No. 014-99  
IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              June 30, 1999                       (202) 628-2700 Ext. 158 


George C. Duggins, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)  responded to Dr. Kenneth Kizer's decision to withdraw his name from consideration for the post of Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

 Dr. Kizer's withdrawal was, in a very real sense, a direct result of the crisis in veterans' health care, especially the shortfall in the FY 2000 budget request.  That shortfall  coupled with the lack of accountability at the local service-delivery point made his candidacy for another term unlikely at best, said Duggins. 

 Duggins noted that Dr. Kizer has led a distinguished career of public service and that some of the changes he made at VA will benefit veterans with better health care in the future.  However, the deficiency of resources and quickness of changes in the VA's large and cumbersome health care system produced many problems for which the Under Secretary would inevitably be held accountable. 

 Dr. Kizer has moved within the past six months to take remedial steps to effectively address some problems, such as those affecting veterans with spinal cord injuries, veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and veterans with other significant mental health problems.  The perception of the problems and the lack of accountability among local hospital and network directors exacted a price which centered ultimately on Dr. Kizer's re-nomination. 

 Duggins said, "Dr. Kizer deserves credit for noting in writing that unless the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) receives more resources for FY 2000 than President Clinton originally requested in January, the VA hospital system would be placed in a ‘dangerous and precarious situation.'  When that memo became public, the entire debate over the VHA budget was changed for the better.  Given all that has happened since, and particularly in light of the more than $1 trillion budget surplus, VVA is hopeful that President Clinton will take the lead to adjust the so-called ‘budget caps' for VA and significantly raise the amount over a multi-year period." 

Duggins concluded, "Although Dr. Kizer performed well on certain issues, the Department of Veterans Affairs will have to replace him with a tougher warrior who will  advocate for stronger health care for veterans and fight for the expeditious reception and treatment of veterans at all health care centers, while providing adequate funding to support topnotch care providers and equipment at those facilities.  VVA applauds Dr. Kizer's excellent initiatives such as the national policy response to Hepatitis C and the pain initiative screening as part of symptomatic diagnosis.  We wish him well in future endeavors." 

 - END - 

VVA's point of contact for additional information is Scott D. Campbell at (202) 628- 2700 Ext.158. 

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is 
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another." 

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