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Veterans' agenda.

As Congress grapples with many challenges and stiff competition for scarce resources in the coming year, it is more important than ever for DAV members to be actively involved in our grassroots lobbying efforts to preserve our rights and ensure our government honors its commitment to disabled veterans. We have witnessed an unprecedented assault on benefits for veterans in recent years that is very worrying, especially while so many of America's sons and daughters are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe injuries and disabilities.

Federal funding for veterans programs has not kept pace with inflation, much less the increased demands on the VA for health care and other earned benefits. The administration claims to have provided record increases for the VA, yet thousands of veterans have been denied access to health care. Budget shortfalls have hit VA facilities in every region of the country. Some have had to put off hiring doctors and nurses, while still others have cut back or even eliminated medical services.

We've also seen repeated attempts to deny compensation to veterans whose disabilities were not directly related to performance of their official military duties. There also are concerns that ongoing reviews of the VA disability compensation system may be part of plans to lessen our government's responsibility to adequately and fairly provide for disabled veterans.

And as if that weren't enough, House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) has decided the DAV and other veterans service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present our legislative priorities before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees.

For more than 50 years our National Commander and hundreds of DAY members from across the country have been able to speak directly to our elected representatives about the issues that are most important to disabled veterans and their families. But apparently Chairman Buyer doesn't see the value in those hearings, which have been a vital part of our annual Mid-Winter Conference.

Yes, these are difficult times for disabled veterans. But with a coordinated, vigorous grassroots campaign, we can fight back against these attacks and make sure our government lives up to its moral obligation to our sick and disabled veterans.

That's where our Commander's Action Network, or DAV CAN, comes in. This grassroots program has proven itself over the years and currently has nearly 5,000 members. We also have about 19,000 people who have signed up to receive legislative alerts through our Action E-List. But we must have an even stronger voice if we are to be successful in advancing a veterans' agenda.

We must remind members of Congress and their legislative aides that veterans remain a strong, vital political force in this country. Our grassroots activists keep their elected representatives on notice that veterans issues are important to their constituents. DAV members, their families and others who join DAV CAN will receive a package of information that includes postcards, sample letters, suggested letters to newspaper editors, phone calling information and other materials to make them a vital part of the network.

Those with computers can access the DAV Web site (www.dav.org) to use the Legislative Action site to send letters or e-mail messages to each of their elected representatives. By becoming a valued member of DAV's grassroots network, you demonstrate your dedication and commitment to improving the lives of our nation's service-connected disabled veterans and their families.

To become a part of DAV's grassroots network, contact the National Legislative Department, Disabled American Veterans National Service and Legislative Headquarters, 807 Maine Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024. Disabled veterans and their families are counting on us, and we won't let them down.

Legislative Goals for 2006

* The DAV has established an ambitious legislative program for 2006. The National Legislative staff and our entire membership will be working together to make sure that this country lives up to its commitment to disabled veterans and their families and survivors.

The DAV's legislative goals are drawn from resolutions adopted by the delegates to our National Convention. The following are some of the major objectives our organization will pursue during the 109th Congress.

Disability Compensation & Other Benefits

* Oppose any change that would redefine service-connected disability or restrict the conditions or circumstances under which it may be established.

* Oppose any proposal that would offset payments of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or any other federal benefits by the amount of VA compensation.

* Support legislation to provide service connection to atomic veterans for all recognized radiogenic diseases.

* Support legislation to remove the prohibition against concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA disability compensation for all longevity retired veterans.

* Support compensation of Persian Gulf War veterans for illnesses circumstantially linked to their service in the war.

* Oppose any change in law to provide for lump-sum payments of VA disability compensation.

* Support an expansion of POW presumptions.

* Eliminate the requirement for dose estimates in claims for service connection based on radiation exposure.

* Support legislation to clarify that service in the Republic of Vietnam includes service in the waters offshore for purposes of benefits based on exposure to herbicides.

* Oppose any scheme to means test disability and death compensation.

* Increase disability compensation.

* Restore protections against unwarranted awards of veterans' benefits to third parties in divorce actions.

Medical & Health Care Services

* Support legislation to make VA health care funding mandatory.

* Ensure that timely quality health care services are provided to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Support service-connected veterans' priority access to VA medical.

* Support equal medical services and benefits for women veterans.

* Support legislation to extend the period of eligibility for free health care for combat veterans for conditions potentially related to their combat service from two years to five years after discharge or release.

* Support the repeal of co-payments for medical services and prescriptions provided by the VA.

* Support repeal of beneficiary travel pay deductibles for service-connected disabled veterans and support benefit travel reimbursement rates.

General Issues

* Support adequate funding for all VA programs and services.

* Support increases in grants for automobiles or other conveyances available to certain disabled veterans and to pro vide for automatic annual adjustments based on the increase in the cost of living.

* Provide an increase in the specially adapted housing grant and automatic annual adjustments based on increases in the cost of living.

* Support the American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin Act.

* Support legislation to reduce premiums for Service Disabled Veterans' Insurance consistent with current life expectancy.

* Extend eligibility for Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance to service-connected veterans rated permanently and totally disabled.

* Seek the immediate release of any American who may still be held captive following World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War and seek immediate return of the remains of any Americans who died during those wars.

* Increase the face value of Service Disabled Veterans' Insurance.

* Support programs in our schools to educate children on the special contributions and sacrifices of our veterans.

* Provide educational benefits for dependents of service-connected veterans rated 80% or more disabled.

* Encourage all disabled veterans, their families and friends to become registered voters and to vote.

* Support outreach to and employment opportunities for women veterans.

* Increase the burial allowance for service-connected disabled veterans.

* Extend military commissary and exchange privileges to service-connected disabled veterans.

* Extend space-available air travel aboard military aircraft to 100% service-connected disabled veterans.

* Condemn public desecration of the flag of the United States.

* Construct a memorial to commemorate the sacrifices of America's disabled veterans.

* Eliminate the delimiting date for eligible spouses and surviving spouses for benefits provided under chapter 35, title 38, United States Code.

Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director
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Title Annotation:DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY
Author:Violante, Joseph A.
Publication:DAV Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:1274
Previous Article:Veterans can refill prescriptions online.
Next Article:Military Appreciation Monday.


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