December 2000/January 2001
Veterans Affairs Committee Report
Simonis, Deyton, And Gober
By Bob Maras, Chair
I want to thank the members of the Committee for all the hard work and
effort they put into our efforts in 2000.
We had several guest speakers during the year. Our most recent were
Kent Simonis, the VA’s director of Health Administrative Services, and
Larry Deyton, the VA’s head of AIDS research who recently was put in
charge of the VA’s hepatitis C effort. Simonis spoke at the last VVA
Board meeting where he unveiled the new VA "smart card," which
will be used in VISN 12 beginning January 1. He demonstrated how the new
card works and how it will be able to pull up a veteran’s records in
just six seconds. He gave a rundown on the advantages and safeguards of
the new cards. Veterans will pick their own PIN numbers and can gain
access to their files via the Internet.
Dr. Deyton gave an alarming report on the effect of hepatitis C on
veterans. He described current treatments for the disease and the side
effects of the treatment drugs. He said he hopes that in the near future
there will be a way to test the liver without doing a biopsy. He advised
us to spread the word among veterans about the dangers of hepatitis C and
to make sure veterans receive accurate information. He also gave us a look
at several hepatitis-C bills that Congress will consider this coming year.
He said he hoped that legislation will be enacted in 2001 that compensates
veterans with the disease.
On November 9, acting VA Secretary Herschel Gober signed regulations
that recognized Type II diabetes among veterans as service-connected.
Veterans who contract this disease will be eligible for VA compensation
benefits. The compensation program should be up and running by the spring.
President Clinton this fall signed into law four bills dealing with
veterans: The Veterans Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act, the
Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act of 2000, the Veterans Benefits and
Health Care Improvement Act of 2000, and amendments to the Inspector
General Act of 1978.
Finally, I hope all VVA members and their families had a safe and
joyous holiday season. Please continue to remember less-fortunate veterans
who need our help and still need to come home. Welcome home.