WE MUST EARN PAST SACRIFICES 



David Hackworth 

Medics have been my heroes from the first time I saw a "Doc" risk his life to patch up a wounded grunt. They're the bravest of the brave and the noblest of the noble. I've never known a more selfless or dedicated group of humans. 

This, from an Army Airborne Ranger doctor, explains why I feel this way: 

"As a military doctor I work long hours.One tends to become jaded by the lack of sleep and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. 

"With our large military-retiree population, it's often a nursing-home patient. I've caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person. I hadn't stopped to think of what citizens of this age represented. 

"I saw 'Saving Private Ryan'. I was touched deeply by the sacrifices of so many. I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor (Private Ryan) at the graveside asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my hospital and hadn't realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else who has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless. 

"Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. 

"There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my enlisted medic trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. As the medic made another attempt I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said 'Auschwitz'. Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering. 

"There was a retired Colonel who had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, his head was cut in a fall at home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi to take him home, then realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet. He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we paid for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours and I couldn't drive him myself. 

///"I was there the night MSG Roy Benavidez came through the Emergency Dept for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later. 

"And there were the gentlemen who served with Merrill's Marauders; the survivors of the Baatan Death March and Omaha Beach; the 101-year-old World War I veteran; the former POW held in North Korea; the former Special Forces medic. I remember these citizens. I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women. 

"I am angered at the cut backs - implemented and proposed - that will continue to decay their meager retirement benefits. I see the President and Congress who would turn their back on these individuals who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations who seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties won with such sacrifice. 

"My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation and that this nation knows not what it is losing. 

"We should all remember that we must 'Earn this'." 

Thanks Capt.Stephen Ellison, M.D. Well said.
 


Stars and Stripes Answerman: More Guidance On The VCAA
Feb 21, 2001
John E. Howell
Stars and Stripes Veterans' Advocate

Let's talk about the Precedential Opinion of the VA General Counsel, number 3-2001 (known in the trade as "VAOPGCPREC 3-2001"). These opinions are documents only a lawyer could love.

This opinion sets out legal guidelines under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 (VCAA) and answers three questions for every veteran who has had a claim denied or whose claim is pending appeal for being not well-grounded. Let me lead you through it.

Your Claim Has Been Denied

If your claim has been denied because it is not well-grounded, and that denial is final, nothing in the VCAA requires the VA to locate and readjudicate it. While the leadership could direct such a search , they apparently have decided against it. Without a timely request by you, the regional offices (ROs) are not required to search for denied claims for you on their own initiative . To be safe, you should request that your claim be reopened and readjudicated.

To be fair, as a policy matter , the VA will readjudicate claims under the VCAA if they discover your claim denial while working on an existing claim or remand, or if they learn of a denied claim through a third party such as your congressman. But that does not change the fact that the burden is still on you.

Only claims that were finally denied between July 14, 1999, and Nov. 9, 2000 (the date the VCAA was enacted), may be readjudicated under the VCAA, and no claim can be readjudicated after Nov. 9, 2002 . Nov. 9, 2002, is the absolute cut-off date.

Dealing With A Closed Claim

If your claim was finally denied as not well-grounded, and you are within the time limits and ask the VA to readjudicate your claim, the VA must treat it "as if the denial or dismissal had not been made." That means their initial decision never happened. The board's decision is gone, and the court's decision is gone. Those decisions are "non-existent" because the board and the court now have no jurisdiction. It's a new ballgame.

The VA must start, all over again, to develop and adjudicate the claim as if it were new. And if you don't like that new decision, you can and must appeal all over again. That's good news, because all your appeal rights are still in place.

"Not Well-Grounded" Claims

If your claim has not been finally denied as not well-grounded, it's the same old ballgame! If you appealed because your claim was denied as not well-grounded, you must continue your appeal . The original decision remains in place, but the appeal authority (the board or the court) must apply the new law to make things right.

At the RO: If your claim is at the RO and has been denied as not well grounded, and your appeal period has not expired, get that appeal or Notice of Disagreement ("NOD") filed before your time to appeal expires. When you appeal, VA must issue a Supplemental Statement of the Case taking the VCAA into account.

At the board: If your claim is at the Board, it will probably treat the RO's denial of your claim as having no effect and remand it to readjudicate your claim. However, your should check on your claim to make sure.

At the Court: If your claim is at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, they have probably already remanded it to the board, which can readjudicate it or send it back to the RO.

