OCR Interpretation

The National tribune. (Washington, D.C.) 1877-1917, December 01, 1877, Image 5

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assumed to bo fair representatives of the profes
sion, and the presumption is and should he that
they are competent for the duties they are called
on to perform.
So far as our personal acquaintance goes with
this class of officers, we have found them and
"believe them to he honest and efficient. But
the Commissioner's bill directly discredits all
this numerous body of professional men, and
stands wholly upon the unwarranted presump
tion that they are incapable of intelligent dis
charge of duty or that they are improperly in
fluenced in Borne form in the statements which
they render. "We do not believe it to be true
in fact, and the slur thus cast upon a whole
class of men is, in our judgment, unwarranted.
The Commissioner appears to be governed by
the notion that from ties of neighborhood and
other like causes they (the examining surgeons)
are incapacited from making reports which
would do justice to the United States.
But the Commissioner has the power now to
cause examinations to be made by surgeons be
yond the liniits of their special locality and
where these causes do not exist.
He has or can have advisory boards entirely
separated from thse local influences.
But what, after all, is the complaint? It
seems to be that on these examinations a suffi
cient number or proportion is not " dropped from
the rolls " or reduced in rate, and special atten
tion is called in the Ueport to the results of the
results of the special mission of Dr. Alrnon
Clarke, in contrast with the results given by
the regular officials.
It is needless to say that any man, selected as
Br. Clarke was for the express purpose of prov
ing a theory, would almost inevitably do his
best to fill the purpose for which he was sent,
and that it is . scarcely possible but that his
knowledge of the end and object of his mission
would largely influence hia opinion. It would
have been a much fairer test to let Dr. Clarke
go over the ground formerly traversed by the
examining surgeon and report, as did the for-
.unci-, i-uc iiiuuj utivtuujjuu. uy uio eAuiuuuiuuni,
and see how far, if at all, he differed from the
. previous statements made by the regular officer's.
These cannot materially differ as to the IT ACTS
preeented on examination, though they may
differ very widely on matters of opinion based
upon the same state of facts ; and so wide and
so innocent maybe the division of opinion that
it would be impossible for Mr. Bentley to sendJ
another surgeon, no matter how great may bo
his eminence and experience, who, following
over the same ground covered by Dr. Clarke,
would concur with him in any universal extent
in the matters of opinion as rendered by him.
The Commissioner sent Dr. Clarke for the
purpose of a test of his system. It is a little
doubtful from what section of the law he gained
the right to employ this agency, and we have
no certain knowledge of the cost of the experi
ment but believe it to have been one thousand
dollars. "We have the Commissioner's opinion
that he was competent to review the action of
the local officers, and perhaps ho was; but, after
all, the law does not make him the reviewing
officer, and, on the doctrine of probabilities,
neither Dr. Clarke nor any other one man is
likely to know more of his duties than the 1578
regular examining surgeons of the office.
On whafc principle of medical science or com
mon sense does the Commissioner expect that
pensioners should bo. dropped from the rolls or
tiie rating reduced?
of time. Arms and legs lost in service do not
sprout from the stump.
Disabilities from disease are likely to grow
worse as time rolls on. Rheumatism of fifteen
years', standing remains, as a rule, incurable.
Consumption and other kindred diseases never
grow better, but generally proceed from one
stage of decay to another.
It may of course be that the pensioner may
have been rated too high ; but this is not the act
of the local examiner but of the Medical Ref-
and Mr. Bentley very properly eompli
ments that officer for valuable duty performed.
The whole scheme of the proposed bill rests
upon the mistaken idea that the existing exam
ining officers are corrupt and negligent and that
the do not and will not report the truth.
We believe that this charge is wholly unde
served, and, in all kindness to the Commissioner,
we feel bound to repel it.
The remedy proposed is worse than the al
leged disease.
It is sought to send into districts surgeons
selected by the Commissioner, sent from distant
parts of the country, sent upon his judgment of
their competency and standing, sent for a pur
pose and that purpose known to them, specially
charged to find fraud wherever they can imag
ine it to be, sent to reduce the rolls of pension
ers, sent to reduce -the rate of pension paid, and
every one of them knowing that their success
and standing with the Pension Office will de
Xend upon the amount of reduction they make.
This is not the true spirit of the pension law,
nor is it equitable treatment to those who enjoy
or who seek to enjoy the honest results of their
contract with the Government.
It is exceedingly difficult to determine, the
precise degree of disability in any given case.
