Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Veterans’ Subcommittee Reviews Legislation to Bolster Disability Benefits for Veterans
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, led by Chairman John Hall (D-NY), conducted a legislative hearing to review eleven bills that would improve benefits for veterans provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“A veteran is entitled to compensation for disabilities incurred in or aggravated during active military, naval or air service,” said Chairman Hall. “A few of the bills before the Subcommittee today address establishing presumptions of service-connection based on military service and seek to provide benefits to veterans afflicted with various illnesses as a result of their military service. A presumption for these illnesses would ease the often needless evidence hurdles many of these veterans face when filing their claims for disability compensation.”
Six of the bills reviewed at the DAMA Subcommittee hearing address establishing or expanding presumption of service-connection for certain diseases, service or specific veteran populations:
H.R. 1197 – The Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 2007 (Rep. Bilirakis)
H.R. 3795 – You Were There, You Get Care Act of 2007 (Rep. Filner)
H.R. 5454 – To establish a presumption of service connection of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for purposes of the laws administered by the VA Secretary (Rep. H. Brown)
H.R. 5954 – To provide veterans for presumptions of service connection for purposes of benefits under laws administered by VA Secretary for diseases associate with service in the Armed Forces and exposure to biological, chemical, or other toxic agents as post of Project 112 (Rep. Thompson)
H.R. 5985 – Compensation for Combat Veterans Act (Rep. Braley)
H.R. 6032 – To direct the VA Secretary to provide wartime disability compensation for certain veterans with Parkinson’s Disease (Rep. Filner)
Five bills would enhance benefits for veterans and outreach efforts at VA:
H.R. 3008 – Rural Veterans Services Outreach and Training Act (Rep. Wu)
H.R. 4274 – Gold Star Parents Annuity Act of 2007 (Rep. Walsh)
H.R. 5155 – Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act of 2008 (Rep. Shea-Porter)
H.R. 5448 – Full Faith in Veterans Act of 2008 (Rep. Allen)
H.R. 5709 – Veterans Disability Fairness Act (Rep. Space)
Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, provided testimony on H.R. 3795: “The You Were There, You Get Care Act would ensure that veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent conflict will be rated ‘service-connected disabled’ for any illnesses currently covered by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. I believe that in the past, many exposures were due to a lack of knowledge of the effect they would have on service members who were exposed, but that is not the case now. We know that health problems can result from exposure to depleted uranium, and we know that if veterans have been exposed, we have a responsibility to care for them.”
Chairman Filner also offered testimony on H.R. 6032: “This bill would establish a presumption of service-connection for Parkinson’s disease due to exposure to Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans afflicted with this degenerative and incurable condition. The Institute of Medicine needs to further study the link between Parkinson’s disease in these veterans and their exposure while in service to their country.”
Witness List:
Panel 1
The Honorable David Wu, Oregon, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Thomas Allen, Maine, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Michael Thompson, California, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable Denny R. Rehberg, California, United States House of Representatives
The Honorable James T. Walsh, New York, United States House of Representatives
Panel 2
Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS, Executive Director, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences
Sidath Viranga Panangala, Analyst Veterans Policy, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress
Accompanied by:
· Christine Scott, Specialist Social Policy, Congressional Research Services, Library of Congress
· Douglas Weimer, Legislative Attorney, Congressional Research Services, Library of Congress
Panel 3
Les Jackson, Executive Director, American Ex-Prisoners of War
Steve Smithson, Deputy Director, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Commission, The American Legion
John Rowan, National President, Vietnam Veterans of America
Lieutenant Commander Jack Alderson, USNR (Ret.), Ferndale, CA
Jeff Faull, McEwensville, PA, (Disabled Veteran) on behalf of The ALS Association
David Woods, Director, Veterans Affairs of Scott County, Iowa
Panel 4
Bradley G. Mayes, Director, Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, United States. Department of Veterans Affairs
Accompanied by:
· Bradley B. Flohr, Assistant Director for Policy, Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
· Richard Hipolit, Assistant General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Prepared testimony for the legislative hearing is available on the internet at this link:

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