Chairman Murray, Chairman Miller, Ranking Members Senator Burr and Mr. Filner, Members of the Senate and House Committees
on Veterans Affairs, colleagues and veterans from all organizations represented today. I am Gene Overstreet, President, Non
Commissioned Officers Association of the United States of America (NCOA).
I would be remiss if I did not immediately extend congratulations
to the distinguished Chairman of both Committees who were appointed as Chair of their respective Committees for the 112th
Congress. Already in a span of mere months, you have both articulated your advocacy for America’s
veterans in proposed legislation, the VA Budget Request, and focused comments on the Veterans Caregiver Act. Likewise,
your Ranking Members have demonstrated their commitment to serve veterans, their families, and survivors. You inherit a legacy
of action on behalf of all who have borne the battle.
NCOA is appreciative of the opportunity to formally present its legislative concerns and priorities for
the 112th Congress addressing issues that our membership believes to be significant to veterans, their survivors,
and dependents. The Association prepares its annual policy agenda through the formulation of Legislative Resolutions at
the Annual Membership Meeting
are pleased to recognize active military personnel of the uniformed services and retired military veterans of the Armed Forces
Retirement Home who, as our guests today, will gain a perspective of this Nation’s legislative process. We are grateful
for their military service and the sacrifices of the military family. The words spoken here today will be heard by a diverse
group who will share them with others who currently serve or have served in the Uniformed Services of the United States.
I am also pleased to recognize
members of the Foreign Joint NCO Association (FJNCOA) whose members are assigned to their Embassies and Military Attaches
in the National Capital Region. Currently 25 Countries and 5 Uniformed Services of the USA have membership
in the Association.
NCOA now celebrating its 51st year
of service representing active duty enlisted service members of all military services, the United States Coast Guard, associated
Guard and Reserve Components, retirees and veterans. The representation of all enlisted members
from services and components makes NCOA unique and enables it to provide a full and comprehensive perspective on active
duty, retiree, veteran, and survivor issues. Association membership provides for servicemembers and their families through
every stage of their military career from enlistment to eventual separation, retirement, to their inevitable final military
honors rendered by a grateful Nation. NCOA defines well its membership service as “cradle to grave”
with continued services to the veteran’s surviving family members. “Cradle” is an appropriate starting
point as many of today’s servicemen and servicewomen are the dependents of veterans or retirees of the Uniformed Services.
NCOA was established in 1960 and registered in Texas
as a 501c(19) entitled the Non Commissioned Officers Association of the United States of America and by its Articles of
Incorporation defined its ultimate purposes as:
Upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States;
· Promoting health,
fellowship, and prosperity among its members and their dependents and survivors through benevolent programs;
veterans and their dependents and survivors through a service program established for that purpose;
· Improving conditions
for service members, veterans and their dependents and survivors;
· Fostering fraternal and social
activities among its members in recognition that cooperative action is required for the furtherance
of their common interest.
The Association’s International Headquarters
serves its global membership of over 60,000 members of the Association and the NCOA International Auxiliary. The Association
and its 68 Chapters through the years have fulfilled the Association’s Strength in Unity motto through programs that
have supported local military and civilian communities; provided outreach to hospitalized veterans at federal, state, regional
hospitals and nursing homes; fundraising activities and community services events reflect:
Bettsy Ross Educational
$150,000 Grants since 1988
Volunteer Hours Expended
NCOA Medical Fund was created to promote the health and welfare of dependents of noncommissioned and petty
officers and, in particular, to aid such persons faced with catastrophic medical problems. Grants awarded from the Fund
are awarded to assist with medically related incidental expenses (not actual medical bills) and have been awarded to individuals
from all branches of the Armed Forces and USCG and their Guard and Reserve Components. Since 1989, $600,000
in grants have been awarded.
