The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

May/June 2006
Meet John Rowan. Click his picture to read his biography.

Modest Victories

My President’s Message is beginning to feel like a Hollywood sequel, perhaps Scary VA Budget III. For the last several months we have been spending a significant amount of time and effort in lobbying the House and Senate in support of our Legislative Agenda. We have consistently pointed out that we are concerned that there are not enough funds to provide for the health care services and to process the claims for service-connected disability benefits earned by veterans. As usual, we focused on the three main issues: Funding, Accountability, and Outreach. Although it is always hard to judge the effectiveness of one’s efforts, we can point to some modest victories.

As of this writing, Congress appears ready to defeat proposals by the Bush administration to raise the fees for veterans’ health services, including increased prescription co-pays. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Chair John McHugh (R-N.Y.), Department of Defense plans to pass on increased costs of Tricare healthcare coverage to military retirees and their families have been thwarted until December 31, 2007.

These are clearly only temporary victories, however. During my testimony before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I was drawn into a conversation with Chairman Larry Craig (R-Idaho) regarding his concerns about the long-term viability of providing funding for veterans’ health care. Reiterating statements made by one of my predecessors several years ago, Sen. Craig challenged VVA and, in turn, the entire veterans’ community to come up with ideas for funding the VA. On VVA’s behalf, I gladly accepted the challenge and restated our proposal that Congress create a bipartisan, joint House and Senate commission to review VA funding. This is similar to Rep. McHugh’s proposal for a commission to study the funding needs for health care for military retirees and their families.

We’ve won some battles, but the war is far from over.

As we continue our battles, we will have one less warrior on our side. Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and an old friend and life member of VVA, recently announced that he is going to retire at the end of his term. Despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Lane Evans continued to advance an agenda that acknowledged the contributions of America’s veterans. This former Marine lance corporal will be greatly missed, but his contributions will not be forgotten.

One of the perks of living in New York City is having access to lots of events. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Tribeca Film Festival, where I saw the premiere of a new documentary, The War Tapes, which is reviewed in this issue. While I’m not an art critic, I can tell you that this movie was outstanding. It is an honest look at war from the soldier’s perspective. It does not pull any punches, yet it does not attempt to push any particular political agenda. We hope to show it during the Leadership Conference. I hope this will be an added incentive to attend.

After the movie, I joined two local VVA members, Ken Trautman (173rd Abn) and Joe Panzardi (1st Cav), and our wives at a reception for the producers. We had a chance to talk with some of the soldiers who did the filming. Iraq is not Vietnam, but there are some similarities. As is discussed elsewhere in this issue, PTSD is still a problem. The big difference between the new veterans and us is that at least they know what PTSD is. However, that does not mean they handle it any better. Which may be where we come in.

VVA will soon launch a new initiative called “Vets Connect.” This, we hope, will provide support to all the programs that VVA chapters and state councils have been conducting for new veterans. As we develop this project, one aspect may be to provide a mentoring program to help new veterans deal with PTSD. It amazes me how aware they are of VVA and how grateful they are to Vietnam veterans in general. For that we can be proud.

Keep up the good work.


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