Witness Testimony of The Honorable Larry Kissell, Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives (NC-08)
As the son of a World War II veteran, I hold the deepest respect for the sacrifice and dedication of the men and women who wear our country’s uniform. Before serving as Postmaster in my hometown of Biscoe, my father served in the “Old Hickory” division, landing at Normandy and continuing on across Europe, pushing back Hitler’s forces at the Battle of the Bulge. When folks stand up and wear our flag, in combat or in peacetime, they deserve the honor and respect that they themselves hold for our nation. My district is home to almost 100,000 veterans and active duty military members. Their safety, well-being and continued care are of great concern to me, and the focus of my work on the House Armed Services Committee.
In 2011, the Veteran’s Administration considered and almost ended the review period regarding Gulf War illnesses. As many of you may know, Gulf War veterans continue to develop often unexplained illnesses long after their military service to our nation ends. The VA has set a December 31, 2016deadline for the time in which “unidentified presumptive illnesses” can surface that can be attributed to their duty serving in the Gulf War. Twenty-two years after the start of the war, many of these illnesses, symptoms, and causes still remain unknown. Even to this very day, our Vietnam-era Veterans continue to experience unexplained sickness and declining health. Some of these Veterans served more than four decades ago, yet we’re still fighting to give them the care they so much deserve—including working to further expand coverage for Agent Orange exposure and equally recognizing all of our air, land and sea units for their sacrifices.
Illnesses do not recognize government statutes or regulatory time tables. Therefore, to help allow for additional review time, I have introduced the Gulf War Syndrome Presumptive Illness Extension Act of 2011, legislation to reinstate this review period for an additional 2 years, until December 31, 2018. Let’s ensure that every single consideration and element is considered. We need these additional 2 years because we cannot fully and immediately determine what illnesses may arise over time from all that our soldiers have endured. Our government exists today because of the sacrifices of those who came before us, and I don’t believe it is right to arbitrarily limit the care of those who have made our freedom possible.