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    [ # ] A Duty to the Wounded: Our Newest Veterans Need Help Now
    October 23rd, 2007 under Senator Dole

     By Bob Dole and Donna E. Shalala Tuesday, October 16, 2007;

    ww2.JPGIt is time to decide — do we reform the current military and veterans’ disability evaluation and compensation systems or limp along, placing Band-Aids over existing flaws? It has been more than 2 1/2 months since our commission presented its six pragmatic recommendations to improve the system of care for our injured service members and their families.

     Our recommendations are eminently doable and designed for immediate implementation. While progress has been made, more work remains. And the clock is ticking. The vast majority of the steps needed to implement our recommendations must be taken by the administration. Since unveiling our report, we have met frequently with officials from the White House and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. We are pleased that they are moving forward with several critical changes, including the development of recovery plans and assigning coordinators to oversee the care of our most seriously injured troops. We have also testified before Congress and met individually with lawmakers.

    Overall, we are buoyed by the strong bipartisan support being given to the proposals. Despite this support, however, it is clear that our recommendations are being swept up in a decades-long battle to reform the entire disability system for all service members. It is important to remember that our commission was tasked with improving care and benefits for those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we hope that our recommendations will help many others, our mission was to make the system work better for this new generation of veterans.

    The current systems of disability and compensation are convoluted, confusing and dated. Modernizing the disability system was of great importance to our commission. Four of our nine commissioners are disabled — including two who sustained serious injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan — and one is the wife of a soldier severely burned in Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to research our commission conducted among wounded and evacuated service members from the current conflicts, the disability rating system at both Defense and Veterans Affairs is poorly understood and is a source of major dissatisfaction. Almost 60 percent of the service members had difficulty understanding the disability evaluation process.

     Our recommendations would update and simplify the disability determination and compensation system; eliminate parallel activities between the two departments; reduce inequities; and provide injured veterans with the tools to return to productive life. We would create a system that allows the departments to focus on their separate missions. Under our system, Defense maintains authority to determine fitness to serve.

    For those found not fit for duty, payment would be provided for time served. Veterans Affairs then would establish the disability rating, compensation and benefits. Defense must provide the necessary military strength and expertise to keep our nation secure. It should determine fitness standards and provide for the health and readiness of the military workforce. As an employer, it must also provide retirement benefits.

    ww1.jpgThe VA’s mission is to care for our nation’s veterans by providing appropriate benefits and services. Fundamentally, the system our recommendations would create is designed for our current service members and their families. These men and women differ from the generations that came before them. They have different injuries, different needs and, thanks to advances in medicine and science, greater opportunities to transition back to fulfilling lives. They need a system that is easy to navigate and allows them to focus on building their futures. While this particular recommendation has received acclaim from many veterans organizations for being balanced and reasonable, some veterans groups that want to reform the system for all former service members have called to stop any movement forward and to simply perpetuate the present, flawed system.

    However, when we reviewed the recommendations that the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission released this month, we saw many of the same conclusions that we reached. That 2 1/2 -year study only adds to the pleas for change from those troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and throughout our country who just want their lives back. Since the historic Bradley Commission in 1956, numerous task forces and commissions have been created to improve the system of care. While there has been tinkering around the edges, lack of political will almost always got in the way of serious reform. This must not be allowed to happen again. Yes, our elected officials should continuously examine how to enhance care for all those who have been put in harm’s way. But right now, they have actionable recommendations that can make a real difference for those who have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    With Veterans Day only a few weeks away, we can think of no better tribute than to give our new veterans a system that truly meets their needs.

    Bob Dole was a Republican senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996. Donna E. Shalala was secretary of health and human services from 1993 to 2001. They are co-chairs of thePresident’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.

    President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors

    Read the Comments

    [ # 25248 ] Comment from Abbie Stutzer [December 2, 2007, 9:56 pm]

    I dislike hearing that veterans have trouble receiving care. My grandfather, a WWII vet., went without care for a while, and I am disappointed that more has not been done to help soldier care. After hearing LT. GEN. William B. Caldwell’s talk about the changing face of warfare and how we are having to reevaluate how we handle war and intense situations overseas, I think it is appropriate to change how we treat and care for soldiers when they return home.

    [ # 25890 ] Comment from Allen McQuarrie [December 8, 2007, 3:14 am]

    See Kevin Ferris back channels A son’s pain online. Those who suffer untreated disabilities cannot wait for the slow reform of the DOD and VA that must occur now. Our commander in chief and congress must act expeditiously to put immediate reforms in place to treat our wounded warriors. To do otherwise is unacceptalble.

    [ # 26362 ] Comment from Steve [December 11, 2007, 6:52 am]

    The problem with this bill is it only helps new veterans,Bob Doles says its ok if the new soldiers get better treatment,and better compensation,While veterans of past wars get less.All veterans need to be given equal benifits if you were disabled years ago or yesterday.Dont pit one group of Veterans aginst another.My bills need to be paid to.
    100% disabled vietnam vet

    [ # 28263 ] Comment from Kenneth Hanft [December 28, 2007, 3:23 am]

    I have no doubt that Senator Dole is sincere in his beliefs for the treatment of current service people who become injured in their honorable service in the war on terror. Senator Dole however has fallen into the trap set by the Bush administration. Prior legislation on concurrent receipt of retirement and disability pay for retired disabled veterans was formulated by the current administration as compensation which was deserved only if an injury was received in combat. As a retired disabled veteran, each month my disability payment is deducted from my retirement pay simply because my injury in service was not combat related. This is the dividing intent of the administration, in a cheap exercise to safe defense dollars. I served my country over twenty years, in over seven foreign countries, in the defense of our nation. It is a slight on the service of over 400,000 retired disabled veterans who are in the same category that Bush has crafted for our service to our country. We the injured from service who were not injured in combat.

