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Grace Carlson

Rankin Blocks Investigation
on Care of Wounded Veterans

(2 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 22, 2 June 1945, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Even ultra-reactionary Representative John Rankin has been finally driven to admit there are some “defects” in the administration of veterans’ hospitals. In an obvious attempt to counteract the bad publicity his House Committee on World War Veterans Legislation has been receiving lately, Rankin introduced a bill into the House on May 25, proposing some mild “reforms” of the Veterans Administration hospital system.

But when newspapermen, veterans and members of their families criticized the terrible conditions in veterans’ hospitals and demanded a clean-up of the Veterans Administration, they were smeared by the poll-taxer from Mississippi as “irresponsible” or “insane.” The so-called House investigation into the situation in veterans’ hospitals was an attempted whitewash of Veterans Administration officials. The “investigation” was undertaken by the Rankin-led Committee in March in order to head off the real expose of conditions in veterans’ hospitals which would have followed had an impartial committee been named to investigate the floods of complaints which have been pouring in on members of Congress.

Public pressure did not permit a routine whitewash of the Veterans Administration. Writers like Albert Deutsch of PM, Victor Maisel of Cosmopolitan, Leo Egan of the N.Y. Times had reported such shocking facts about the mistreatment of sick and wounded veterans that Rankin’s Committee was forced to hold open hearings. The first outside witness called, Albert Deutsch, was not allowed to present facts about overcrowding, inadequate treatment, etc., which he had gathered in a five-month survey of veterans’ hospitals. Because he refused to give the names of doctors who had supplied him with information, Deutsch was cited by the House Committee on May 18 for “contempt of Congress.”

Such tactics were too obvious, however. Under pressure, other members of the House Veterans Committee demanded that Victor Maisel be permitted to testify. But they have not yet been able – or are not willing – to get a reversal of the contempt charge against Deutsch. In a PM editorial on May 24, Rankin is quoted as saying that he was going to let the Deutsch case “cool and cool and cool.” Meantime the contempt charge against Deutsch stands.

Testifying before the House Committee on May 23, Victor Maisel produced a mass of evidence, substantiating that thousands of patients in veterans’ hospitals are being neglected, underfed and often mistreated. This was only a small part of the voluminous evidence against Veterans Administration heads which Maisel had presented in his article called Third Rate Medicine for First Rate Men (March and April issues of Cosmopolitan).

Despite all of the documented proof offered by this witness concerning the ill-treatment of veteran patients, Rankin concluded his grilling of Maisel with a violent outburst: “You’ve done a great disservice to the greatest system of veterans’ hospitals the world has ever seen.”

But only two days later, Rankin himself offered his bill, which he admitted had been drawn up in cooperation with Brigadier General Frank Hines, the Veterans Administrator. According to an analysis of the bill by Deutsch in the May 28 PM:

“The Rankin bill is a small step in the right direction. But it provides no fundamental reform. It sidesteps the real issue – the need for a thorough-going housecleaning of the Veterans Administration medical and hospital program from top to bottom.”

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