In This Issue:
1. Senate VA Budget Hearing
2. Oversight Hearing on Medication and Suicide
3. House VA Committee Hearings
1. Senate VA Budget Hearing: The Senate VA Committee held its FY 2011 budget hearing this week. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified to changes planned for telehealth services and providing more outpatient services for veterans living in rural and remote areas. As part of an Independent Budget panel, VFW testimony centered on major and minor VA construction projects, to include a concern that ongoing funding is needed to complete the numerous projects currently under construction, as well as those being planned. To more information or to view hearing, go to the Senate VA website at http://veterans.senate.gov/
2. Oversight Hearing on Medication and Suicide: The House VA Committee held an oversight hearing to explore possible links between suicides and prescribed medications. The current rate of suicide among returning servicemembers has reached alarming rates, and Congress is holding hearings on gaps in mental health care for the treatment of PTSD, as well as traumatic brain injuries. Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) asked panelists to discuss ongoing research as to whether certain drugs prevent or could exacerbate suicides. Dr. Ira Katz from the VA discussed the effectiveness of psychopharmacological treatments as well as potential side effects. Committee members plan to work with VA and DOD to implement effective programs to prevent more suicides. For more on the hearing, visit the House VA Committee website at http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=525
3. House VA Committee Hearings: The House VA Committee played catch-up this week from the early February blizzard by holding five hearings in four days. VFW testified at three of them.
* The Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on VA's medical care budget. VFW testified on the VA's major and minor construction needs for FY 2011. Citing our portion of the Independent Budget, we called on Congress to provide funding to complete the numerous projects under construction and those being planned.
* The Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs discussed VA's Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) and Quick Start programs. VFW testified that error rates and quality of ratings continue to plaque the popular programs. We recommended that VA expand its BDD sites and increase outreach to servicemembers about their benefits. Far too many servicemen and women are unaware of their benefits. We also believe that the VSO community can provide expert assistance to transitioning service personnel, which would improve the quality of initial claims being submitted.
* The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing on an array of bills designed to improve education and other protective programs for servicemembers. VFW testified in support of most of the bills to include:
* HR 3257 - would grant military family members temporary annual leave during the deployment of their loved ones.
* HR 3976 - would extend mortgage interest rate caps and foreclosure protections to nine months after a member is released from duty.
* HR 4359-would authorize VA to guarantee housing loans for the construction of energy efficient dwellings.
* HR 4469-would amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to restricting permanent child custody decisions while a member is deployed in support of a contingency operation.
For complete VFW testimony, go to the House VA Committee website at http://veterans.house.gov/