We sat down with the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs and captured his thoughts about certain reform efforts for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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Response to President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Warriors The VA's response is generally very favorable to the Dole-Shalala Report, but one of things we need to do is to analyze it carefully, because it involves both DOD; Department of Defense, and the Departments of Veterans Affairs and we need to be sure that as we implement whatever is involved there, that we don't, as I mentioned the Hippocratic Oath, first do no harm. We don't do harm to some of the programs, that have been effective, that are working effectively for the veterans that are service members who are leaving the military and becoming veterans today. Next Steps for Reform Recommendations I'd say it's more just the opposite, the specific recommendations that we already know, we do want to implement, where you can make the transition for the military member as seamless as possible from active duty into the ranks of veterans. Well, there are several things that are pending right now. There are two Bills, one in the House, one in the Senate, called the Wounded Warrior Bills. There is also the Dole-Shalala Commission Report, but just a few months ago there was another Taskforce Report on things that could be done without changing the law, just sort of implements other programs with current legislative authority. There is another report, the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, that has a report coming out in October of this year, and I think what we need to do is take a look at each of these things and be sure that they all coordinate, so that to the extent, there is a legislative resolution to certain issues, that it draws on all of those sources, and to the extent that we don't need legislation, but we can and should be doing more to coordinate what we do at the Department of Veterans Affairs with the Department of Defense, we are doing the maximum amount possible to be sure that you wind up with this seamless process that Dr. Cross (ph) spoke about and because for these individuals, their lives many of them had been changed forever, certainly the traumatic brain injured individuals. Then you need somebody to plan the healthcare, the rehabilitation and the access to benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs or through any other systems of benefits that may exist. Assuring Veterans about Their Care The VA has about 240,000 people who are employed there. Each of them employed is implementing a very simple mission. We provide certain benefits to certain men and women who have done something to earn that. They have done to the uniform of their country to defend us, and we are all invested in that mission, and we are all committed to making it sure that every benefit healthcare, monetary benefits and burial in a national cemetery when they pass on, are provided in the most efficient, most effective, most compassionate way possible.
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