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Grace Carlson

Rankin Whitewash Blocked
in Veteran Care Inquiry

(9 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 23, 9 June 1945, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Public pressure has finally forced members of the House Veterans Committee to break the stranglehold which its reactionary chairman, Representative John Rankin, has maintained over the investigation of veterans’ hospitals. By a vote of 13–2, the Veterans Committee voted on May 29 to lift the contempt citation against PM reporter Albert Deutsch and to call him back before the committee as a witness.

Led by the Mississippi poll-taxer Rankin, the same Committee had cited Deutsch for “contempt of Congress” on May 18 when he refused to give the names of doctors in the Veterans Administration who had supplied him with information on the mistreatment of sick and wounded veterans. The outcry raised by this obvious attempt to suppress the facts about conditions in veterans’ hospitals was too much for the majority of Veterans Committee members. Representative James Domengeaux, who made the motion that the Committee reverse its stand in the Deutsch case, pointed out that it was necessary “to reestablish the confidence of the public in the Committee’s action.”

Official Whitewash

Begun in March, the House Veterans Committee’s “investigation” of veterans’ hospitals has so far been little more than a whitewash of Veterans Administration officials. Brigadier General Frank Hines, Veterans Administrator, has been publicly commended by Rankin several times since the “investigation” was begun for the manner in which veterans’ hospitals are operated. On May 25, Rankin introduced a bill drawn up in cooperation with Veterans administrator Hines proposing some mild reforms in the veterans’ hospital system.

But “mild reforms” of the veterans’ hospital set-up are not enough, according to investigators like Deutsch, Albert Maisel of Cosmopolitan, Leo Egan of the N.Y. Times and others who have exposed the terrible conditions in these institutions. In the foreword to his article, Third-Rate Medicine for First-Rate Men in the April issue of Cosmopolitan, Maisel writes:

“Read the evidence in the accompanying article – the shocking, shameful evidence of brutality, beatings, overcrowding, and third-rate treatment which are the lot of our most defenseless disabled veterans ... The Veteran’s Hospitals must be purged from top to bottom.”

Discharged Uncured

In the same article, Maisel presents evidence to show that less than eight per cent of the 23,147 veterans discharged during a year from the 30 mental hospitals are rated as cured or even as “apparently recovered.” Maisel has considerable proof that veteran mental patients do not have the benefits of modern psychiatric and medical techniques in veterans’ hospitals. That so many thousands of them are released without achieving a “cure” represents not only personal tragedy for the individuals involved but potential tragedy in the communities to which the patients return. Maisel quotes Colonel H. Foster, clinical director of the Northport, Long Island Hospital as saying that there is “no harm” in releasing these patients if they are “not violent.” Several instances are cited by Maisel to show how such supposedly “harmless” patients have done violence to themselves or others shortly after their release from a veterans’ hospital.

Warning Emphasized

New emphasis is given to Maisel’s warning by some recent headlines dealing with violent acts of discharged servicemen who were mental cases: Veteran Held Insane After Slaying Wife (N.Y. Times, June 2); Flier’s Fatal Leap Laid to War Shock (N.Y. World-Telegram, May 31).

Such reports of problems of veteran patients arouse little interest in Rankin. According to PM reporter Elizabeth Donahue, who covered the May 29 hearing of the House Veterans Committee “only once did Rankin show concern for the conditions in the hospitals.”

“‘Are the Negroes separated from the whites at the Huntington, West Va. hospital?’ Rankin inquired.

“Rep. Cunningham replied in the affirmative.

“‘In my opinion,’ Rankin observed, ‘that’s much more important than separating World War I veterans from World War II veterans in these hospitals’.”

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