WASHINGTON, D.C. - June 9, 1997 - Vietnam Veterans of America
(VVA) national president George Duggins extended the organization's gratitude
and respect today to retiring Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown.
"It is with great sadness that we have learned of your resignation,"
Duggins said. "Your leadership and advocacy have helped to carry the
veterans community and the agency through a very challenging time and across
many obstacles. You will be missed!"
Noting that until Brown's administration the VA had not fully embraced
the veterans service organizations as true partners in providing the best
possible service to our nation's veterans, VVA recognized major improvements
in communication. "Because you came from the veterans community, you
were able to recognize the veterans service organizations as an asset to
the agency." VA's accomplishments during Brown's administration are
numerous and significant, demonstrating an activist agenda.
"For VVA, there are several priority issues which we feel could
not have been adequately addressed without your strong leadership, support,
and initiative," Duggins detailed in a June 9 letter. "The advancements
in benefits for Vietnam veterans afflicted with Agent Orange-related conditions
is a prime example. Enactment of the landmark spina bifida benefits package
could not have been achieved so quickly without the initiative VA demonstrated
in researching, seeking VSO input, and developing the legislative proposal
which became public law. We truly believe that this process demonstrated
government initiative at its finest." VVA considers this initiative
to be one of its finest advocacy accomplishments in recent years.
VVA executive director Rick Schultz described Brown's accomplishments
as a framework for further advancements by the next Secretary. "VVA
truly believes that you [Sec. Brown] have set the VA on a new course and
have laid the groundwork for the future. We respect the difficulties you
must have faced in changing many of the practices and collective mind set
of the agency -- but you did it. We are confident that your successor will
be better placed to lead the VA into the 21st Century because of all you
have done to facilitate progressive change."
Duggins thanked Brown for all the years of service he has contributed
to the veterans community in his post as Secretary for Veterans Affairs
and as a veterans service organization advocate prior to 1993. VVA wishes
Secretary Brown well in his future endeavors.