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In an unusual move subcommittee Chairman John Hall a freshman Congressman from New York took a bi-partisian team on the road to his home state to hold hearings to hear from veterans and others
there are the attendees:

Witness Testimonies
Panel 1
Mr. Anthony Zippo, Director, Orange County Veterans Service Agency, Goshen, NY
Mr. Ned Foote, President, New York State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America
Mr. R. Michael Sutter, Chairman, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, Amercian Legion, Department of New York

Panel 2
Mr. Alex Lazos, Harriman, NY, (Veteran)
Mr. Ted H. Wolf, Pomona, New York, as presented by John Rowan, President, Vietnam Veterans of America
Mr. Eddie J. Senior, West Harrison, NY, (Veteran)

I for one SALUTE MR Hall's initiative and willingness to take the show on the road so to speak. Some of his statements show his willingness to see the end of the status quo and to start making the claims system work for disabled veterans and their families. The current system leaves disabled veterans and families destitute, begging, divorced and in some cases suicidal. Men and women can not wait up to five years to start receiving a disability check, and under the current system many veterans are waiting this long, why?

Congressman Hall and the other Congressmen present today were not pleased with the testimony they heard. Here is the link to Eddie Senior, a Desert Storm veterans statement

As I stated earlier, I find myself needing to file yet another appeal. This will only delay this process yet again. It has been explained to me that this appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals could and most likely will take approximately 2 more years to have my hearing with even more time for a decision.  It is these kinds of delays that cause extreme frustration and stress as well as financial hardship for many Veterans.

I have personally been waiting 12 years to settle this matter and hope by coming here today to speak about my case  that I will be able to get the help needed to finally bring closure to my claim.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your time  and attention to this urgent matter of importance to myself and the many other Veteran’s who find themselves in the same situation.  Thank you.

From MR Alex Lasos an Iraqi War Veteran

don’t understand why it had to take so long to get help. I don’t understand how the VA could instantly recognize that I have a seriously disabling condition as a result of my military service yet took three years to process my claim and compensate me for it.  My experience with the VA and the claims process has been a battle in and of itself, and having returned home from one war to fight another one with an organization that was put in place with the sole purpose to serve veterans like myself is incomprehensible still to me.  I also believe that full and complete funding should be granted to the Veteran’s Administration in support of increasing space and duration of programs, an increase in available services and manpower, and the implementation of long lasting, effective changes to better serve and benefit our ever growing veteran population. The claims process needs to be expedited for everyone, and funds to pay disability and compensation benefits need to be made available.

I see a lot of finger pointing and blame going on in politics today over this war and the results of a decision made in 2003. Well that was four years ago, the wars still going on and assigning blame isn’t going to change a thing. This isn’t a time for blame, it’s a time for change, and unfortunately whereas war can be declared overnight, the results will last a lifetime. And for the servicemen and veteran’s whose lives literally hang in the balance, these issues need to be immediately addressed.

And despite my relief at having my life back, the guilt that I feel that I’ve gotten these benefits while so many of my fellow veterans continue to suffer is only comparable to the survivor’s guilt that I feel for surviving Iraq while so many haven’t.

I would like to reiterate something often lost in the endless shuffle and re-filing of paperwork and political bickering: Generations of Americans have volunteered to make extreme personal sacrifice sometimes at the cost of their own lives to defend and ensure the integrity and future of the United States of America and as veterans, we were asked to pick up a weapon and lay down our lives for our country without question. Shouldn’t our treatment on returning home reflect nothing less?  I feel that our troops deserve the same level of loyalty and commitment from the Veterans Administration as we were asked to give when we put on our uniforms and swore an oath to our country.

Last but not least Ted Wolf a Vietnam Veteran with prostrate cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange

I did not feel that this was fair, but I did not have the strength to commence an action.  In preparing for this hearing, however, I spoke with my oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Dr. Michael Morris.  Dr. Morris explained to me that the Veterans Administrations’ reasons for reducing my benefits were absurd.  Firstly, he said there is absolutely no correlation between number of pads used for leakage and the severity of prostate cancer.  Secondly, he explained that although my PSA number had decreased, I was not actually in remission.  Rather, he explained that there is a residual effect from hormone therapy, which keeps the PSA down for approximately 2 - 3 years.  What is disturbing is that the Veterans Administration handled my case without having any knowledge of my illness and it made decisions without any basis in fact.     In May 2006, my PSA tripled indicating that the disease was still active.  Bone scans taken in August 2006 indicated progression to eight different spots on my skeleton.  At this point, I contacted the Veterans Administration.  They asked me to send proof which I did, and they then responded by saying that it would be a minimum of 3-4 months before any action was taken on my case.  

