Hon. Charles A. Wilson
Chairman Mitchell, thank you for providing me the opportunity to participate in today’s hearing on this important topic. While I was prevented from attending the hearing in person because of a recent surgery, I am very grateful for the committee’s attention to the discrepancies among states in average benefits paid to disabled veterans.
Like many members of this subcommittee, I was disturbed to learn that the level of benefits paid to a disabled veteran seems to depend in part on the state in which that veteran resides. While some variation may be expected, the discrepancy seems too large to be explained fully by natural or demographic factors.
I am convinced that the federal employees responsible for determining a veteran’s level of disability are dedicated public servants who keep at heart the interests of the veterans they serve. Despite this, it seems likely that different Veterans Administration Regional Offices have developed unique cultures that have an effect on the level of benefits that they award. I believe that this is an unacceptable state of affairs, and is not fair to veterans who have the right to expect that their claims will be decided impartially and according to statute.
As a representative from Ohio, I was dismayed to learn that my state ranked dead last in the average benefit paid to its disabled veterans. Ohio veterans, who have made the same sacrifices as veterans from every other state, may feel that the system is slanted against them. I do not believe that the Veterans Administration can afford to allow this situation to breed cynicism among the veterans who have sacrificed so much for this nation.
While the Veterans Administration has taken some steps to correct this situation, I believe that more aggressive action should be taken. I commend Chairman Mitchell and Ranking Member Brown-Waite for calling this hearing to bring some much-needed attention and oversight to efforts to level the playing field for veterans in every state. I would also like to thank Congressman Space for his active leadership on this issue. I thank the distinguished witnesses for their testimony, and look forward to working to solve this problem as quickly as possible.