Takes Time

Remanding a case takes time , but it will keep your early effective date intact. It also puts your claim on a better footing because the RO now must develop and readjudicate your claim instead of saying it is not well-grounded and blowing you off.

Don't forget, it is still your claim. Stay in touch with the RO and find out what's happening to your claim . Don't assume you have a guardian angel looking out for you. You may be disappointed .

John E. Howell, a retired Air Force colonel and attorney in Washington, D.C., can be reached at jhowell @sperdutolaw .com .

Copyright 1999-2000 Stars and Stripes Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Stars and Stripes - The National Tribune is a trademark of Stars and Stripes Omnimedia , Inc.,and is separate and distinct from publication under the same name as published by the Department of Defense.
 


Senate Budget Committee Seen as Key to Disabled Vets Concurrent Receipt
Feb. 8, 2001 
Dave Eberhart
Stars and Stripes Veterans Affairs Editor

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Tim Hutchinson, R-Ariz., wrote to Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M ., and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Jan. 26 asking to testify before the budget committee on the urgency of passing the latest version of a concurrent pay bill. 

Reid and Hutchinson are sponsors of the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001, encompassing S. 170 and H.R. 303, that would allow veterans to receive retirement pay concurrently with compensation for service-connected disabilities. The bill was introduced by and Rep. Michael Bilirakis , R-Fla. 

The potential key role of the Senate budget committee in the fate of the legislation was explained by The Retired Officers Association (TROA). A spokesmen for TROA, long a strong advocate of the relief, said that, "Congressional rules governing 'entitlement spending' make it extremely difficult for the armed services committees to authorize retired pay enhancements without extra 'entitlement headroom.'" 

In their letter, Reid and Hutchinson wrote: "In this era of dramatic surplus projections, it would be unjust not to seize the opportunity to end the unfair practice of offsetting military retirement and VA disability pay. Those stipends are earned and awarded for entirely different purposes, yet current law ignores any distinction. We have a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to the remarkable men and women who have sacrificed so much for this great country of ours, and we must not squander it." 

For more than a century, disabled veterans have been penalized by a post-Civil War federal law requiring that any disability compensation be subtracted from their retirement pay. 

The proposed legislation would cover veterans who retired after 20 or more years, and those with 15 to 19 years of service who were encouraged to take special early retirement at the end of the Cold War. 

The proposal would also: 

Prohibit any reduction in the retirement pay of a disabled person when the disability rating is total. 

Set retired pay for veterans with 20 years' service or greater who retired due to a physical disability. 

Current Law 'Disgraceful ' 

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, when America's standing army was small, Congress passed a law prohibiting the concurrent receipt of military retirement pay and disability compensation. Today , Reid said, disabled veterans who take civil service jobs have been permitted to receive disability benefits and full retirement benefits concurrently, but those who continue to serve in the military have not. 

"Brave men and women who risked their lives to serve their country, and who received a disability in the line of duty, are now being asked to forego part of their retirement pay," said Reid. "We let other federal retirees get both disability and retirement pay, but we deny our veterans this privilege because of an antiquated law. Quite simply, this is disgraceful ." 

Reid introduced a similar bill last year that received support from the Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees , the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars , the Retired Officers Association, the Retired Enlisted Association and other groups . 

The new proposal, introduced in the 107th Congress on Jan. 31, says that military retirees "shall not forfeit any portion" of their compensation based on VA-authorized disability pay.

Copyright © 1999-2000 Stars and Stripes Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Stars and Stripes - The National Tribune is a trademark of Stars and Stripes Omnimedia , Inc.,and is separate and distinct from publication under the same name as published by the Department of Defense.


Federal Appeal Decision Finds for Vets in Landmark Breach of Contract Suit
Feb . 12, 2001
Dave Eberhart
Stars and Stripes Veterans Affairs Editor

William O. Schism and Robert L. Reinlie, retired veterans over 65 years of age, each had more than 20 years of active military service. They entered the military in 1943 and 1942 and retired in 1979 and 1968, respectively. 

After years of participation in the military health care system as retirees, both men, at 65, found themselves --like all their contemporaries--forced to depend on Medicare for their health care . They both came to believe that the U.S. government had breached a promise to them and their families of health care for life. 

On Feb. 8, in a landmark decision hailed by veterans groups nationwide, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with them. 

