Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Submission For The Record of Paralyzed Veterans of America
Chairman Runyan, Ranking Member McNerney, and members of the Subcommittee, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), thanks you for the opportunity to submit a statement for the record regarding the proposed legislation being considered today. PVA appreciates the fact that this Subcommittee is addressing these important issues with the intention of improving benefits for veterans. We particularly support any focus placed on meeting the complex needs of the newest generation of veterans, even as we continue to improve services for those who have served in the past.
H.R. 923 the “Veterans Pensions Protection Act of 2011”
PVA supports H.R. 923, the “Veterans Pensions Protection Act of 2011.” This legislation would exempt reimbursements of expenses related to accident, theft, loss, or casualty loss from determinations of annual income with respect to pensions for veterans and surviving spouses and children of veterans. Our nation’s veterans should not have to claim incidental insurance compensation as income that would inadvertently reduce their pension payment. This is a common sense amendment to current law.
PVA supports H.R. 1025, legislation to amend title 38, United States Code, to recognize the service of the men and women that have served in the reserve components of the armed forces. This legislation will allow those that have served in a reserve component and qualified for retirement pay under title 10 to be recognized as a veteran under law.
PVA supports H.R. 1826, legislation that would allow criminal penalties for charging a fee to veterans for assisting with claim preparation and filing. Although this procedure is currently prohibited by federal law, individuals and organizations continue to seek out veterans that are in need of assistance and proceed to assist for a fee. There have been no repercussions for these violations of the law. Every state government, most county governments, and most veterans’ service organizations have designated persons who are trained to help veterans file claims without charging a fee. This legislation will help eliminate individuals that are profiting from such activity.
H.R. 1898, the “Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act”. PVA has no position on this legislation.
PVA cautiously supports H.R. 2349, legislation to amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to annually assess the skills of certain employees and managers of the Veterans Benefits Administration. PVA believes that assessments should be administered to all positions at all levels in a regional office, including the Rating Board Specialists and Decision Review Officers. This would determine if their knowledge is sufficient for performing the difficult tasks that these positions require. These results will indicate areas that need more attention for an individual or perhaps a basic review course in some areas. However, training should be provided to improve their knowledge and skills to a proficient level, not as a punishment for a low score. Moreover, testing only for selective positions or individuals would not foster good will in a system that currently presents a difficult environment to work in.
Many programs within the VA have allocated training staff members as a goal in future plans. But, often because of workloads, shortage of staff and a fast paced environment of most departments in the VA, the proposed training becomes a low priority. Training of these important positions should have a high priority and be professionally conducted in time that is aside from the day-to- day work.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, PVA would like to once again thank you for the opportunity to provide our views on the proposed legislation. We look forward to working with you to improve benefits for veterans.
Information Required by Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives
Pursuant to Rule XI 2(g)(4) of the House of Representatives, the following information is provided regarding federal grants and contracts.
Fiscal Year 2011
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation — National Veterans Legal Services Program— $300,000 (estimated).
Fiscal Year 2010
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation—National Veterans Legal Services Program— $287,992.
Fiscal Year 2009
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, administered by the Legal Services Corporation — National Veterans Legal Services Program— $296,687.