The county in which I live, Rockland County, New York, maintains an office of Veterans Affairs.  I contacted them for assistance, and they recommended that I contact my Congressperson.  The office of the Congressperson attempted to assist me, however, she was defeated in the November 2006 election and therefore no real action took place.  

In January, I contacted the newly elected Congressperson, Representative John Hall, and his office rendered immediate assistance.  The person in his office who assisted me was Lisa DeMartino.  She worked miracles and within three weeks, the Veterans Administration increased my compensation and gave me back compensation from June 2006.  

My concern is that without the assistance of wonderful people at the congressional level, the average veteran is forced to wait a long period of time to get any assistance.  I pay for my own healthcare.  Our family rate is $14,000 a year, and I am able to select where I want to be treated for my illness.  Under no circumstances would I want to be treated by the Veterans Administration.  I do not believe that their level of competency for treating my disease would have reached an acceptable level.  I have no confidence in them, especially in light of the fact that they lowered my initial benefits, thereby showing that they had no idea of how prostate cancer functions.

Mr. Michael Walcoff
Associate Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations
Veterans Benefits Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statement

 Priority Processing for OIF/OEF Veterans

Since the onset of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, VA has provided expedited and case-managed service for all seriously injured OIF/OEF veterans and their families.  This individualized service begins at the military treatment facilities and continues as these servicemembers are medically separated and enter the VA medical care and benefits system.  We assign special benefits counselors and case managers to work with these servicememebers and their families throughout the transition to VA to ensure expedited delivery of all benefits.  

In February, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs announced a new initiative to provide priority processing of all OIF/OEF veterans’ disability claims.  This initiative covers all active duty, National Guard, and Reserve veterans who were deployed in the OIF/OEF theatres or in support of these combat operations, as identified by DoD.  This allows all OIF/OEF veterans who were not seriously injured in combat, but who nevertheless have a disability incurred or aggravated during their military service, to enter the VA system and begin receiving disability benefits as soon as possible after separation.

Congressman John Hall has a few statements for the press after the hearing, they can be fully read here  some highlights are here

Congressman Hall said that the subcommittee is working to propose a new bill, HR- 3047, the VA Claims and Processing Act of 2007, which would mandate a 120-day maximum waiting period on veterans’ claims, and work to make the approval system more efficient.

Hall and the other subcommittee members said the country should be ashamed of the way the system is run, and apologized on the government’s behalf.

I SALUTE John Hall and his support for this nations veterans and their families, we need MORE representatives like him. The nation would be a better place for it.

For grins here is an editorial I found today searching veteran news, it has some GREAT ideas, althought they will never be approved. The link is here

Here's what I think we should do for every soldier who ever disrupts their lives and puts themselves in harm's way at the request of our country:

The soldier should come home with full combat pay for the rest of his or her natural life. And, if married, their spouse should get that until he or she dies.

In addition, there should be no limiting those benefits, regardless of the amount of income the soldier earns after serving.

The incomes of the soldier and the soldier's spouse should be completely exempt from any federal and state income taxes for the remainder of their lives. Period.

The soldier and his spouse should receive free health care and free prescription medication from the physician and the facility of choice for the remainder of their lives. If the solder has dependent children, this coverage should extend to them.

The soldier should be provided a tuition-free education for as long as the soldier chooses to stay in school, as long as he or she meets academic requirements and is in good standing. We ought to pay for their books, too.

The children of every soldier who served our country should be offered a tuition-free, four-year college education, as long as he or she can meet admission requirements, maintain academic standards and remain in good standing.

I'll think of some other stuff, too, before my list is complete.

And, you should see my list of benefits we should pay to the families of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.

You need to see the rest of the editorial and her suggestions for paying for these benefits, they are appropriate in my opinion.

Change is in the air for this nations veterans, which side of the vote is YOUR elected official going to be on, I ask all of you to send a copy of this to your Congressman and Senators and ask them to support the legislation John Hall is introducing and to give it strong bi-partisian support, our veterans deserve it and have earned it HR-3047.

Here is a link to the audio of the   hearing the link is in upper right hand corner

Originally posted to testvet6778 on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 06:28 PM PDT.


HR 3047

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