(The intermediate appellate courts in the federal judicial system are the courts of appeals. Twelve of these courts have jurisdiction over cases from certain geographic areas. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has national jurisdiction over specific kinds of cases.) 

The two veterans in 1996 filed suit for monetary damages in U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Fla., but the judge later denied their petition and ruled that their action was not eligible to be opened up as a class action to other potential claimants. The appellate panel not only remanded the case back to the lower federal court, but also granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and determined that the case can be expanded to a class-action proceeding. 

The only discretion given the district court judge is to determine the extent of monetary damages owed to the two veterans. 

'Monumental' Decision 

"The decision represents a monumental legal way station on the way to a class-action suit that may redefine what Uncle Sam owes to its veterans," veterans' advocate Phil Cushman, president of Veterans for Due Process, told The Stars and Stripes Feb. 12. 

The two retirees submitted affidavits from former recruiters and other military officials describing the specific offers made to prospective recruits and service members to persuade them to enlist , re-enlist or continue their military careers until retirement. 

One such affidavit from a former military recruiter said: "I specifically remember one incident that has always stood out in my mind. On an [Inspector General] Inspection in January 1949, [several officers] gave eight recruiters in Denver a talk on the benefits of permanent health care and free medicine that we would be entitled to for the rest of our lives. We were told that we had to consider this as a part of our pay." 

"It is unthinkable that the U.S. Congress would select the World War II and Korean War vets as the group to lose military medical care at age 65," said Day, a retired Air Force colonel who received the Medal of Honor for bravery as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. "These are the vets who won World War II and suffered so badly in Korea. Would Congress dare do this with ethnic or minority groups in today's politically correct atmosphere ? It is not likely. This breach of contract is pure political discrimination against America's heroes." 

'That's discrimination ' 

"To date," explained Day , "various veterans associations and societies have elected not to sue the government , and have chosen to offer retirees insurance policies like Champus, Tri-Care and subvention. But thousands of irate retirees and dependents out here who have earned what they were promised...agree that the lawsuit is the way to go. 

"Military retirees are the only federal employees forced into Medicare instead of having a continuing health plan," Day said. "That's discrimination. How are we going to attract loyal and honorable men and women for military careers if government itself is incapable of keeping promises ?" 

Day said that "an immediate request will be made to certify this case as a class action for these World War II and Korean veterans." 

In the 20-page decision on Feb. 8, the appeals court declared: 

"Here, the secretaries (of the military departments), acting under congressional authority delegated by 5 U .S.C. 301, made implied-in-fact contracts to provide Schism and Reinlie and their dependents with free, lifetime health care provided they served for twenty years . This created a contractual right to that medical care that the passage of 10 U.S .C. 1074(b) and 1076(b) could not divest. The notion that the federal government could avoid a contractual obligation through subsequent legislation would conflict with the government's own long-run interest as a reliable contracting partner in the myriad of workaday transactions of its agencies." 

The appeals court noted that the U.S. government--named as defendant in the suit--conceded that recruiters made good-faith representations to potential recruits that, upon retirement, they and their dependents would receive free, lifetime medical care. 

"In fact, the record shows that the Army made these promises in its recruiting brochures as recently as the 1990s," the court said. 

Recruiters' Promises 

The court quoted from one brochure: "Health care is provided to you and your family members while you are in the Army, and for the rest of your life if you serve a minimum of 20 years of active Federal service to earn your retirement." 

In the key language of the decision, the justices said: "Based on the Secretary of the Navy's letter in 1945 , it is apparent that the recruiters made these promises at the direction of the secretaries . In determining whether the government intended to contract, we presume that the secretaries carried out their duties in good faith and in accordance with law when making these promises." 

"Before 1956," the court added, "promises of free, lifetime health care were well within the discretion and power of the secretaries. Funding by Congress of the military's health care system confirmed this broad delegation. Congressional delegation of authority along with the absence of any contrary statutes or regulations in force at the time the retirees entered military service, gives the promises of free, lifetime health care made by recruiters, under the authority of the secretaries, the force of law and creates an implied-in-fact contract binding upon the government." 

According to Day, participants in the class-action suit must be: 

· Honorably retired with 20 or more years of active duty; no break in service on or after June 7, 1956, until retirement. 

· At least 65 years of age . 

· Receiving Social Security payments. 

· Currently on Medicare and paying for Part B coverage. 