There is nothing on which surgeons of the high
est reputations could more honestly and consci
entiously differ, for it is a matter of opinion in
almost every case.
Hitherto there has been general satisfaction
with the rules adopted and determinations had
by the present Medical Referee. His experience
is worth any fifty traveling surgeons.
Into how many districts it is proposed by the
Pension Office to divide the United States will
not be known until the bill is presented.
But admitting the largest number hinted at,
say 60, and it is evident on a casual inspection
that the duties attempted to be imposed upon
these 60 selected surgeons cannot be performed
so as .to save the rights and permit the fair ex
amination and decision of the multitude of
cases now pending, lor is there anything in
the special education of a surgeon that fits him
for the further duties of taking, preserving, and
deciding upon testimony.
The Commissioner seems to have a dread of
"ex parte" testimony , but the law-makers know
that no other testimony .would fulfil the object
of the law, and that from the necessities of the
case much of the testimony offered by a claim
ant must be ex parte.
The fact of service is always provable and
proved by the record, and the injury for which
compensation is claimed is general ly also a mat
ter of record. In claims for disability by dis
euse incurred in service, the disabling effects of
which appear long after discharge, proof must
be produced proof which could not be shaken
by any cross-examination.
But the new district boards proposed by the
Commissioner are not in auy sense courts; they
have no power or process to bring before them
witnesses j they can never inaugurate, carry on
and the claimant as to the facts alleged by the
said claimant, and they Are only likely, so far
as we can see, to be vested with a dangerous and
loose discretion, to be executed without recourse t
or remedy against the claimant.
We have already stated in our last number '
the argument against these district boards aris
ing from their inconvenience.
Thus, it would stand: In a territory half as ,
big as Illinois or New York there will be a
board of an imported surgeon, of high character
in the opinion of the Commissioner, and a clerk
or two detailed from the "Washington office.
These will make ,a board, and the board will
have an office or place of meeting, selected, as
they always are, for the convenience of the
board, not of the claimants.
Before this board all existing pensioners mrust
appear and be examined, rated and reduced. All
claimants must also make their personal appear
ance and produce their witnesses in person. Ho
process is or can be given to compel the attend
ance of such witnesses. 2nFo day can be fixed in
advance .when parties from particular counties,
even, shall appear, nor can the board give any
assurance that they can be heard on any given
A widow with half a dozen children, who ,
struggle with starvation upon the pittance she -earns
by hard daily labor, with not one week's
nor one day's provision aheadhas notwithstand-.
ing a just claim against the United States for .
pension, on account of the services of the dead
husband and father.
As the law now stands she can make all the
proof at very slight expense, transmit it by mail
to Washington, and in due course receive her -pension.
As, the law will stand if the Commissioner's
proposition goes into effect, she must travel at :
her own expense at least 15 to 20 miles, and in-
some instances one or two hundred, must wait
until her turn comes, before the board, must find :
means to transport and maintain" her witnesses-'
until heard and discharged, and cannot even
have the process of the United States to compel
their attendance. This would simply be a de
nial of justice ; a withholding of lawful dues
the more cruel and the more effective because
done under the pretense of administering justice
and protecting the United States against fraud.
"We shall await with some anxiety the pre
cise form in which the Commissioner's recom
mendations will be embodied in the bill expect
ed to be introduced, and shall have more to say .
about it when the details of the measure are set"
forth in due form.
We commend Mr. Bentley for his sincere de
sire to prevent the commission of frauds upon
the Government, but regret that this commend
able anxiety has led him to peril the great pur
poses of the Pension Acts and to throw barriers
not intended by the law nor consistent with -justice
and fair dealing in the way of the "bene
ficiaries, for whom the law intended to make
provision by the shortest, easiest, most expedi
tious, and cheapest mode.
"Wounds do not grow less grievous by lapse or determine a trial between the United States
Another Word on the Commissioner's Bill to
Break Up the Examining' Surgeons.
The test which has satisfied the Commissioner.,
of the probable good results of his proposed
change was made by Br. Almon Clarke, of Wis
cousin, formerly an Army surgeon, lately, and ,
perhaps now, an examining surgeon of pensions.
He is rejtorted, under the special detail given,
him, to have examined 491 pensioners in the
counties named in something less than two
months, and received for his labor veiy nearly
f if

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