WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced a bill yesterday to ensure the continuation of the VA/DOD Senior Oversight Committee (SOC), the entity responsible for improving transition from military service to veteran status for severely wounded and injured servicemembers. The SOC was formed in the wake of last year's Walter Reed scandal and is scheduled to be terminated in January 2009.
"The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will outlast the current Administration. So too should the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments combined efforts to assist servicemembers returning from war," said Akaka. "I am committed to sustaining this effort as long as our troops are in combat."
The proposed Senior Oversight Committee Extension Act of 2008 would require a three-year extension of the SOC, ensuring that it would continue to oversee and assist in shaping VA and DOD oversight and transition activities. The Administration's current plan is to eliminate the SOC and shift its responsibilities to the existing VA/DOD Joint Executive Council (JEC). The JEC has neither full-time staff nor the senior-level involvement that exists in SOC (which is co-chaired by the VA and DOD Deputy Secretaries).
Chairman Akaka has long advocated for the continuity of VA and DOD's SOC. Earlier this year, he called on the Departments to develop a succession plan for the upcoming change in Administration. Last week, he held his eleventh hearing on VA and DOD cooperation and collaboration, in which he pressed the Departments on the need for stronger oversight and improved transition for returning service men and women.