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Grace Carlson

Rankin Seeks Whitewash
in Vets’ Hospital Probe

(26 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 21, 26 May 1945, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Headed by the reactionary poll-taxer Representative John Rankin of Mississippi, the House Committee on World War Veterans Legislation is attempting to convert its so-called investigation of conditions in veterans’ hospitals into a witch-hunt against newspapermen, doctors and veterans who exposed the bad state of affairs in these institutions. The Committee’s latest move was the indictment of Albert Deutsch, reporter for PM on May 18. Deutsch was cited for “contempt of Congress” when he refused to reveal the names of doctors who had supplied him with information for a series of articles criticizing the treatment of discharged servicemen in Veterans Administration hospitals.

This whitewash of the Veterans Administration was undertaken by the Rankin-led Committee in order to head off an “impartial investigation” into complaints of conditions in veterans’ hospitals proposed late in March by Representative Philbin of Massachusetts. By a parliamentary maneuver Rankin had Philbin’s motion killed and then announced that each member of his Committee would visit “veterans’ hospitals during the Easter recess to check up on conditions. At the same time he called Brigadier General Frank Hines, Administrator of Veterans Affairs before a closed session of his Committee and immediately afterward issued a statement complimenting General Hines for the manner in which veterans hospitals are operated.

But there was too much heat upon the members of Congress to permit so cynical a whitewash of the Veterans Administration. Too many letters were pouring in from veterans and members of their families complaining about the terrible conditions in the veterans’ hospitals. Rankin tried to discredit this evidence against the Veteran Administration officials in a speech in the House on May 11, in which he said, “Many such letters have been received by Members of Congress from individuals that we checked up and found to be insane.”

But Rankin could not pass off as “insane” such writers as Deutsch, Leo Egan of the N.Y. Times, Thomas Niall of the Associated Press and Victor Maisel of Cosmopolitan magazine. Pressure put upon the members of the House Committee by readers of the articles of these informed investigators of conditions in veterans’ hospitals forced Rankin to announce two weeks ago that the Committee would hold open hearings on the charges made against the Veterans Administration.

Reporter Indicted

Called before the House Committee on May 18, Deutsch was not permitted to give the facts as to overcrowding, inadequate treatment, etc., which he had gathered in his five-month survey. Challenged by Rankin for the names of his informants in the veterans’ hospitals, Deutsch refused to . give their names, saying that he feared there might be reprisals against them. Rankin then set the machinery in motion for instituting criminal proceedings against Deutsch.

Victor Maisel, who wrote the exposé of veterans hospitals called Third Rate Medicine for First Rate Men, which appeared in the March and April issues of Cosmopolitan, is also scheduled to testify before the Rankin Committee. A student of military medicine and author of The Wounded Get Back, Maisel contrasts the skillful care given to wounded soldiers in Army hospitals with the ill-treatment of discharged servicemen in veterans’ hospitals. The decline in the death rate of wounded fighting men from 8.1 per cent in World War I to 3.3 per cent in this war bears out the truth of Maisel’s statement that “endless resources and priceless skill combine to give our sick and wounded the best that modern medicine can provide.”

“But I have been shocked and shamed to discover,” Maisel goes on to say “that these servicemen – changed only because after long service, they have received a veteran’s honorable discharge – are suffering needlessly and all too often dying needlessly in our veterans’ hospitals.

“Yes, our disabled veterans are being betrayed by the incompetence, bureaucracy and callousness of the Veterans Administration.”

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