December 11, 2019

Following Thanksgiving Trip to Afghanistan, Chairman Takano, Freshman Members Seek Solution for Veteran Contractors Serving Abroad

Following Thanksgiving Trip to Afghanistan, Chairman Takano, Freshman Members Seek Solution for Veteran Contractors Serving Abroad

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano along with Representatives Conor Lamb (D-PA), Lauren Underwood, (D-IL), Colin Allred (D-TX), and Haley Stevens (D-MI) released a letter sent to Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Department of State, and Secretary of Department of Defense following concerns they heard from veterans serving as contractors with the State Department in Afghanistan. 

During the congressional delegation to Afghanistan over the Thanksgiving break, Members heard concerns from contractors currently employed by the Department of State. These veterans have chosen to continue their service to our country after separating from military service, but because they are abroad, they are unable to attend VA disability exams within the United States.

Underwoodedit MTAFGrelease

Members met with veterans living and working in Afghanistan.

Members wrote, “We believe VA’s contract disability examination program could provide a solution to this problem…. Because a contract disability examination program already exists in various locations abroad, we believe this program could eliminate geographical barriers to benefits for these veterans.”

Upon returning home, Members took action to ensure these veterans-- who’ve once again committed to serving our country-- get access to VA benefits no matter where they currently reside.  

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

The Honorable Mark Esper

Secretary

Department of Defense

1400 Defense Blvd

Washington, DC 20301

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary

Department of State

2201 C St. NW

Washington, DC 20520

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary

Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20571

 

 

Dear Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo, and Secretary Wilkie:

 

            We recently visited the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan during our Thanksgiving congressional delegation overseas. There, we hosted a roundtable where we heard from veterans currently working as contractors through the U.S. State Department. They described the difficulty they experienced navigating the VA disability claims process while abroad. As government contractors stationed outside the U.S., these veterans are unable to attend a stateside VA disability examination, leading to delays and denials of benefits. Through no fault of their own, these veterans are often unable to access benefits.

 

We believe VA’s contract disability examination program could provide a solution to this problem. Presently, VA utilizes contractors to conduct disability examinations for veterans living both within the U.S. and overseas. Though the framework to perform overseas examinations already exists, veterans working as government contractors in areas of military conflict are excluded from those resources. Because a contract disability examination program already exists in various locations abroad, we believe this program could eliminate geographical barriers to benefits for these veterans.

 

            We are eager to reach a prompt resolution to this issue. Please advise as to the feasibility of extending VA’s contract disability examination program to government contractors stationed in areas of ongoing armed conflict before February 1. We look forward to your response and partnering with you to resolve this issue. 

Press Contact

Contact:

Jenni Geurink (202-225-9756)

Miguel R. Salazar