SEPTEMBER 20, 1949
NEW YORK—There are two subjects which are recurring more and more often in my mail. One is the question of the dismissal of civil service employees who have been for a long time in the service, some of whom are actually veterans of World War One, in order to find civil service positions for veterans of World War Two.
There are a great many civil service employees who feel that this is real discrimination and that it lowers the efficiency of the civil service system. I have often felt that there were many things in the civil service that needed reform and certainly if one is sure of holding a job, it does tend to make some people less interested in doing an efficient job or perhaps one should say a super-efficient job. The principle of giving veterans, particularly disabled veterans, a certain number of points which gives them some preferential treatment, has been accepted for a long time but the present upheaval seems to go far beyond anything which has ever occurred before, and I think it deserves careful study for the good of the service since there is no good done if the work actually suffers from any method which is employed.
The other subject that comes up repeatedly is the question of old people. Evidently science is helping many more people to reach a good old age, and yet employers are less and less willing to keep people above a certain age and certainly unwilling to employ them initially when they are above a certain age, Some people claim that this is partly die to the fact that social security laws make it more expensive for the employer to have older employees. Others feel that a young person is quicker and more alert and therefore more satisfactory than an older person.
On the other hand older people feel they are more reliable, steadier and have gained much in experience. It does seem as though one should not have a hard and fast rule which retired people at a certain age, but that cases might be considered individually. One doctor in a rural area sent me an article which he had written in which he listed the things he felt were essential if old people were to be happy. Most important among them was the retention by an older person of their own home, whether that home was a house or one room. He felt that living with younger members of the family was a great mistake for old and young. This is one of the things, of course, which social security laws try to make possible but at present old age pensions are not yet sufficient. He also said that it was better if old people could not retain their own homes, for them to enter some kind of an old people's home run by a religious or fraternal organization. These, however, are often crowded and many old people have not been able to save enough to pay the entrance fee. My correspondent feels that in many cases we are willing to pay more attention to our animals than we are to our people. Certainly it seems to me that we should provide something like the old peoples' villages one finds in some European countries and make it possible for them to live decently in their last years.