12 February 2008

VFW Wants Dole/Shalala Recommendation Blocked

VFW Wants Dole/Shalala Recommendation Blocked
Creating separate system is an injustice to all disabled veterans


WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2008--The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is urging the leadership of four key congressional committees to block attempts to create a separate disability system that would have the Department of Veterans Affairs compensate veterans with similar wounds differently based on their age.

"There is no difference between a 22-year-old shot in the leg on Iwo Jima 63 years ago this month and a 22-year-old shot in the leg in Iraq yesterday," said VFW National Commander George Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J. "To compensate them differently based solely on age, and using the rational that this new generation is more deserving than older veterans, is an injustice, and violates every fundamental rule of fairness that Americans hold dear."

The recommendation in contention was made by the President's Commission on Care for America's Wounded Warriors, which was co-chaired by retired Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. The Dole/Shalala Commission was chartered in March 2007 as the administration's response to the outpatient housing debacle at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Four months later, the commission published a 149-page report with six broad recommendations.

The VFW wants more attention paid to the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission that Congress chartered in 2004 to study the benefits that compensate and assist veterans and their survivors for disabilities and deaths attributable to military service. After thousands of interviews and almost three years of research – including major studies by the Institute of Medicine and the Center for Naval Analysis – it published a 562-page report in October 2007 that included 113 detailed recommendations.

"The Dole/Shalala Commission's mandate was not to make broad generalizations and sweeping recommendations that would throw out a disability compensation system that has served millions of veterans extremely well over the years," said Lisicki. "Dole/Shalala was good, but it wasn't that good, and it certainly wasn't thorough enough to be touted as the 'cure-all' for all the VA's problems."

The VFW national commander is very concerned that a major change in the way the VA conducts business may be forced upon America's veterans without any opposition.

"The VFW is 100 percent against compensating veterans with the same injuries differently because of their age," said Lisicki, who voiced the VFW's opposition yesterday in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services and Veterans Affairs. [Read letter]

VFW Washington Office Executive Director Bob Wallace is now tasked to ensure the VFW's position is conveyed to and understood by the administration and Congress.

"How our nation properly cares for, and then fairly compensates our disabled veterans or their surviving family members are the only issues on the table, and that's why we are calling on Congress to thoroughly evaluate the recommendations made by both commissions" said Wallace, also a Vietnam veteran.

"Everyone wants to do what's best for our troops and for our veterans – to include all the members of both commissions – but what we absolutely must not do is create conditions that could cause the VA to fail in its primary mission," he said. "The VA is a national resource for disabled veterans. As an institution, it must survive, not just for the next 10 years, but for the next 100 years."


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