The NCOA Disaster Relief Fund was established in 1994 to assist enlisted
military personnel with immediate disaster related expenses. Grants have been awarded to personnel in all branches of the
Armed Forces and USCG and the Guard and Reserve Components to assist with emergency needs in bombing situations, fires,
floods, hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes. Since 1994, $200,000 in grants have been awarded.
established a special Veterans Employment Assistance (VEA) program in 1973 which was the pioneer employment assistance for
military personnel, veterans, and their family members. Special programs designed to write resumes, prepare
individuals for interviews, and to market themselves were combined with Association sponsored job fairs held in the CONUS
and overseas. NCOA sponsored approximately 15 major job fairs annually from 1973 to
2009 with over 10,000 companies participating in those 36 years which actually secured jobs for more than 60,000 veterans
and their dependents.
In 2009, NCOA and Military.com recognizing that unemployment of transitioned veterans had reached record numbers
established a partnership to produce career expositions and market job opportunities with employers. The
cooperative venture proved highly successful with NCOA managing 32 Career Expos with 22 companies per event.
In 2010, 33 Career Expos were held across the CONUS and in 2011, 40 events are on the calendar. The
Career Expositions have averaged 500–600 attendees per event comprised of about 80% military/veterans and 20% dependents
The 112th Congress Assembled
Let us never forget that every
person who has served in the military recognizes there is a nexus between how a nation takes care of its military personnel
and veterans in relation to future military recruiting and military retention in the all volunteer force. We cannot afford
to fail as a Nation to institutionally represent and take care of our military personnel and their families through their
life cycle of needs while in the military and continuing through their veteran or retiree status. How this Nation takes
care of its serving military members, its fallen warriors, and those wounded or disabled in service is very transparent
in this new electronic age. Computers, smartphones, iPads, social networks, and countless other applications for communicating
will influence the propensity of people to enlist or accept commissioning in any of the Uniformed Services. How
we treat active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel, members of the United States Coast Guard, and equally important today
– how we treat America’s veterans is vitally important! As important is how fast we
honor the sacred commitments made to veterans, their survivors and dependents.
We are mindful that this 112th Congress is a part
of the continuation of democracy in America. It is also important to recognize the accomplishments of the
111th Congress and the past leadership of Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairmen, Daniel Akaka and Bob Filner
and their respective Committee Members and Support Staff. The Committee’s efforts have always sought
to honor America’s institutional commitments, ensure needed benefits, and to provide for quality healthcare for those
who have “borne the battle.” NCOA values the initiatives of those who serve on your committees.
We remain a Nation engaged in a war against terrorism.
Military operations and assistance continue in Iraq and Afghanistan and uniformed personnel are deployed around the world
honoring national commitments. Members of the Uniformed Services include the unprecedented utilization of Guard and Reserve
personnel. Since September 11, 2001, the “infamous 9/11 of the 21st Century” and the start of Operation
Enduring Freedom and Operations Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn America has had:
And the reported wounded above does not include those warriors
who have varying degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), mental health issues,
and countless others who may today still have undiagnosed cases of TBI with further developing cognitive, hearing, and vision
problems. Additionally, VA is becoming more aware of new toxic contaminations from burn pits and recognizing
new health issues. That the identified DOD wounded service members is disproportionately low can be inferred from VA healthcare
statistics for the 4th Quarter of 2010 that reported approximately 625,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans sought
healthcare of a potential 1.25M assigned in the Theaters of Operations.
Concurrently, America is faced with economic constraints
of an economy that went to the brink of a recession in 2009 and 2 years later continues a slow recovery. The issues for
the Nation are obviously multi-dimensional; restoring the economy, reducing the national deficit, creating jobs to reduce
unemployment. All of which have significant federal budget implications.
The Association appreciates that that the Committees
have been responsive to veteran needs in your assessment of inadequate past budgets by stepping up to the plate and adding
critically needed resources. Approximately two years ago, NCOA and most all veteran organizations testified
before a Joint Hearing on the need for an Advance Appropriation for Medical Care provided by the Veterans Health Administration
(VHA). The Committees listened and in the First Session of the 111th Congress took action and made advance
appropriations a reality. Through that mechanism VHA is able to plan and execute quality healthcare programs
not limited by the actions necessary by a Continuing Resolution and the day-to-day question of availability of resources.
