chairman and
your subcommittee has shown to our Native American Vietnam
veterans. When I testified in May 8, 1991, I asked that at that time
you pass a resolution that we would be able to eventually have en-
rolled reservation and village Native Americans go to any land
grant institution tuition free. The land originally belonged to our
people, and I think that is very important. Many of your sub-
committee members who when I testified and talked with them
later were most positive in supporting this idea.

I might mention to you that I was five years old before the Na-
tive Americans were granted citizenship in this country in 1924.

There are many things I would like to say. I want to thank you
for being here and being a patient listener. We appreciate the
honor and opportunity to present our needs to you, and I am sure
the future will be better for all Vietnam veterans and all veterans.

Thank you. Pilamaya-yelo. (speaking in Lakota Sioux language.)
Thank you very much.

[The prepared statement of Dr. Richardson appears at p. 185.]

Mr. Evans. Doctor, I appreciate your testimony. Doctor, let me
start with you. I appreciate your comments because I am also a
temporary committee member of the Natural Resources Committee
in which many of these issues would be addressed, and in every
unit I was in in the United States Marine Corps there was at least
one Native American, and we are very familiar as a result of that
experience of having a little bit of an introduction at an early age
to that warrior culture that you are very proud of and should be
proud of.

But I understand it was very hard for many Native Americans
to go back home after Vietnam, in particular. Can you elaborate on
some of the special problems Native American veterans of that era
faced in reacclimating to civilian society?

Dr. Richardson. Thank you very kindly.

Yes, there are five primary problems among Native Americans
returning from any war, particularly from Vietnam. One of them
was vocational, employment opportunities. We have as high as 98
percent unemplo5rment on the Rosebud Reservation alone in South
Dakota. So getting a job was very, very difficult.

You either have to work for the Bureau or you work for Indian
Health Service or actually there is nothing at all.

The second problem is one of bonding. The Native American,
when he returned, he had been through a trauma, which all of you
have, and he found it difficult to bond with people who were not
aware of what had happened in Vietnam.

The third thing is what we might term "unrealistic satisfaction."
The greatest satisfaction for any Native American is to have been



42

in the Armed Forces. All you have to do is go to a powwow and
see my friends wearing a green beret, dressed in old uniforms from
long ago, but this represents to them their greatest significant
achievement, whether they were just a PFC or Major. Just to have
been a member of the Armed Forces with some is viewed as a
height of achievement and unrealistic satisfaction.

The fourth thing that represents a difficulty with Native Ameri-
cans was lack of funding opportuniities, lack of opportunities to go
to school, lack of opportunities to pursue any entrepreneurial inter-
ests.

And the fifth thing is one of isolation or distance. On some of our
reservations it is 100 miles to the nearest hospital, Indian Health
Service hospital and sometimes farther than that. So they were iso-
lated, and because they were isolated, they did not have the serv-
ices nor the educational opportunities. Thus, it left them with un-
fortunately no employment and nothing much else to do but to
dream of the days when they were a warrior and resort to drink-
ing.

I am sorry. We do have a problem, and I feel the problem with
drinking is similar to what two Japanese physicians found to be a
problem with amino acid and an enzymatic decompensation factor,
and I do think there is a problem systemically with Native Ameri-
cans.

But if there were or were not, we do have a big problem sociologi-
cally and psychologically with drinking. Those are the five promi-
nent problems that our returning veterans had. It was particularly
severe for those in the Southwest who found that when they made
their homes, that they were making them out of uranium tailings.

Mr. Evans. Doctor, thank you.

Michelle and Nancy, have you really been able to discern a pat-
tern in these cases of scholarship recoupments? Is there any pat-
tern or is it just being done on a vindictive case-by-case basis?

And for my understanding, if a person is into a second enlist-
ment, do they try to recover scholarship money provided during a
previous enlistment? What are the facts?

Ms. Benecke. We are dealing with a number of cases that are
across the range, including folks who are in their first enlistment
and folks who were discharged after several enlistments.

