Chairman Filner started the discussion by listing the Committee’s top priorities which include providing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with sufficient and timely funding, fixing the disability compensation system, improving mental health treatment, improving health care access for women and rural veterans, and continuing vigorous oversight of the VA with a special focus on the implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The Chairman also discussed the need to improve the transition process from service member to veteran, noting that cooperation between the Department of Defense and VA has improved but has a long way to go.
Participants related how the general economic downturn is affecting the veteran community and called for investment in vocation rehabilitation programs and labor training. The lengthy wait for some veterans’ disability claims has contributed to financial problems and a domino effect that can result in economic turmoil from which some veterans never recover. Additional issues addressed included caregiver needs, Agent Orange veterans, Gulf War Syndrome, preventing homelessness, and the need for greater VA outreach campaigns to alert veterans of available benefits and programs.
Chairman Filner concluded: “Thank you for coming to express the needs of veterans to this Committee. We are truly grateful for the work you do and for your dedication to improving the lives of our Nation’s heroes. I ask you to continue reporting to Congress what you see and what you hear. We learn from you and we need your assistance as we demand accountability and work towards solutions. We have a new excitement and a new commitment to honor our veterans that have so bravely served our country and I hope you continue to work for progress.”