WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today regarding ongoing issues at Fort Drum, New York, concerning Department of Veterans Affairs staff providing counseling to soldiers on the appropriateness of DOD MEB/PEB ratings.
"I am concerned by reports suggesting that soldiers at Fort Drum were prevented from receiving advice from VA employees regarding their injuries. I have written to Deputy Secretary of Defense, Gordon England, and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Gordon Mansfield, Co-Chairs of the DOD/VA Senior Oversight Committee, expressing my concerns and asking them how they plan to address this matter. I look forward to their response," said Senator Akaka.
Senator Akaka added, "The issues of transition and cooperation between VA and DOD go far beyond Fort Drum. Last year's Walter Reed scandal highlighted the critical need to improve the process of transition from military service to veteran status. Among the problems identified was a disability rating schedule where veterans with identical injuries received different disability ratings from DOD and VA. Following Congressional investigations, I introduced legislation to standardize the disability rating schedule for servicemembers and veterans. This legislation was included in the Wounded Warrior provisions of the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. VA and DOD are currently running a pilot program to put this standardized rating system into place.
"VA and DOD must work together to help, not hinder, the efforts of servicemembers and veterans to get the benefits they deserve. I will continue to be involved with this issue," stated Senator Akaka.
February 7, 2008