What I can tell you is that, yes, DOD is reaching back to recoup
funds from veterans who have served a number of years, and they
are recouping funds even if the person has been through several
enlistments. DOD also is recouping initial enlistment bonuses.
Also, officers who have been on duty for several years after ROTC,
are having ROTC scholarship monies recouped that they were
given when they were 18 years old. Basically any funds that DOD
can track.

What I can tell you in terms of patterns is that there is an at-
tempt to reach back even to the very beginning of someone's service
to find funds to recoup.

Ms. Russell. And, Mr. Chairman, that does not apply, I think,
just to the scholarships, but it is also being made applicable to re-
enlistment bonuses, and obviously the individual wants to serve his
or her country, and it does not seem fair to take it back under
those circumstances.



43

Mr. Evans. Earlier, Congresswoman Waters had talked about
trying to address the problems of bad conduct discharge, bad paper
discharge. This is even a problem for people during the Vietnam
era whom, I understand, may have had secret personnel code num-
bers. Are you familiar with code numbers from a variety of dif-
ferent numbers with a variety of different meanings actually placed
on people with good paper discharges? Are you at all familiar with
that in terms of gays or lesbians?

Ms. Russell. I have heard that that is true, and there is a prece-
dent apparently for not having any separation processing designa-
tor and narrative reason on the DD Form 214. It apparently v/as
during a period in the 1970s, and for some reason it was
reinstituted by the Department of Defense, as I understand it.

But certainly for individuals who were discharged, say, by reason
of drug or alcohol abuse, they would also be experiencing the same
kinds of things that gays and lesbians do. So we are not presenting
this as something unique to us. Certainly it is impacting gay and
lesbian servicemembers inordinantly, but it does affect other people
as well.

Mr. Evans. Thank you.

Antonio, I believe you may have heard me yesterday talk about
how Congressman Luis Gutierrez has asked us to hold a special
subcommittee hearing in conjunction with the Hispanic Caucus
weekend coming up in September. He has made a formal request
at this point. We are going to honor that.

I hope to invite you back. We do not have the exact date yet, but
it will be some time either right before the caucus weekend, per-
haps the 28th or 29th of September, and we will let you know just
as soon as possible.

So we are very pleased to have his advocacy on this committee,
and this will be the first time that we have had that kind of hear-
ing focusing on specific issues and others that you have raised
today.

Mr. Cabrera. Thank you. It will be a pleasure to be back. Con-
gressman. Thank you.

Mr. Evans. Ingrid, thanks again. We appreciate it.

Unfortunately I have to attend a markup of the Natural Re-
sources Committee on some important wilderness protection bills,
and I will have to conclude the hearing at this point. We thank ev-
erybody again for testifying and the many people who came and
stayed throughout the hearing. Today's hearing has been very valu-
able to myself and to other members. Some members who could not
be here will obviously have the written statements, and they and
their staffs will review them. Your impact will extend beyond just
the members who were present today.

Thank you all for joining us, and we will now conclude the hear-
ing.

[Whereupon, at 10:56 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned,
subject to the call of the chair.]



APPENDIX



Prepared statement of Hon. Luis V. Gutierrez

I want to thank my good friend and fellow Illinoisan, Chairman Evans, for con-
ducting this hearing today. You are all well aware that he brings dedication to this
hearing, and to every situation where there is a chance to work on behalf of veter-
ans.

I am pleased to sit on this subcommittee because I believe it is a good place to
learn the issues that concern me as an advocate for veterans. And in that spirit,
I look forward to learning a great deal today.

We obviously will be dealing with a number of topics today. And with good reason.
There are so many areas where the veterans' community has needs that are not
being met.

For instance, we will look at the crisis of Homelessness. It is a national shame
that so many Americans are without a place to live, without a home. But, our
shame grows even more intense when we realize that many of those out on the
streets are the very men — and women — who left their own homes and hometowns
to serve us in the armed forces.

