Isakson to VA: More Work to Be Done

Calls on VA to use legislative tools to improve VA services; work toward solution for ‘Blue Water’ Navy veterans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today held a hearing with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the progress of the VA’s ongoing implementation of several pieces of critical veterans’ reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in 2017-2018.

Isakson began the hearing by praising Secretary Wilkie for his “walk the post” leadership approach saying, “I appreciate his attitude about customer service being the principle foundation of his administration at the VA. This is a committee and a VA that will tackle problems and try to do it as fairly and equitably as we can. We’re working hard to transform the VA into a department worthy of our veterans.”

During 2017 and so far in 2018, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passed 22 major pieces of veterans legislation – 20 of which have been signed into law – that aim to strengthen veterans’ health care and benefits and support. Isakson emphasized that the committee has given Secretary Wilkie the tools to fix the problems at the VA and that his most important task is to oversee the implementation of these reforms at the department to ensure veterans are being well served.

“I don’t want the secretary to rest and think the hard part is over because the hard part has just started,” said Isakson. “No journey starts without the first steps. We took the first step confirming Secretary Wilkie, and he is taking the first step with customer care and veterans’ care. But, there is still more work to be done.”

Isakson also discussed the importance of the VA and the committee working together to find a solution for “Blue Water” Navy Vietnam veterans. Currently, veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but did not dock or approach close to the shore are not eligible for certain disability benefits covering certain medical conditions associated with the chemical herbicide Agent Orange commonly used in Vietnam.

“If you ask anyone in this room if there is another problem that needs to be addressed, they would tell you it’s Blue Water Navy,” said Isakson. “I’ve been working on it, and I want to commend every member of the committee because they’re all supportive of finding a solution.”

Isakson continued, “We need to look at the facts and see where they lead us. We need to be right and fair with our veterans.”

In closing, Isakson pledged to work together as team, alongside the committee and with the secretary to “decide what we’ve got to do, where we need to get and ultimately get this problem solved.”

Watch Isakson’s opening remarks from the hearing here.

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The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the armed services as well as more than 750,000 veterans.