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NCOA Testifies before Congressional Committees of Veterans Affairs

Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, welcomed H. Gene Overstreet to present NCOA’s 2013 Legislative Agenda to the Senate and House Committees on Veterans Affairs on February 28, 2013. Chairman Miller of the House Committee on Veterans joined in formally greeting the assembled Veterans Panel.

Chairman Sanders expressed appreciation for the work of organizations on behalf of veterans, their families, and survivors across America. He stated, “The knowledge each of your organizations gain from their daily interactions with veterans is an invaluable resource for members of these committees and the Congress as a whole, as we address the issues that are so important to our nation’s veterans and their families.” Among issues he addressed:

• Need to find innovative solutions for processes – veteran claims

• Noted implementation of the Veteran Benefit Management System was underway

• Mental health there is no “one size fits all” treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD and other conditions

• Noted VA and VSO organizational activities and programs that reach out to returning veterans

• Observed that outreach is particularly important to women veterans

• Noted that while VA is exempt from Sequestration he is committed to stopping future cuts. Not allow balancing the budget on the backs of veterans

• Facilitate veteran employment programs: including translating military skills to civilian job opportunities, employer tax credits for hiring veterans, extension of VOW to Hire Heroes Act

• Stop the Chained CPI attempt to restructure the formula used to calculate the annual COLA and its negative impact on veteran and their survivor benefits

• Expressed regret that VA and DOD have stopped developing an Electronic Data and Health Record

Chairman Miller likewise greeted the panel members expressing appreciation for their representation of America’s veterans. The Chairman expressed the appreciation that Congress had exempted the Department of Veterans Affairs from budget sequestration. He noted that he shared many of the concerns expressed by Chairman Sanders. Among other issues he addressed:

• Reported that he and Ranking Member Michaud would introduce legislation to fund entire veterans budget one year in advance

• That today’s veterans face enormous challenges

• Veterans must have access to effective behavioral health care, as well as the need for advance treatment of the physical and the mental wounds which they suffer from

• Ensure an adequate budget for veterans in the coming years

• Continue to ensure a workable veteran claim process

• Access to quality health care for all veterans

• Likewise expressed concerned on ceasing development of the Electronic Data and Health Record

NCOA President Gene Overstreet recognized and congratulated Chairman Sanders on his appointment as Chairman, Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs, and the appointment of Ranking Member Michaud on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He expressed the

Associations respect for the leadership of former Chairman Patty Murray of the Senate Committee and Ranking Member Bob Filner from the House Committee. Their advocacy for Veterans, their families and survivors within their respective committees are legends in the veteran’s community.

President Overstreet noted that the two committees have not only listened to veterans and veteran service organizations but have translated concerns into action to effectively meet veteran needs. He commented:

 “The nonpartisan advocacy of your committees on behalf

of veterans continues to be the driving force

to successful legislative action.”

The Association’s legislative priorities were addressed as

Priority #1

Adequate funding and employee accountable utilization of resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs remains NCOA’s top concern for all VA program elements. That the VA Budget will continue to be protected by your efforts from SEQUESTRATION OR ACROSS THE BOARD CUTS to meet national deficit reduction requirements.

Priority #2

Ensure resources for fully integrated Implementation of the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS) to meet VA goals of completed processing within 125 days with a 98% error rate.

Priority #3

Ensure VA provides timely access for all veterans including those living in rural America to quality programs that equally provide the full array of services for their physical and mental health requirements.

Priority #4

Expand existing VA legislative entitlements to benefits equal to those offered other federal beneficiaries.

Specific legislative recommendations were presented in the NCOA Formal Statement for inclusion in the Congressional Hearing Record. The NCOA Statement may be reviewed in its entirety at

Briefing on hill 2013 002

Lastly, Mr. Overstreet formally challenged all Committee members in the NCOA Statement to remain leaders and advocates for the Armed Forces and all Veterans in their role as voting members of the United States Congress. He noted their leadership role should be the advocacy that strengthens the All Volunteer Force and maintains the needed AMERICAN institutional support system that cares for those who have borne the battle, their widows and orphaned children for however long care is needed. The Nation has a responsibility regardless of cost to those who have defended and preserved the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans.

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