I am sure that in Chicago last night, there was at least one veteran, and probably
hundreds of veterans, who went to bed on a park bench, hungry and cold.

We will look today at job opportunities and economic challenges.

I am sure that today, within a few blocks of this elaborate hearing room, there
is a veteran with a talent to offer, but no job where he can make use of that skill.

We will look today at health care.

I am sure that at this moment, in every State in the Union and here in Washing-
ton, DC, there are veterans with serious health problems, but who lack even the
basic knowledge of where to turn for help.

We will also hear about instances wnere a veteran's challenges are made even
more difficult because of cultural or social factors.

Hispanic veterans, for example, have fought as bravely and honorably as any sol-
diers who have worn the uniform. Unfortunately, many Hispanics continue to face
battles once they return home from service, when they attempt to access care from
the government.

The list of issues confronting veterans goes on. By discussing them, we get a step
closer — a major step closer — to solving them.

I am glad that we have people here who are experts. That is, if you define the
word expert as someone who sees and experiences these important issues on a daily
basis. At least, that's my definition of an expert, and that is why I feel fortunate
to have the opportunity to listen to you today.

Prepared statement of Hon. Spencer T. Bachus, III

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for holding this hearing on the continuous needs our veterans have
as well as the ways veterans succeed in helping themselves. Hearings like this are
valuable because they remind Members of the important responsibility we have to
ensure that these needs are met in the best way possible.

These very real experiences, included in today's testimony, help Members to bet-
ter understand the challenges veterans face in managing their daily lives with the
scars of war — both internal and external.

In my home district of Birmingham, AL, I am very proud of a monthly "round-
table" discussion held at the Birmingham VA Medical Center. Participants include
representatives from the Medical Center, the Alabama Department of Veterans Af-
fairs, local Veterans' Service Organizations and a member of my Congressional staff.
These meetings provide a welcome opportunity for those who serve the veterans'
community to pool resources and ideas to address the ongoing concerns of veterans.

(45)



46

In May, this group will be sponsoring a veterans' call-in program — giving veterans
an opportunity to ask questions about claims, health care, and voice their concerns
on other issues.

Mr. Chairman, I trust this hearing will give Members a more complete under-
standing of the impact our policy decisions have on those ho have risked life and
limb in service to our country.



47



Testimony on Women's Issues
and the Future of the Veteran's Affairs



House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee
on Oversight and Investigations

May 4, 1994
by Mary Candice Ross, R.N. , Ph.D.

The Veterans Administration as a quality oriented
service organization must address the veteran customer
needs eind proactively plan for the veteran of the
future. I come to you today as a female veteran of
Desert Shield/Storm and Restore Hope, but also as an
experienced registered nurse, active Reservist and
university instructor. I have conducted first-hand
rese.'^rch on post-traumatic stress in veterans and have
surveyed numerous veterans as well as the literature.

Services for veterans within the Veterans Health
Administration have traditionally focused on men. Only
since 1983 has the Department of Veterans Affairs
required gender-specific health care services. And
only recently, women's programs have been added to the
Medical Centers and female counselors have been added
to many Vet Centers, however progress has been slow and
women are still being treated as the second class
citizens in a population of veterans who are often
viewed as second class citizens.

The picture is crystal clear. Given a choice,
veterans would prefer NOT to go to a VA hospital. The
only service preferred by veterans is the counseling
and support of the Vet Centers. The Vet Center
personnel are seen as caring, effective and not
engulfed in the bureaucracy of the medical centers.
Veterans associate the hospitals and clinics with
crowded, impersonal care and waiting times of several
hours. As one older gentleman put it, "Wliy should I
have to share a tiny black and white TV with a ward



48



full of guys and a portable phone with forty!" It was
easier to call home from Saudi. Many hospitalized
veterans are elderly, suffer with limited mobility and
many chronic illnesses. And yet the professional
nursing staff ratio is far below the private sector in
most VA hospitals. Great strides in research and
education of physicians is commendable, but it takes
around the clock nursing assessment and hands-on
nursing care to do the job that really counts. The
Veterans Health Administration shouldn't stop financing
these efforts but will have to allocate funds
specifically to nursing care, nursing education and
patient CARE research.