Day said that military retirees interested in joining the class-action proceeding should contact the litigant group at: Class Act Group, 32 Beal Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. 32548-5398 (telephone 850-664-6324 or 5139; fax 850-664-6385 or 1-800-972-6275). 

Required documentation includes : 

· A copy of the retiree 's (full) retirement order or Form DD-214; 

· A representation agreement , downloadable from website (see below); 

· If affordable, a one-time donation of $50 (enlisted) or $100 (officers) payable to George E. Day Escrow Account . 

Day joined the Marine Corps in 1942 and served 30 months in the South Pacific as a noncommissioned officer. He received an appointment as a second lieutenant in the National Guard in 1950. He was called to active duty in the Air Force in 1951 and entered jet pilot training , later serving two tours in the Far East as a fighter-bomber pilot during the Korean War. 

Shot down over North Vietnam on Aug. 26, 1967, Day spent 67 months as a prisoner of war. Earlier, Day was the only POW to escape from prison in the South. He also is credited with living through the first "no-chute" bailout from a burning jet fighter in England in 1955. 

The recipient of nearly 70 military decorations and awards, Day is the nation's most highly decorated officer , as well as the most-decorated since Gen. Douglas MacArthur. 

Day is former Florida State Republican Committee member and a former member of the board of directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. In 1984, he was national chairman of Veterans for Reagan. He campaigned for President George H.W. Bush in 1992. 

Some Relief Already on Way 

Last year, House and Senate armed services committee leaders agreed to include language in the fiscal 2001 defense authorization bill providing lifetime health coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees , family members and survivors. The agreement established "TRICARE-for-life" as a permanent entitlement as of Oct. 1, 2001. 

Under the provision, TRICARE would serve either as a primary provider or a second-payer supplemental to Medicare . The Defense Department has a year to establish the new program, which would be funded through a new retiree health care trust fund to become effective on Oct. 1, 2002 . 

The federal appeals court did not acknowledge the congressional action as mooting the relief sought by Schism and Reinlie. 

Class-action lawsuit website : www .classact -lawsuit .com .



Copyright © 1999-2000 Stars and Stripes Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Stars and Stripes - The National Tribune is a trademark of Stars and Stripes Omnimedia , Inc.,and is separate and distinct from publication under the same name as published by the Department of Defense.
 


LONG-TIME STAFFERS SMITH, WU 
PROMOTED BY HOUSE VETERANS' AFFAIRS
February 12, 2001


WASHINGTON, D.C. - House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced Thursday the promotion of staffers Kingston E. Smith and Arthur K. Wu.

Smith, who has held several senior professional staff positions on the VA Committee since 1984, moves up to deputy chief counsel for the full VA Committee. Wu will succeed Smith as staff director of Oversight and Investigations, where he has been a professional staff member since 1995. Wu was also named deputy staff director for the full VA Committee.

"Both the veterans community and I are fortunate to have two experienced and respected professionals like Kingston Smith and Art Wu on the VA Committee," Chairman Smith said. "Their institutional memories and grasp of the issues are among the greatest assets I'll have in driving an agenda that keeps faith with veterans."

Following graduation with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Duke University in 1968, Smith spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, including two years as a C-141 pilot and one year as an EC-47Q Special Operations pilot in Vietnam. He served in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement in 1997. His military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal. He received his Juris Doctor degree in 1977 after attending the University of Richmond law school on the Vietnam Era
GI Bill, and practiced law in Richmond, VA, for three years. He then was an attorney in the Veterans Administration's Office of General Counsel for four years before joining the VA Committee staff.

Wu was a U.S. Army Medical Service Corps officer for 20 years before retiring in 1990.

He served as a hospital administrator at Fort Myer, VA; Okinawa; Japan; Fort Knox, KY; and Fort Lee, VA; an Army Surgeon General's representative to the Office of Civilian Health and Medical Programs of the Uniformed Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Pentagon; Medical Operations Officer, VII U.S. Army Corps, Stuttgart, Germany; and chief, Health Care and Physical Standards, Army Surgeons Office, National Guard Bureau, Pentagon, Washington, DC. Following his retirement from the Army, Wu worked as a management consultant on health care reform and managed care programs before joining the House VA Committee in 1995. On the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, Wu was involved in such issues as information technology, the use of the human subjects in medical  research, infrastructure realignment, strategic planning, financial management, patient safety, medical errors, medical devices, joint VA/DOD pharmaceuticals procurement, and claims processing.

