Our continued legacy of service: from the National Adjutant.
Our nation's economy hasn't been hit this hard in decades. Far too many of our brave men and women have been wounded, killed and disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan. More and more disabled veterans and their loved ones are in serious need as our government struggles to meet all of the demands placed on it, both at home and abroad.
But despite the fact that we have been faced with declining donations and ever-increasing costs, your DAV has never missed a beat. Not one of our programs of service to disabled veterans has been cut. Yes, we have tightened our belts and initiated savings, but our service has continued unabated.
We continue to fulfill our mission of building better lives for disabled veterans and their families. We also continue our unmatched leadership in the public policy arena advocating for our fellow disabled veterans.
June 23 was a great day for veterans and a proud day for DAV, so I want to take a moment to discuss this because you have all been a part of this success. That was the day the House of Representatives voted 409 to 1 to approve the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act (H.R. 1016).
On August 7, similar legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent, setting the stage for the House and Senate to negotiate a final version of the legislation, which can then be approved by Congress and signed by the President.
This historic legislation will ensure sufficient, timely and predictable funding for the VA health care system. It will strengthen and sustain the delivery of medical services to millions of veterans, particularly disabled veterans. I am proud to note that this legislation was developed, proposed and promoted by DAV as part of our Stand Up for Veterans initiative, and we have devoted significant time and resources to aid in its approval.
The House also approved the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (H.R. 1211), another bill that comes directly out of DAV's Stand Up for Veterans initiative.
Both of these bills have strong bipartisan support, and we expect to see President Obama signing them into law later this year.
I think it is important to reflect on how we have achieved these successes and to thank all of you who have played such an important role.
When your legislative team meets with members of the House and Senate, they walk through the door armed with our stellar reputation, something that you have all helped to empower and enrich. Everything we do is strengthened by the many ways in which our service, volunteer, transportation and other programs have assisted disabled veterans.
Thousands of our members contacted members of Congress urging them to support DAV's legislative agenda and have played a vital role in helping us develop a broad and bipartisan coalition of supporters on Capitol Hill.
I am confident that there are more good days and more victories to come. For now let me express my thanks for the work you do and in the commitment you have shown to improve the lives of disabled veterans and their families.
We have witnessed remarkable changes in the DAV this year. We have seen a new generation of disabled veterans joining our ranks and moving into leadership positions at all levels.
And speaking of membership, I would like to thank all of our remarkable membership recruiters, including our National Service Officers and Transition Service Officers, for their excellent dedication which continues the growth of the DAV and helps to ensure that we reach our stated goals.
Many new members are entering our National Service Officer corps, and several have joined our Headquarters staffs. They are highly trained and extremely motivated. They bring a new energy and renewed strength to the DAV that will last well into the 21st century.
While our organization continues to attract new members, we have sadly witnessed a steep decline in the number of World War II members. But, we have seen an increase in Vietnam veterans and those who served in more recent wars. Many of them served in the modern era and during Desert Storm and are bringing new vitality to our organization.
Our primary mission of service has been excellent. We represented nearly one quarter of a million veterans and their families in their claims for benefits last year, obtaining for them over $3 billion in new and retroactive benefits.
We provide great services at the Board of Veterans Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. We have represented more than 27 percent of all cases decided by the Board of Veterans' Appeals in 2008.
We also implemented a long-anticipated plan to utilize the services of carefully selected law firms to provide free representation to some DAV clients at the veterans' court. Nearly 200 veterans received that free representation before the court in 2008, and we expect the number of veterans receiving representation before the court will increase substantially in future years.
Our record is based on service, and our reputation of service continues to grow as we reach out to communities across our nation. As evidence, this year we are replacing our Mobile Service Offices with 10 new vehicles.
And I especially want to recognize all of our dedicated volunteers who last year donated 2.3 million hours of their own time to help their fellow sick and disabled veterans. That is an amazing record of service, and I thank you all for what you do every day.
That is just a glimpse at some of the things that set us apart from other service organizations. But what really distinguishes DAV is our commitment to direct service and advocacy for those who have given so much for our nation.
And while I'm on the subject of advocacy and commitment, the leadership of National Commander Raymond Dempsey has been inspiring. He has moved our organization forward with his skill and intellect. His compassion for disabled veterans has been a standard of his service.
Executive Directors, Rick Patterson in Cold Spring, Ky., and Dave Gorman in Washington, D.C., have provided unparalleled leadership to meet the needs of those we serve. They are two of the finest professionals that one could find anywhere, and I would match them up against any executive in either the corporate or not-for-profit world. Supported by their highly professional staffs, our mission and goals are fulfilled day in and day out.
I want to especially thank our dedicated National Service Officers who carry out our mission of service. They along with our Department and Chapter Service Officers and Transition Service Officers make sure our disabled veterans receive the care and support that they have earned on the battlefield. I also want to offer my sincere thanks to our support staffs at our headquarters offices and our offices all around the country.
Of course, special thanks go to all of our employees, some 650 in all, who do such a fine job every day supporting those who have served and sacrificed to protect our freedoms.
I also want to thank the Auxiliary for all its support. From our volunteer programs to our legislative grassroots efforts and in communities across the country, the Auxiliary is always there for our disabled veterans and their families.
Moreover, I especially want to express my deep gratitude to all of you, our members, who are our greatest asset. Thank you again for your continued commitment and dedication to serving this nation's disabled veterans.
We must also remember the loyal and dedicated Americans who support us and who encourage us to continue our mission of service. Throughout this difficult year the DAV has set new standards of excellence and quality in service.
We are clearly the best, because we continue to give our best to all those we serve. We are pledged to a mission of service.
With the election of National Commander Roberto Barrera and his excellent lineup of National Officers, we open a new chapter in the DAV's long and distinguished history of service to those who have given so much of themselves for our nation. Your staff and I look forward to working with them in the coming year in fulfilling our mission.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2009|
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