Press Release

September 9, 2003

No. 03-35

Mokie Porter

(301) 585-4000 Ext.146

Congress Declares War Against
Disabled Veterans

(Washington, D.C.) – The House majority leadership has shown callous contempt for the sacrifices of America's defenders by attempting to impose overly restrictive conditions that would limit benefits for disabilities from military service, say organizations representing millions of our nation's veterans.

At issue is a provision in the 2004 Defense authorization bill that would deny disability compensation and health care for Americans who become disabled while serving their country if their disabilities are not directly related to performance of their official duties. Known as a "direct performance of duty" standard, this provision would overturn current law which authorizes service connection for disabilities incurred in the line of duty during service in the United States Armed Forces.

"Disability incurred in the line of duty is sometimes not directly due to a job injury, but may be due to less obvious factors attributable to the military environment," say the organizations. "Proof of a causal relationship may often be difficult or impossible to establish. Current law equitably relieves disabled veterans from the onerous burden of establishing performance of duty or other causal connection as a prerequisite for service connection."

An untold number of men and women will return from Iraq and the war on terror with disabilities. The military and veterans organizations worry that many of them will not be able to directly identify or prove the origin of their ailments, but that certainly does not mean they should be ignored. "Any suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and shameful," the groups said.

The nation's veterans and military service organizations are adamantly opposed to any change that would redefine service-connected disability or restrict the circumstances under which service-connection may be established. "We are shocked and appalled that any member of Congress or the Administration would suggest that such a draconian measure," said the organizations.

"Our nation is engaged in a war with a hostile enemy that would willingly kill innocent civilians. Yet it seems that some members of our government would shortchange those who protect us," said the veterans organizations. "Disabled veterans should not have to fight their own government for the benefits they earned. In a callous effort to limit government's obligations to our former, current and future defenders, authors of the provision in the Defense authorization bill took it upon themselves to rewrite the law regarding benefits for disabled veterans, bypassing the relevant congressional committee and without holding public hearings on the matter."


Joint Press Release Contacts:
Mokie Porter, Vietnam Veterans of America, (301) 585-4000, ext.146
Rick Jones, AMVETS, (301) 459-9600
David Autry, Disabled American Veterans, (202) 314-5219
Hershel Gober, Military Order of the Purple Heart, (202) 624-5360
Carl Blake, Paralyzed Veterans of America, (202) 416-7708

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated 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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