Veterans Groups Present Legislative Goals at Joint Hearing of House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees

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Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, March 12, 2009, Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a joint hearing to receive the legislative presentation of the Air Force Sergeants Association; Fleet Reserve Association; Non Commissioned Officers Association; Military Order of the Purple Heart; The Retired Enlisted Association; Military Officers Association of America; National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs; and Vietnam Veterans of America. 

     

The hearing was the third of the 111th Congress in which the Senate and House came together to receive the legislative agendas from veterans service organizations. 

John Rowan, National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America, offered testimony urging the VA to build a system to enact real accountability in the management of the Veterans Health Administration.
Mr. Rowan stated, “We believe that the system of bonuses for senior staff must be overhauled to reward only the truly worthy, e.g., those who not simply do their job but take that extra measure to ensure that it’s done well; to withhold bonuses from those who just do their job with competence; and to remove those who do their job poorly.”

Charles F. Smith of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs expressed the need for timely information sharing to states regarding returning injured and transitioning service members.
Mr. Smith testified, “State Directors of Veteran Affairs across the Nation agree that one of their most difficult tasks is identifying ‘Wounded Warriors’ within their jurisdiction because there are no formal channels of communication with DOD regarding military members being discharged for medical reasons.” 

“Funding for veterans benefits and health care services is not only a top priority for this Congress and the Administration, but a continuing cost of our national defense,” said Chairman Filner.  “The Obama Administration submitted a budget plan that provides a path to restoring and revitalizing the services provided to veterans.  For homeless veterans, it means improved support services to combat and prevent this National disgrace.  For rural veterans, it means increased services and enhanced outreach for mental health care and traumatic brain injuries.

For returning veterans, it means timely implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to expand educational entitlements.  Ensuring we keep our promises to veterans is an issue this Congress takes seriously.  We recognize that there is a cost associated and we are going to have to dig deep, but the service and sacrifice of our veterans are real, and the VA’s budget must provide the realistic funding to meet their needs.”

Witnesses addressed the needs of veterans and raised concerns from the veterans’ community.  Issues discussed at the hearing included fully funding the health care budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), improving accountability measures at the VA, advancing health services for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, providing additional support to veterans’ families and caregivers, and ensuring that veterans have viable opportunities for employment, education, and housing.

The House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees have scheduled a future joint hearing to receive the legislative presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Wednesday, March 18.  The Committees have held previous hearings to receive the legislative presentations of the American Ex-Prisoners of War; Blinded Veterans Association; Gold Star Wives of America; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Wounded Warrior Project; and Disabled American Veterans.    

Witness List:

Panel 1

*       John Chad Hapner, National Commander, AMVETS

*       Robert H. Price, Director, Military and Government Relations,
Air Force Sergeants Association

*       Joseph L. Barnes, National Executive Director, Fleet Reserve
Association

*       H. Gene Overstreet, President, Non Commissioned Officers
Association

*       Jeff Roy, National Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart

*       Charlie L. Flowers, National President, The Retired Enlisted
Association

*       Robert F. Norton, Deputy Director for Government Relations,
Military Officers Association of America

*       Charles F. Smith, President, National Association of State
Directors of Veterans Affairs

*       John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America

 

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