Every VA medical
facility in the country has a hard freeze on
hiring and replacements. The "management efficiencies"
VA speaks of are nothing more than cutting staff and reducing
services further. VA needs a supplemental appropriation of $700
million for FY02 right now. Further increases for the FY 2003
budget for VHA operating funds of $25.5 billion are needed in
real, appropriated dollars.
The VHA must
evolve from a general healthcare system for veterans to a
veterans healthcare system that concentrates on the wounds of
war and of military service. For this to happen, a complete
military history needs to be taken of every veteran, and used to
indicate follow-up tests that should be done based on when,
where, and in what branch the veteran served.
supports hearings and prompt passage of H.R. 639, the Veterans
Hepatitis C Comprehensive Health Care Act. We also favor action
to confirm hepatitis C as a presumptively service-connected
While VVA applauds
the efforts of Secretary Principi to develop better financial
tracking and management-information tools, we must move quickly
to implement VA accountability mechanisms. The Secretary may
need additional statutory authority to insure that VISN
Directors, VAMC Directors, managers, supervisors, and others not
doing their jobs are held more accountable for performance.
We asked that the
Vet Centers have at least 250 more staff and at least an
additional $17 million for FY 2002. I pushed hard for
establishing a new National Institute for Military and Veterans
Health (NIVH) in the National Institutes of Health. This
institute would assume the lead role in investigating medical
conditions affecting veterans. It also should have the authority
and responsibility to insure that veteran-specific topics are
adequately explored by the National Institutes of Health.
We also called for
a large-scale epidemiological study of Vietnam veterans and
their families to be started now. This study must be government
funded, but it also must be privately conducted and peer
reviewed to have credibility. VVA urges full funding and full
implementation of all provisions of P.L. 107-95, the Homeless
Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act.
Congress to pass legislation this year that makes meaningful
reform in employment assistance programs for veterans. Veterans
must be given help to obtain and sustain meaningful employment
at the highest level of the their potential. Further, more
accountability from federal managers is needed in enforcing the
Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 and according
veterans and disabled veterans their full rights under the law.
We asked the
committees to make permanent the authority for care for sexual
trauma and requested that Public Law 106-419, which provides for
treatment services and certain benefits to children born to women
who served in Vietnam, be extended to men and be implemented at an
There was much more
of importance to all veterans. VVA tries to stay focused on the
issues important to our membership. As an organization, we will
follow through with our priorities and hope others will listen and
join with us. We will persist until justice is accorded to Vietnam
veterans and our families.
We have a lot of work ahead
of us to be sure that veterns recieve adequate dollars to provide
quality, timely health care and other services. We are asking you
to prepare now to remind those campaigning and others that
Veterans Vote. We must be prepared to take action for those who
use the VA for their health care.
The key to our
success will be what it has always been: that all VVA members and
friends care enough about Vietnam veterans and their families to
get informed on the issues and to be active as informed veterans
advocates. Together we can make great progress toward our common
goal of simple justice for veterans.
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