September 23, 2003
Enid Doggett
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6421/6422

AFGE President John Gage Issues Statement On Proposal To Limit Veterans Benefits For Service-Connected Disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“Our nation’s men and women in the armed forces are entitled to compensation and health care benefits for disabilities incurred or aggravated during or by military service. It is irresponsible and unpatriotic to force veterans to jump through extra hoops to prove that their injuries were a direct result from the performance of official military duties.”

“We applaud the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for holding this hearing today to examine the proposed plan being floated in the Department of Defense Authorization bill to rewrite the current law defining service-connected disability. This proposal would affect millions of veterans and their families in terms of compensation, medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and dependency and indemnity compensation benefits.

“It makes no sense to hastily re-write well-established law on veterans’ benefits which may have unfair and unintended harsh consequences. The proposed change in the law could mean a veteran who lost a leg from a grenade attack would have to litigate whether he was really in the line of duty because the veteran was eating a meal at the time the grenade struck. The proposed change in how the Department of Veterans’ Affairs determines veterans’ eligibility for service-connected disabilities could mean that a veteran in need of treatment for Post-traumatic stress disorder would have to first prove that the cause of his disorder was totally related to the stress of direct line of duty not the stresses of military environments.

“AFGE urges Congress not to make the veterans’ benefits system adversarial. Congress should uphold the long-standing principles in veterans’ benefits that recognize that our men and women in the armed services serve 24/7 and injuries, which occur while in military service, are service-connected."

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