WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, today highlighted an investigative report issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General (IG), on the efforts of VA to provide transition assistance to veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Inspector General found VA is not meeting its clear legal obligation to inform new veterans of the benefits they may have earned through their service," said Akaka. "Especially alarming is the finding that Guard and Reserve veterans made up over half of those uninformed, even though they compose only about a quarter of servicemembers deployed.
"I am deeply concerned that Guard and Reserve veterans, who serve in combat honorably alongside their fellow troops, are not receiving the same level of support from VA. These veterans sacrificed to fulfill their obligation to our country, VA must fulfill its obligation to them."
Among other findings, the IG's audit found that in 2006,VA failed to send individual notices of possible benefits to over 65,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Over 36,000 of those who were not sent notices from VA were members of the Guard and Reserve.
Senator Akaka introduced legislation last year to expand VA outreach, with an emphasis on Guard and Reserve veterans. This provision was included in H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which was signed into law on January 28, 2008. Under law, VA must inform Guard and Reserve veterans of the benefits they may be eligible by mail.
This Wednesday (July 23), Chairman Akaka will hold a public oversight hearing on the effectiveness of VA's overall outreach efforts to returning Guard and Reserve members. The hearing will be webcast live from the Committee's website, veterans.senate.gov.