VA Committee Holds Organizational Meeting, 
Chairman Smith Sets Agenda for 107th Congress

February 15, 2001



VA Committee Holds Organizational Meeting, Chairman Smith Sets Agenda for 107th Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Promising an ambitious, "proactive" and bipartisan agenda, Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) convened the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs for the 107th Congress Wednesday.

Smith listed new members and subcommittee assignments, praised the achievements of former Chairman Bob Stump (R-AZ) and Ranking Democrat Lane Evans (D-IL), and then outlined his vision for the Committee. That
vision includes making veterans "a top budget priority" for Congress.

"Our Committee will remain proactive on veterans issues," Smith promised. "We will be veterans advocates. We will continue to improve their health care and other benefits so that veterans programs are relevant and responsive for all who answered the call to defend our country and our way of life."

Smith said the VA Committee would continue to examine ways to speed up the pace of disability claims processing and waiting periods for health care appointments. He vowed to build on the Committee's recent successes in upgrading VA health care.

"The VA's health care delivery system is growing old and needs maintenance and improvements," he said. "We directed VA to implement a far-reaching long-term care policy, and we must make sure the needed resources are there."

Ranking Democrat Member Evans said he " couldn't agree more" with Smith's view that no one in America "deserves more attention and tangible assistance than our veterans."

"Your priorities were also reported to be a 'world-class health care system and prompt and fair decisions on claims for benefits,'" Evans said. "Mr.

Chairman, I pledge to work with you to achieve these goals for our veterans and their dependents. Members on this side of the aisle share your determination for veterans to truly receive 'world class' service."

Smith introduced three new VA Committee members, Representatives Rob Simmons (R-CT), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), and Henry Brown (R-SC). Evans announced the new Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Members. They are
Representatives Bob Filner (D-CA), Subcommittee on Health; Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Subcommittee on Benefits; and Vic Snyder (D-AR), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Subcommittee chairmen, announced at last week's Republican caucus, are Representatives Jerry Moran (R-KS), Health; J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Benefits; and Steve Buyer (R-IN), Oversight and Investigations.
 

GULF WAR AL JUBAYL CASE NARRATIVE UPDATE RELEASED
No. 075-01 
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
February 22, 2001 

 


The Defense Department released today an updated version of its "Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia" case narrative.
The report, first published in August 1997, presents the results of investigations into three suspected chemical
warfare incidents at the port city of Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia, during the Gulf War. 

The analysis of information obtained during the latest investigation of the "loud noise" event, which occurred
on Jan. 19, 1991, shows that an Iraqi attack against Al Jubayl was definitely not the cause for the loud noise.
However, investigators from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses still cannot identify the
source of a white cloud that was reported during the loud noise event or what caused some Seabees from
Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 to experience a burning sensation on their skin. For those reasons,
the original assessment of "unlikely" regarding the presence of chemical warfare agents in Al Jubayl during the
loud noise event remains "unlikely." 

The assessments of the Scud impact event which occurred Feb. 16, 1991, and the "purple T-shirt" event on
March 19, 1991, for the presence of chemical warfare agents remain "definitely not." 

The case narrative centers on three main occurrences known as the loud noise event, the Scud impact event
and the purple T-shirt event. The updated case narrative benefits from an expanded investigation and includes
the investigation of two alternative scenarios for the loud noise event proposed by veterans. It also
incorporates medical information pertaining to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24. Additional source
documentation and other corroborative evidence strengthened the assessments of the original report. 

Notable in this new information is the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence report of its own investigation of
the loud noise event. The report, developed independent of the U.S. investigation, provided new information
sources and supported the Defense Department's conclusions. 

Case narratives and information papers are part of the Defense Department's continuing effort to inform the
public of its efforts to better understand the nature and possible causes of the illnesses being experienced by
many Gulf War veterans. 

The "Al Jubayl, Saudi Arabia" case narrative, along with the documentary evidence and personal interviews,
is posted on the GulfLINK at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/al_jub_ii .

107th Congress
February 2001

On January 3, 2001, members of the 107th Congress began the legislative session and were sworn in to office. 

Principi Nomination Confirmed

On January 23, the Senate voted to confirm (by unanimous vote of 100 yeas) the nomination of Anthony J. Principi to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mr. Principi was named VA Deputy Secretary by former President Bush in 1989 and later served as Acting Secretary in 1992. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a decorated Vietnam veteran. He is also a life member of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 2 in San Diego, California.