    [ # 29911 ] Comment from Spen Baldik [January 8, 2008, 1:45 am]

    Shame on you old SOBs who say that taking care of these newly wounded will hurt the geezers. I’m reminded of the days after Vietnam when these old World War II veterans blamed the Vietnam veterans for ‘losing the war’. The deliberate stonewalling and lack of care these recently wounded are suffering as a matter of policy leads me to believe that these shortfalls of care are no accident at all.

    [ # 47899 ] Comment from Eddy Lee Pyburn [April 17, 2008, 9:08 am]

    In 1972 I joined the U.S. Army, and the unit that I signed up for was called RCAT HHT 3rd ACR Ft Bliss, Texas. There were 750 men that belonged to that unit, and in 1979 there were 5 of us that were still alive.
    In 1975 or 1976 I can remember for sure there were nine units that were shut down and all of their records were pull and sealed. We were told that we were no longer needed. We were stripped of our jobs and all but one of our MOS’s. Our main job was to clean up the mess that Our government had left around the world. We dealt with hijackers, snipers in Panama, killing dependants, finding POWs that were left alive in North Korea and could have been brought home, pulling people out of countries that helped our government and our government left them in harms way, so we were sent in to get them out of trouble.
    Many of us did not even receive the medals and awards for our services, but, how could the government award a soldier for a job that wasn’t acknowledged? How could soldiers receive compensation for jobs that were secret or sealed from history?
    In short, we did the dirty jobs that the government did not want anyone to know about.
    I agree that many of the records need to be sealed, but, I do not believe that our medical records should have been. I have had a very hard time getting medical care and keeping my health problems taken care of because the doctors do not know were to start. I wonder how many of these men are in the same or worse shape then I am in. Some of these men are living on the streets because they cannot get any help from our government. They can not get help, because, they cannot get their records to show that these problems are service connected.
    How many of us are living below poverty level, because we cannot get the recognition and compensation for the job we preformed for our country? All of this simply because our government closed and sealed our files in order to keep their involvement secret. Does this practice still happen to our men in our existing war oversees? Will these soldiers be in as bad a shape as us when they are in their retirement years?
    The only teams that I know of for sure are RCAT and seal teams eight and nine.

    Can you help us? Will you help us?

    Eddy Lee Pyburn
    Sergeant, US Army
    609 Summit Rd
    Robert Lee, TX 76945
    Home 325-453-4720
    Cell 325-320-7054

    [ # 48822 ] Comment from kenneth L gilbert [April 23, 2008, 6:47 am]

    I am currently 50 percent disable but got approved for Independent living services out of Orlando, FL. Both VA doctors from Gainesville and Ocala didn’t released me to go to work and a private doctor indicate I should be on long term disability. ( I fall when I walk - Degenerative Arthritis of the Spine) since Aug 13, 2001, so why am I still rated at 50 percent disable.

    [ # 80081 ] Comment from George Smead [August 28, 2008, 10:11 pm]

    Our federal government has been deliberately making it difficult for veterans to get the help they need for as long as the US has existed. World War II veterans may be the only exception to this pattern possibly because there were so many of them and our nation had enlightened leadership (FDR) at the time. I had thought that this country had learned something after the horrible treatment of its Vietnam Veterans. I am wrong. This America of today has learned nothing and there is little hope in my mind that it will ever learn now or anytime in the future. I honestly believe that if the American people sincerely want this fiasco fixed they would prevail upon the Beltway Crowd to make it so. What have we seen so far? The Dole/Shalala recommendations, while flawed, have gone nowhere, with no alternative suggestions presented to address the needs and concerns of older veterans; the Walter Reed “reforms” have consisted of a “concentration camp” atmosphere for our wounded, formations at 0430, work details, limited contact with family; the only progress has been the new GI Bill, which certainly would have floundered if not for the efforts of Senator Webb. I’m quite confident that many will publicly and privately agree with me when I say that the America of today falls far short in putting its money where its mouth is in supporting the troops.

    [ # 111859 ] Comment from Christina [January 22, 2009, 1:08 am]


    My name is Christina Turner I was raped in Iraq by an Iraqi National I recieve 100% combat disability for PTSD I have sever Nightmares and other problems.. I was told when I got back from Iraq that I had cervical cancer. I have dislocated disks all up and down my neck to my back my Tail bone is broken to pieces it isnt even there anymore.. I have arthritis all over my body!!

    Yes I get 100% disability!! However

    in the last few months our roof caved in and on top of that in the same month our car broke down the mechanic told me there is so much wrong with it that i might as well give it to the junk yard!..

    we need help we are in the proccess of moving to 932 Winters Ave in West Hazleton PA 18201

    Right now we live at

    36 1/2 East Broad st
    Hazleton PA 18201

    If you need proof of our need of help please contact the

    OIF / OEF veterans office at the VA Hospital in Wilkes Barre PA


    and they will fax you what ever you need thank you


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