If we can’t afford to care for warriors once the battle is over, we can’t afford to go to war. It is a disgrace that we have so many veterans who are homeless and/or suffering from untreated illnesses. Many have benefit claims that have languished for years, while others wait months for needed medical care. The answer is NOT privatization, which I strongly oppose, but rather to respect our veterans by properly funding the VA.

I will champion legislation that mandates funding to the VA for each person who enters into the military that cannot be cut, offset or diverted.  This money will be in addition to regular administrative and operational funding, so that there will always be sufficient money to care for each veteran.  No longer will we be able to balance our budget on the backs of our service members. Moreover, VA funding should be part of the military budget and not under domestic discretionary spending.  Care for our veterans is part and parcel of the cost of war, it should be funded that way.

Currently, we place the burden on our veterans to prove that an injury or illness is “service connected” (i.e., related to their time of service military). For many of our veterans, particularly those whose injury or illness shows up long after their military service, this burden can be almost impossible to meet. Veterans are now required to chase down military records and obtain all kinds of evidence. This has caused many claims to hang in limbo for years. I propose a rule that would put the burden of proof on the VA. In other words, the presumption would be that a veteran is entitled to the benefit unless the VA can prove, within 90 days, that the injury or illness is not service connected. If the VA cannot meet this burden, then the veteran will receive the benefit. This simple change would clear the backlog of claims in very short order and provide to those who have served our country much needed help.

Pam: On the Issues