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Named

Republicans chose Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) to succeed Representative Bob Stump (R-AZ) as Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Representative Smith has served on the committee for 20 years. The promotion was part of a changeover of chairmen required by the six-year term limitations House Republicans imposed on Committees when they became the majority party in 1995. As Chairman of the full committee, Smith will oversee the Department of Veterans Affairs, with its $48 billion budget, more than 100 national cemeteries, a comprehensive benefits program, and one of the world's largest health care systems. Representative Lane Evans (D-IL), is still the Ranking Democratic member on the full committee.

The House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee Chairmen were also named. Representatives J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Subcommittee on Benefits; Jerry Moran (R-KS), Subcommittee on Health; and Steve Buyer (R-IN), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Democrats are still in the process of choosing new members, including ranking members of subcommittees. 

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) remains the Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV), is still Minority Ranking Member. 

Concurrent Receipt Update

In January, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Congressman Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced legislation to end the unfair practice of deducting disability compensation from a veteran's longevity retirement pay. Companion bills, S. 170 and H.R. 303, both aptly named the 
Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2001. DAV fully supports both bills and we encourage you and your family members to write, telephone, or send a prepared e-mail message from our web site to your members of Congress urging them to support H.R. 303 and S. 170. 

The issue of full concurrent receipt will remain a top priority for the DAV during the 107th Congress. We are working with key congressional staff members and eleven other veterans and military service organizations to get Congress to remove the prohibition on concurrent receipt of military longevity retired pay and veterans' disability compensation. We are pursuing a number of initiatives to achieve this goal. Success on this legislation depends largely on the strength of our grassroots lobby. We encourage you to tell other veterans, family members, and friends to take action now to correct this injustice. We appreciate your continued support on this issue. 


Persian Gulf War Veterans Update

In January, over 300 medical and scientific researchers met in Alexandria, Virginia, for the fifth annual gathering of experts studying the illnesses of Persian Gulf War (PGW) veterans. The conference was sponsored by the Research Working Group of the Military and Veterans Health Coordinating Board (MVHCB), established in 1994 to plan and coordinate PGW related research projects. 

Researchers, clinicians, veterans, and government officials concerned with the health consequences of the Gulf War exchanged ideas, shared information and presented recent study results during the three-day event. To date, the federal government has sponsored 192 research projects costing $155 million. The MVHCB summary report on Gulf War veterans' illnesses is available on the Internet at www.mvhcb.gov. January 17 marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. 


VA Secretary Rules on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses

On January 17, 2001, then Acting Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Hershel W. Gober announced that the latest medical research does not justify granting presumptive service-connection for illnesses affecting veterans after serving in the Persian Gulf War. The VA based its decision on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) study released in September 2000, which looked at more than 10,000 published scientific studies related to four potential causes of Gulf War illnesses, including depleted uranium, sarin (a nerve gas), vaccines, and pyridostigmine bromide (a medication used to protect troops from nerve gas). The only significant findings from the study were a link between some medical problems and exposure to high levels of sarin nerve gas but VA said that there is no evidence that U.S. troops were exposed to high levels of sarin during the Gulf War. 

OSAGWI Pesticide Report Released

On January 12, the Pentagon's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) released a report on pesticide use by U.S. troops during the Persian Gulf War. The report stated that many servicemebers used pesticides in areas where they worked, slept and ate. Research was conducted to determine if the variety of symptoms reported by thousands of Gulf War veterans, including memory loss, chronic fatigue, sleep, mood, and neurological effects, and muscle and joint pain were linked to pesticide use by American troops during the war. The study conducted by the RAND Corporation suggested that exposure to some pesticides could be among potential contributing agents to some undiagnosed illnesses reported by Gulf War veterans. However, it found that it is unlikely that exposure to certain pesticides alone explains the myriad of health problems reported by Gulf War veterans and that more research is needed to confirm or deny a causal link between pesticides and other !
agents and illnesses among Persian Gulf War veterans. 

Additional Studies Needed

Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) issued the following statement after the release of the final report in December 2000, by the Special Oversight Board for the Department of Defense Investigations of Gulf War Chemical and Biological Incidents: "This final report is not the final word on Gulf War illnesses." Representative Evans, the Ranking Democratic Member on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, believes that additional studies are needed to determine whether and to what extent veterans serving in specific locations and at specific times have similar manifestations of illnesses. Representative Evans called for further studies that focus on veterans' symptoms and their location at a particular time during the Gulf War rather than trying to identify specific cause of illnesses. Representative Evans noted that findings of the Kansas study are similar to those identified in reports compiled by the democratic staff of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Those reports iden!
tified substantially greater percentages of undiagnosed illnesses being service connected by the VA for veterans who served in specific locations at specific times. 