Advance Appropriations for VHA healthcare was a watershed achievement for veterans.
The Committees and respective members have been involved in many issues as can be
attested to by the passage of the following legislation in 2010:
- P.L. 111-117 Advance Veterans Health
Administration Appropriations for 2011
- P.L. 111-137 Expand Veteran Eligibility for Emergency Treatment at Non VA Facilities
- P.L. 111-163 Caregivers
and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act 2010
- P.L. 111-173 Clarify Veterans Health Care
- P.L. 111-275 Veterans Benefits Act
- P.L. 111-346
Helping Heroes Keep Their Homes Act of 2010
- P.L. 111-377 Post 9/11Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act
- P.L. 111-383
National Defense Authorization Act for FY2011.
It is obvious to all that the warrior’s needs do not end when the battle concludes but continues
for each veteran through a life which carries the ravages of military service and war. This Nation has the obligation to
provide needed healthcare, rehabilitation, education, and whatever support is necessary for those sent into harm’s
way. And, the Nation’s obligation is long term ending only with the passing of the last veteran whose life was changed
by the ravages of war. You represent the Nation in fulfilling those immortal words of Lincoln for our Veterans who, because
of the battle, are unable to provide adequately for themselves and their families. And, likewise you also represent this
Nation for the spouse and children of those who have fallen in battle.
Many Needs of Veterans and Survivors Remain
The Association adopts Resolutions at its annual Membership Business Meeting that begins at local Chapters
in the CONUS and Overseas that through the vetting process eventually establishes the parameters of the NCOA Legislative
Agenda. Those issues are demonstrate concerns impacting large number of active duty, Guard, Reserve members, retirees, veterans,
their dependents, and survivors.
Year after year, we continue to recognize that all who serve
in the Congress or in the Uniformed Services have taken an Oath of Office, Enlistment, or Commissioning in which the following
affirmation is sacredly promised:
“…to support and defend the Constitution of the United
States of America.”
is ever mindful that for military enlistment or commissioning the significance of those words bear the possibility of extreme
sacrifice and even death. The unquestioned belief of all who serve is that they will have the finest war fighting equipment,
support services, healthcare, and ALL necessary institutional support while on Active Duty. They further believe that they
have the Nation’s institutional promises which include:
Whatever necessary quality and timely veteran healthcare is needed for the
rest of the lives of America’s veterans as a result of their military service,
· Adequate benefits and entitlements,
And, should they fall in the line of duty, the institutional commitment of
their grateful Nation to care for their survivors.
The military enlistment oath to “support and defend the
Constitution of the United States,” does not have the qualifier that states “funds and resources permitting.”
As such a qualifier would deter enlistments, destroy existing military personnel readiness and bring into question the stark
reality of whether or not the members of the Uniformed Services can afford to serve without the promised institutional support
and commitment of the United States of America.
NCOA believes the words, “I cannot afford to fight for my country” may, for many, become
a reality as Congress continues a serious debate for Federal Fiscal Appropriations. The FY2011 budget scheduled to begin
on October 1, 2010 was never completed when Congress adjourned. The federal departments now in the 6th
month of FY2011 continue to operate under the authority of consecutive Continuing Resolutions (CR) to prevent a Government
SHUT DOWN. CRs limit all agencies in their budget authority and thereby impact planning and execution of programs.
Now how does that impact veterans?
Fortunately, VA has an Advance Appropriation Authority (P.L. 111-117) for Health Care Programs, however:
The Budget still needs to be completed for FY2011
and FY2012. The budget debate is now heavily influenced by the need to reduce an unacceptable national
deficit, strengthen the economy, and reduce unemployment. Every program, with few exceptions, appears to be on the chopping
block. Comments abound however about uncertainties of the budget year program for military, veterans, and their family members.
Uncertainty relative the national budget process has for some questioning continuation in the military or as a disabled veteran
will they have promised quality healthcare and earned entitlements.
