WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, held a hearing today on VA outreach to veterans of the National Guard and Reserve. Today's hearing follows last week's release of an investigative report which found that VA failed to inform tens of thousands of Guard and Reservists returning from Iraq and Afghanistan of the benefits for which they may be eligible.
"Unlike their active duty counterparts, Guard and Reserve veterans continuously transition between military and civilian life," said Akaka. "In civilian communities, veterans of the Guard and Reserve, and their families, do not have access to the kind of support available in military communities. VA needs targeted strategies to fill this gap. Today's hearing has laid the groundwork for future Committee action."
Sergeant Roy Meredith, Team Leader for the Maryland Army National Guard, testified about his personal experiences as a Guard veteran. Sgt. Meredith testified that during his second tour, he received several injuries, including wounds from shrapnel embedded in his right arm. These injuries were identified and documented in his Post Deployment Health Assessment. However, after receiving care from a VA hospital, he was sent a bill and told he would have to file a claim.
The Committee also heard from Major Cynthia Rasmussen, Combat Stress Officer for the 88th Regional Readiness Command. Maj. Rasmussen highlighted the sharp change in lifestyle for Guard and Reservists as they return from war to day-to-day life. She called attention to the need for culturally competent outreach that understands the "warrior mindset," and assists the families that support these veterans.
Audio clip available - click here for an audio portion of Senator Akaka's opening statement.
Text of Senator Akaka's full opening statement can be viewed here: link
The witness list and their testimony can be viewed here: link