The VA hospitals are oriented toward the medical
model of specialties for production line care. Care is
fragmented into specialties provided by rotating
interns and residents. The new veteran wants to be
treated holistically, and will be far less tolerant of
this type of care. The patronizing attitude of
physicians will not be accepted by the veteran consumer
♦,hat caui choose.

The new veteran from Desert Storm is very
different. They were older, more informed and
discriminating as consumers. According to the 1990
Census, 1.1 million women are veterans. Over 40,000
women served in combat support positions in Desert
Shield and Desert Storm (Utilization, 1991) . Women now
make-up eleven percent of the current Active Duty
military and thirteen percent of the Reserve forces.
The number of women using VA facilities is increasing
by about eight percent per year (Becraft, 1991) .

Although only 2% of women veterans utilize VA
health care, compared to 6% of male veterans, they
comprise 11% of the veteran population (Romeis,
Gillespie, & Thorman, 1988) . Female veterans present
some unique demands on the Veterans Health



49



Administration. Although the federal government has
faced the fact that there is a dearth of research
including women and women's health issues, health care
is still based on treating all patients as men.
Cardiovascular disease, a leading killer, is very
different in women. Cancer, bone disease, thyroid
disease, mental illness and reproductive system
disorders are different in women and cannot be treated
the same (Tiemey, 1991) . However, women are provided
less care than their male counterparts in the VA health
care facilities. In a study by Turpin, et al, (1992)
chart reviews and interviews demonstrated that less
than one half of women patients were asked about their
gynecological history and only twenty percent received
pelvic exams. The high incidence of cancers reported
among female veterans may well be linked to indirect
exposure to dioxin, used during Vietnam, since 90% of
those female veterans were nurses (Mathews, 1992) .
This isn't surprising when you see a female veteran
trying to walk down a corridor with dignity in bagging
men's pajamas. She c^n't even look forward to a
private shower, for fear of a man missing the
"occupied" sign and charging into the community bathing
room. This is hardly the place a woman, especially one
who had been abused or raped, would select for care.
They will not continue to accept waiting for days, in
pain, for a "female" bed to be available.

Some VA hospitals are truly committed to women's
health. Eight facilities have new Women's Centers.
Eight centers is a meager start. The increasing number
of female veterans will be much different from the
traditional VA patient. Physical abuse, which is
reported to be as high as 20% of women, results in
increased use of health care services. And yet 53% of
medical schools provide NO instruction at all about
domestic violence (Plichta, 1992). Abused women are



50



also likely to be homeless. A significantly larger
number of homeless female veterans have been diagnosed
with major psychiatric disorders than their male
counterparts (Leda, 1992).

The future of the Veterans Health Administration
is in jeopardy. Substandard care will not be
competitive. "Health plans in the future will be
judged on the basis of cost, quality, and patient
satisfaction" (Headley, 1994) . To meet the
Congressional mandate for a health care delivery
system, education and training of health care
personnel, medical research and wartime service, and at
the same time be responsive to the customer, the VA
will be forced to malce substantive changes. Nurse
Practitioners have been used very successfully in some
VA hospitals to manage special groups of inpatients,
providing continuity of care that is cost effective.
In addition, improved timeliness of outpatient services
could be provided by Nurse Practitioners for the many
patients who are need monitoring for chronic illnesses.
In turn, these VA hospitals could be designated a
training sites for Nurse Practitioners. Hospice and
home health care programs by Nurse Practitioners would
also expand veteran care without increasing inpatient
costs by allowing these patients to be discharged
(Gallup, 1994) .

The number of VA hospitals with Women's Centers
will have to be substantially increased to address the


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on VeterViewpoints on Veterans Affairs and related issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, second session, May 4, 1994 → online text (page 6 of 23)