They recognize the promise made by the President at the start of the 111th Congress to allow
Chapter 31, Disabled Retired Veterans concurrent receipt of the VA disability compensation and limited military retired
pay was not authorized by Congress.
Likewise, the President’s promise to end the Widow’s Tax and allow concurrent receipt of military Survivor
Benefit Program (SBP) annuities and VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) was not authorized by Congress in fiscal
And most recently, concern by
the leadership of these Committees expressed to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs at the FY2012 Veteran Budget Hearings
that the criteria approved by Congress had been modified by VA to reduce the number of Caregivers that would be authorized
benefits to care for seriously disabled veterans since 9/11. NCOA greatly admires the Committees leadership to ensure all
whom Congress has determined to be eligible should receive this benefit! Limiting the eligibility of
those entitled by law to Caregiver support for seriously wounded veterans is patently WRONG. NCOA firmly believes that there
are a number of pre- 9/11 veterans whose caregivers should also have been considered for this unique benefit for the very
same reasons that the Caregiver Act was authorized.
NCOA will address specific concerns on the VA FY2012 budget request further in this statement, but
notes here that the Administration’s request has underfunded the financial requirement for the Department of Veterans
NCOA Veteran Priorities
for the 112th Congress
The Department of Veterans Affairs leadership must secure Quality Control in every management and reporting level of
standards appeared productive as the quantity of claims being pushed forward appeared to be reducing the backlog.
Quality Control that failed to ensure that the claims met expected standards came into question
at a number of Regional Offices as problems become blatantly obvious, verbal complaints of veterans, remands from the Board
of Veterans Appeal, or as the result of VA Office of Inspector General Audit Reports, inspections, and management recommendations.
Management must provide oversight
in their areas of responsibility. Failure at any level of organization to provide 21st Century Leadership should
not be rewarded with promotions or performance awards. It is past time to ensure VA’s mission by
better management of resources so that all available fiscal resources can be used as intended for better disability claim
processes, entitlements, and healthcare for veterans. The Committees’ were instrumental in requesting reviews of a
number of management areas reported in the recent Semiannual Report to Congress, Issue 64, for the period April 1, 2010 –
September 30, 2010. Selected highlights reveal Quality Control and standards lacking:
Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
- Improper payments in fee care program could reach $600 Million in 5 years
- Could save $92 Million in patient
$38.5 Million on health care staffing with better contracting
- CBOC system needs quality controls to assure quality care comparable to VAMCs
- $114 - $380 annually at risk to
fraud in non-VA fee care program.
Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)
- Program weaknesses result in $111
Million improper Post-9/11 Bill emergency payments
- Claims processing inspected during the six month report period revealed 27% of benefit claims
were processed in error; 37% of Notice of Disagreements were not timely filed; staff did not timely or accurately complete
24 of 82 examined Systemic Analyses of Operations to identify existing or potential problems and propose corrective actions
- 17% of search mail
was not properly controlled or associated with claim files indicating beneficiaries may not have received accurate and timely
Department of Veterans Affairs appears to have not been responsive to all recommendations made by VA OIG and reported in
their agencies semi-annual reports to Congress. The OIG Reports issues confirm that Quality Control, the need for attention
to details, and accountability to VA Standards and policies need to be a focus of attention throughout the VA. Regrettably,
the loss of dollars from whatever causes impacts quality healthcare services and timely benefits that should be awarded to
veterans. Veterans with disabilities need their compensation claims reviewed and submitted correctly to prevent excessively
delayed awards for compensation.
Claims denied because of shoddy development dishonor the service and sacrifices of America’s
The Claims Backlog
Since the mid-1980s, NCOA and other Veteran Service
Organizations (VSOs) have taken issue with the processing of veteran disability claims. Electronic processing of claims
in the early 90s was viewed as the way of the future to expediently process claims in both correctness and timeliness. The
electronic processing remained elusive for implementation to resolve the problems associated with disability claims and ever
evolving technology added significant costs to the project over the years.
