Veterans

September 18, 2012

Shinseki: VA honors ‘exceptional Americans’

The airmen of today’s United States Air Force display the same guts, determination and skill as their forebears in the wars of earlier eras, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said Sept. 18 at the Air Force Association’s annual meeting.

Service members stepped forward to repel the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he said, “without orders, without much leadership.” Eight Air Corps pilots in five planes, “outnumbered [and] outgunned,” Shinseki said, “took out nine attacking enemy aircraft.”

Years later, “air crews paid a heavy price for their courage in Vietnam, the walls of the Hanoi Hilton testify to the incredible sacrifices by those who defied a cruel enemy and endured unspeakable horrors,” he said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs exists to honor such exceptional Americans, he said, “honoring their courage and faith and patriotism by keeping faith with President Abraham Lincoln’s promise from his second inaugural [in] March 1865, ‘to care for those who have borne the battle.’”

Most people only know VA as a large healthcare system, he said. “But here’s what’s also true about VA…we’re second only to the Department of Education in providing educational benefits.”

“VA guarantees nearly 1.6 million home loans,” he said, and is the only zero-down entity in the nation.

And for the past 10 years VA customer service has been the top-rated among public or private organizations, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, he said.

Of the 316,000 VA employees, more than 100,000 are veterans, Shinseki said. “The determination, initiative and leadership they demonstrated in uniform continue to define their performance today as we transform VA into a 21st century organization.”

Yet, he said, three and a half years ago there were an estimated 107,000 homeless veterans. VA was also dealing with unresolved issues, some of which dated back to the Vietnam War. Only 7.4 million veterans of the 23 million living veterans were enrolled in VA healthcare.

“We had an outreach problem…we had an access problem,” Shinseki said.

To solve these issues, he said, VA determined three priorities: increase veterans’ access to VA benefits; eliminate the backlog in compensation claims; and end veterans’ homelessness – the last two to be completed by 2015.

“Nothing rivets the attention like ambitious targets with short timelines,” he said.

These priorities led VA to develop a closer relationship with DOD in order to create seamless transitions from military service to civilian life, he said.

“Creating change requires stable and predictable budgets,” Shinseki said. Without accompanying resources, he said, nothing happens except a lot of talk.

VA’s budget has increased by 40 percent since 2009, he said, helping the department move closer to its goals. New hospitals and clinics and new technology are combining to provide increased access for veterans across the country.

“We also fixed those longstanding issues from prior wars,” he said. Several new conditions were added to the list of those for which Vietnam-era and Gulf War veterans receive presumption-of-service connection ratings.

And for all veterans, he said, post-traumatic stress disorder was added to the list of disabilities presumed to be service connected. “PTSD is as old as warfare itself. It was time.”

One million new claims resulted from these changes alone over the past three years, he said, but VA is taking several approaches to reduce the amount of time it takes to process claims. On average, the department processes one million claims per year, he continued.

“[The] backlog is a function of these decisions we make about access,” he said. But a paperless management system is on the way, which is the key to eliminating the claims backlog.

The system will be operational in most regional offices by next summer, he said.

In the book “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” Shinseki said, the author James Michener asks “Where do we get such men as these?”

“Today we would say ‘such men and women as these,’ ” Shinseki said. “The answer is they come from our farms, our villages, our cities and they come from both coasts of this nation. They come from islands, they come from our mountains and they come from the American heartland. They also come from the banks of the Hudson and the Severn and from the foothills of Rampart Range. They’re Americans. And they are, by God, exceptional.”

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 2, 2014

News: Debris yields clues that pilot never ejected - When investigators were finally able to safely enter the crash site of an F-15C “Eagle” fighter jet on the afternoon of Aug. 27, they made a grim discovery that concluded more than 30 hours of searching – the pilot never managed to eject from the aircraft.  ...
 
 

News Briefs September 2, 2014

Pentagon: Iraq operations cost $560 million so far U.S. military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Aug. 29. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the average daily cost has been $7.5 million. He said it began at a much lower...
 
 

Unmanned aircraft partnership reaches major milestone

A team of research students and staff from Warsaw University of Technology have successfully demonstrated the first phase of flight test and integration of unmanned aircraft platforms with an autonomous mission control system. The demonstration marks a significant milestone in a partnership between the university and Lockheed Martin that began earlier this year. This is...
 

 

Raytheon delivers first Block 2 Rolling Airframe Missiles to US Navy

Raytheon delivered the first Block 2 variant of its Rolling Airframe Missile system to the U.S. Navy as part of the company’s 2012 Low Rate Initial Production contract. RAM Block 2 is a significant performance upgrade featuring enhanced kinematics, an evolved radio frequency receiver, and an improved control system. “As today’s threats continue to evolve,...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Two Vietnam War Soldiers, one from Civil War to receive Medal of Honor

U.S. Army graphic Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and former Spc. 4 Donald P. Sloat will receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam. The White House announced Aug. 26 that Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. A...
 
 

Sparks fly as NASA pushes limits of 3-D printing technology

NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector – a highly complex part that...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>