2001 DAV Mid-Winter Conference

I encourage everyone to attend the 2001 DAV Mid-Winter Conference, March 11-14, at the Hyatt Regency in Arlington, Virginia. The conference, held in conjunction with the Commanders and Adjutants Association annual meeting, features informative service and legislative workshops. It is an excellent time for DAV members to meet with their elected representatives on Capitol Hill to emphasize the need for their support of veterans' issues. Please join DAV National Commander Armando C. Albarran during his legislative presentation to a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on Wednesday, March 14 at 10:00 a.m. in the Cannon House Office Building. 


POW/MIA SUMMIT

The Disabled American Veterans will host a national summit on POW/MIA issues on Thursday, September 20, 2001, in Washington, D.C. 

The summit will include briefings and panel discussions which will focus on issues surrounding Americans taken prisoner or listed as missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. One of the summit's aims is to assess the current status of efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting of these missing Americans, including those who might still be alive. Another is to provide a broad perspective on salient issues as a way of informing and influencing our nation's POW/MIA-related public policy, both current and future.

We will provide more information in the near future about the upcoming summit. We hope you will be able to join us for this important event. 


BILLS INTRODUCED IN THE 107TH CONGRESS

The following bills have been introduced in the House or Senate since January 2001. This list includes bills of interest to disabled veterans and their families. 

H.R. 51 would provide that persons retiring from the Armed Forces shall be entitled to all benefits which were promised them when they entered the Armed Forces.
H.R. 65, the Military Retirement Equity Act of 2001, would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive a portion of their military retired pay concurrently with veterans' disability compensation. 
H.R. 179, the Keep Our Promise To America's Military Retirees Act, would restore health care coverage to retired members of the uniformed services.
H.R. 208 would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to determine and report to Congress an appropriate tax incentive to encourage individuals other than members of the Armed Forces to participate as members of honor guards at funerals for veterans.
H.R. 290 would revise the effective date for an award of disability compensation by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs under section 1151 of title 38, United States Code, for persons disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation.
H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001, would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both military retired pay by reason of their years of military service and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability.
H.R. 435 would improve access to medical services for veterans seeking treatment a VA outpatient clinics with exceptionally long waiting periods. 
H.R. 439 would extend commissary and exchange store privileges to veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 30 percent or more and to the dependents of such veterans. 
H.R. 440 would authorize transportation on military aircraft on a space-available basis for veterans with a service-connected disability rated 50 percent or more.
H.R. 442 would increase the maximum amount of a home loan guarantee available to a veteran. 
H.R. 510/S. 281, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Act, would authorize the design and construction of a temporary education center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the District of Columbia.
H.R. 511 would improve outreach programs carried out by the VA to provide for more fully informing veterans of benefits available to them under the law. 
H.R. 609, the Veterans' Compensation Equity Act of 2001, would provide limited authority for concurrent receipt of military retired pay and veterans' disability compensation in the case of certain disabled military retirees who are over the age of 65.
H.R. 612, the Persian Gulf War Illness Compensation Act of 2001, would clarify the standards of compensation for Persian Gulf veterans suffering from certain undiagnosed illnesses.
S. 38 would permit former members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated as total to travel on military aircraft in the same manner and to the same extent as retired members of the Armed Forces are entitled to travel on such aircraft. 
S. 43 would authorize certain disabled former prisoners of war to use Department of Defense commissary and exchange stores. 
S. 170, the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2001, would permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability to receive both military retired pay by reason of their years of military service and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

CONCLUSION

The legislative staff looks forward to seeing many of you at the DAV 2001 Mid-Winter Conference in March. We need to continue working together to educate members of Congress and the Administration about disabled veterans' needs and concerns. I am grateful for your continued support and confident we can meet the challenges ahead. 

Please check the legislative action section of our web site at www.dav.org for legislative updates and calls to action on important issues. If you want to receive legislative alerts and updates automatically, I encourage you to sign up for the DAV Commanders Action Network (DAV CAN) program. 

___________________________
JOSEPH A. VIOLANTE
National Legislative Director
 

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