The backlog has continued to grow based on a number of reasons
that have emerged over the year:
- Lack of a fully automated electronic artificial intelligence system to integrate electronic data from military
personnel and health care records from all sources; contain a logic system to rate disability claims; process information
for accounting; and able to export all necessary data for award of claims
- VBA rating specialists were reduced in number with the perceived electronic
resource that failed to come on line. Valuable experience and seniority was lost as employees retired in the downsizing
- Hiring authority was secured for
claims rating specialists that at best estimates would take two years to train and qualify as competent
- Production standards and moving claims forward
were emphasized in the past decade as the backlog grew
- More military veterans were entering the rating pipeline as the result of Desert Shield/Desert
Storm, “undiagnosed illnesses,” exposure to chemical cocktails of burning refuse,” and exposure to depleted
uranium used in munitions
attack of September 11, 2001 and unprecedented utilization of both Guard and Reserve units as force multipliers as America
pursued terrorists in and expanding military confrontation in Afghanistan and Iraq
- Veterans began appealing rating decisions, adding different
service-related conditions for evaluation claims in significant numbers
- Post 9/11 educational entitlement and revised issues brought countless new
Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions established along with new educational entitlements and further supplemented by additional
personnel face an insurmountable workload every day that limits comprehensive training time and the ability to stay focused
on details required in their performance.
The claims “backlog” as of January 31, 2011 represented approximately 1.1M veterans which
despite all management initiatives had increased over 30% in the past year. The lack of Quality Control in these claims
is evident as they are appealed and brought back into the backlog caseload for remedy by either reevaluation based on evidence
that was available but not considered, reevaluated and appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeal (BVA). Many cases are remanded
by the BVA and returned further development. It is an endless and vicious cycle for America’s veterans who wait an
inordinate amount of time for their rating and disability compensation because Quality Controls did not perceive the inadequacy
of the reviewed and “sent forward” rating claim that in the VA process recognized employee numbers productivity
and not quality in approved claims.
This VA OIG report highlighted a 27% claim error rate in their recent report. That is unacceptable for the locations
reviewed. The VA has reported an error rate of 16% which while lower is still unacceptable. We recognize and are appreciative
of those VAROs whose approved claim rates are well in excess of 90% but also recommend that they strive for an old
military program of Zero Defects in service to veterans.
NCOA recognizes that the decades long awaited fully electronic rating system has been developed and
is currently undergoing field testing by the Providence VARO. The program entitled Veterans Benefits Management
System (VBMS) is scheduled for implementation throughout VA in 2012. A number of VA Information Technology
(IT) systems have evolved, been implemented, and even refined as VA pursued the development of its VAMS integrated system.
This Association believes the achieved integration of IT resources may at long last give VA the capability to resolve most
issues, including the backlog, reduce processing errors, and make timely processing of claims a reality.
The Association requests that the Committees hold
an oversight hearing on the status and planned implementation of VBMS in October 2011. Specific emphasis on testing conducted
up to the scheduled hearing date to reveal the reality of the results of the system’s logic decision making process,
verified reliability, and issues and challenges impacting scheduled implementation in 2012.
- Detailing of military occupational exposures
- Ensure availability of medical treatment records from deployments
- Consistent and equitable medical and physical
evaluation boards using VA standards
- Utilization of VA physical evaluation standards at separation.
Military Personnel Concurrent Receipt
Support immediate Concurrent Receipt without offset for all veterans entitled
to both VA Disability Compensation and Military Retired Pay. Included in this recommendation are all Chapter 61, Disabled
Military Retirees with less than 20 years of military service.
Educational Assistance Programs
Post 9/11 GI Bill
is greatly appreciative of the passage of P.L. 111-377, Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2010, which will enable veterans
to use their benefit for vocational and on-the-job training, expand eligibility for the benefit to National Guardsmen who
are activated for domestic assistance, provide active duty members with additional assistance to purchase books and provide
severely injured veterans and their caregivers with additional time to use their benefits.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE)
Upgrade VRE parity with Post 9/11 GI Bill by establishing
an equivalent cost-of-living stipend for housing.
Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA)
Survivors’ dependents are now entitled to
Fry Scholarships through the Department of Veterans Affairs which are similar in benefit to that of Post 9/11 GI Bill recipients
and more equitable in their pursuit of education.
Recommend that survivors be entitled
to the same educational benefit afforded the survivor’s children.
Supplemental Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI)
the authority to make available for veterans to purchase reasonably priced supplemental S-DVI in increments up to the amount
S-DVI was established in 1951 to
meet the insurance needs of certain veterans with service-connected disabilities. Policies are issued for a maximum face
amount of $10,000. The S-DVI face value has not been adjusted appropriately to keep pace with the national economy. Certain
veteran policyholders who become eligible for a waiver of premiums due to total disability can apply for and be granted
additional Supplemental S-DVI of up to $20,000.
provides the ability to purchase $20,000 of supplemental coverage for S-DVI policyholders. Premiums cannot be waived of this
supplemental coverage. S-DVI policyholders are eligible for this coverage if they are eligible for a waiver of premiums;
they apply for the coverage within one year from notice of the grant of waiver; or, are under age 65.
Many veterans become eligible
for S-DVI based on increased disabilities ratings received well after one year from the initial grant of S-DVI. Many
are past the age of 65 and therefore ineligible to apply for Disabled Insurance. Most importantly, the
veterans treated health conditions make them ineligible to purchase supplemental insurance in the marketplace. The supplemental
purchase of additional insurance would be at no cost to the Government.
Dependency and Indemnification Compensation (DIC)
Recommend that DIC be increased from the current rate of 42% of a 100% disabled veteran’s compensation
to 55%. The increase would be consistent with other federal survivor programs at the 55% level and would reflect a modest
$300 increase in monthly DIC benefit.
of DIC Benefits after Remarriage
the existing authority to allow widows(ers) to remarry at age 55 and retain their DIC benefit.
The 108th Congress authorized
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for the widow(er) who remarry after age 57 to retain their DIC benefits. It
established an arbitrary age of 57 to allow remarriage where other similar Federal survivor programs allow the widow(er)
to remarry at age 55. The change would make the entitlement of a survivor benefit consistent with all Federal Survivor Programs.
Veteran Status for Certain Guard and Reserve
Amend Title 38 to read that Retirees
of Guard and Reserve Components, who have completed 20 or more years of service, are considered to be veterans under the
current Statutory definitions.
Some members of the Guard and Reserve complete 20 or more years of qualifying service for retirement
from their respective component without ever having been called to active duty during their careers. They become eligible
for reserve retirement pay at age 60 including government healthcare and other benefits. Current Statute denies them full
standing as a “veteran” of the Armed Forces.
Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
NCOA is most grateful that the Committees have in the past 2 years enacted legislation
that became Public Laws and directly supports the VHA and America’s veterans:
The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009
Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010
The Advance Appropriation authority has given VHA the ability to plan and execute medical care programs
by providing fiscal resources on a 2 year budget cycle. The relevance of this funding authority for a world class veteran
health provider is obvious in the current fiscal year where the federal budget is yet to be approved and other federal programs
limp along under a series of Concurrent Resolutions.
Secondly, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act will bring changes
that NCOA and its fellow VSOs have sought over past years that deal with veteran caregivers, women veteran healthcare matters,
rural health improvements, access to readjustment counseling services, expanding homeless veteran per diem, use of non-department
facilities for rehabilitation of veterans with TBIs, prohibition on collection of payments from the catastrophically disabled,
increase the amount available for adaptive housing, and many other matters involving quality of care and health issues
At issue now and in the future
will be the necessary criteria, planning, and timing to implement these programs. The Committees have identified the proposed
VA implementing criteria for the Veterans Caregiver Act as limiting those who would qualify for the program. The restrictive
interpretation clearly was not the intent that Congress had determined and confirmed by your comments brought to the attention
of VA Secretary Shinseki.
NCOA and all VSOs have a vested interest in reviewing these developing VHA programs that will serve America’s
wounded warriors and their families. Be assured that the review process will look at the details to see if initiatives fulfill
The last 2010 VA OIG Report commented that VA lacked formal guidance for issuing guide and service dogs.
