WASHINGTON, D.C. – John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), told a congressional hearing today, "Just because veterans, and our families, have sacrificed, this does not mean that we are willing to sacrifice in this way again.
"While we understand the need to address the deficit," Rowan said, "We stand 100 percent behind this statement by Congressman Tim Walz: 'Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of veterans who have risked life and limb in service of our country is unacceptable.' "
At the same time, Rowan said at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees, "A very bright light ought to be shined on the operations of the Department of Veterans Affairs to probe for redundant or duplicative services, poor acquisition management, and staffing inefficiencies. This synchs with one of VVA's overarching priorities: accountability."
The other "top priorities" for VVA, Rowan said, are expanding and enhancing the VA's outreach efforts to inform veterans and their families, not only of the benefits they have earned by virtue of their military service, but also of the potential long-term health effects of toxic exposures; the addition of questions about a veteran's military medical history in all electronic health records; and the creation of a Veterans Economic Opportunities Administration in the VA to "consolidate various currently separate yet interrelated programs whose mission is to assist veterans obtain and sustain meaningful work, or training, or education that will lead to a decent job at a living wage, and will enable veterans to achieve their American dream."
Of particular concern, Rowan said, is the lingering legacy of Agent Orange. "We are alarmed for our children and their children who present with birth defects or learning disabilities never before seen in the father's or the mother's family history," Rowan said. "We need research into the long-term effects of toxic exposures, and just as importantly, we need treatment and care for the progeny of veterans exposed to a toxic fog in a combat zone."