The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is dedicated to ensuring that America’s veterans receive the care and services they need and deserve. There are many issue areas that fall under the Committee’s responsibilities, so please check back frequently for updates on legislation and current Committee activity.
Many years of mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery led to the discovery of egregious conditions at one of our country’s most sacred burial grounds. Remains were mislabeled, multiple remains were discovered in the same grave, and records were poorly maintained. To address these problems, Sen. Burr co-sponsored S. 3860, a bill that requires the Secretary of the Army to submit an accounting of the gravesites in the cemetery. This bill also directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to submit a report on management and oversight of burial operations and contracts at the cemetery, as well as conduct a feasibility study of transferring control of the cemetery to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The President signed this bill into law in December 2010. For more information, CLICK HERE.
VA continues to suffer from a crippling backlog in its claims processing system that has remained at record levels for years. Veterans applying for disability benefits usually wait almost six months for a decision. Reducing this backlog requires a concerted effort across many areas of VA, including proper and frequent training for VA staff and the use of advanced IT systems that are able to safely share information electronically. In August 2010, Senator Burr pursued legislation that would help address the situation by encouraging veterans to submit fully-developed disability claims in return for a disability rating and compensation.
Under the current system, a “fiduciary” can be appointed if a veteran is unable to manage their financial affairs. As a result, veterans are deemed “mentally defective” and may be reported to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which prevents individuals from purchasing firearms. To make this process fair, Sen. Burr introduced a bill (S. 669) to require that a judicial authority make a determination that a VA beneficiary is dangerous to himself or others before their names may be submitted to the NICS list. That bill was reported from the Committee in June 2009 but has not passed the Senate. Read more about this issue HERE.
As our economy continues to struggle through a period of recovery, it is more important than ever that we maximize our ability to serve our nation’s veterans. As Congress works on reducing inefficiencies within the federal government, this Committee and VA must do the same. For example, results from the 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey suggested that VA employees do not believe there is a strong correlation between job performance and pay, awards, and promotions. To that end, Sen. Burr offered an amendment at an August 2010 markup that would require VA to submit to Congress an action plan for improving the correlation between the pay, advancement, and rewards of VA employees and their job performance.