That lack of guidance obviously the cause that only 8 dogs were issued to assist mobility and hearing impaired veterans
although the authorization existed for over 6 years. NCOA recognizes that VHA has had and will continue
to have many irons in the fire that need to be managed. Its important to build keep all new programs and their development
on track and transparent to veterans and organizations alike
NCOA’s primary concern involves the VA’s FY2012 Budget. At issue is whether or not sufficient
funds are available for the overhaul of veteran’s healthcare as Congress provided in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus
Health Services Act of 2010. Those newly authorized programs should be coming in that time frame while VA’s facilities
and medical staff are sustaining and expanding its critical role in the care to a surging population of veterans returning
from Iraq and Afghanistan. Their long term health needs will engage resources for the unforeseeable future.
- Even if military operations cease
there will be extreme health service requirements
- Traumatic Brain Injuries, PTSD, and mental health issues will present unparallel treatment
demands of mental health practioners and social workers
- Anticipate further developing auditory and visual service issues
- Many mild cases of TBI have yet to reach
a stage of impairment or diagnoses
- Specialized medical and prosthetic research should be a priority
- The extent of “Burn Pit” toxic contamination should
require a registry for identification of personnel and to determine implications of parameters for future research
- Rural health and counseling requirements
will present new demands for services and telemedicine.
NCOA notes that the Proposed FY2012 Budget shows modest growth
in medical care budget authority of $53.9 Billion. Concurrently, the projection provides for an estimated 9 million veterans
to enroll for healthcare which represents an increase of over 500,000 veterans over current year. The Independent Budget
projects a medical care requirement of $55 Billion. Likewise the proposed budget reflects only $509 Million
for Medical and Prosthetic Research which is a reduction of $72 Million from the past year’s budget request. The Medical
and Prosthetic Research budget in NCOA’s judgment should be increasing to further suggest best intervention on issues
relating to TBI, polytrauma, concussion, toxic contamination, stem-cell regeneration, and prosthetic enhancements. Abating
or dampening continuing research initiatives or avoiding meeting current medical challenges should not be a budget driven
decision. The VA budget issues presented need to be reassessed by the Committees and adjusted to ensure sufficient funds
The Non Commissioned Officers
Association of the United States of America (NCOA) is most appreciative of this opportunity to provide the Committees with
the Association’s 2012 Veteran Legislative Concerns.
The budget debate forthcoming in Congress on the national deficit, state of the economy,
unemployment, and resolution of those issues and many others will have severe budget implications for many federal programs.
The Association shares its concern that the 1% of the Nation that served in the Uniformed Services and whose service protected
the rights and freedom of all Americans must never be forgotten in their special health needs nor their spouses, children,
and survivors. Disability compensation if needed must be provided and the value never eroded.
We personally believe in the words spoken many years ago
that this Nation must care for them “who have borne the battle, their widow, and orphaned child.” America must
honor the institutional commitments to those who serve, or have served, in the military. Failure to do so is an unacceptable
risk to America’s future security.
NCOA believes your role is unique as Members of your Committees “to fulfill the Nation’s commitment to
respectfully request Chairman Murray, Chairman Miller, and Members of these Committees that your individual advocacy for
veterans must include by necessity the following programs that do not fall under your Committee’s jurisdiction. These
programs do clearly impact veterans and their survivors. The Association asks that you all take an aggressive
leadership role as veteran advocates throughout Congress on such issues as:
Ensure the fullest accounting of POW/MIAs from all declared wars and conflicts.
Small Business Administration
Support initiatives to assist disabled veteran-owned small businesses.
Title 10 USC
Support amending Title 10, USC, to allow Space Available (Space A) category for 100% service-connected disabled veterans
on military aircraft or government transportation as afforded military retirees.
you for the opportunity to present the Association’s 2012 legislative initiatives and issues on behalf of the membership
of the Non Commissioned Officers Association of the United States of America.