Filner praises Dole/Shalala recommendations - but urges a more radical shake-up of the bureaucracy
House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) released the following statement on the Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors (Dole/Shalala):
"I am pleased that President Bush has come forward with legislative proposals to implement the Commission recommendations. Of course, most of the recommendations can and should be done administratively.
"Congress has already passed a key recommendation of the Dole/Shalala Commission, providing family medical leave for families of wounded soldiers, but President Bush vetoed it. (H.R. 976)
"Congress is making progress on a number of issues raised by the Dole/Shalala Commission in the National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Appropriations bill and the Veterans Appropriations bill. We will complete action on these bills this fall.
"While the Dole/Shalala Commission contained good recommendations - they do not go far enough to shake-up a bureaucracy looked on as adversaries by many veterans.
"For example, nothing is suggested for cleaning up a 600,000 disability claims backlog - where radical change is needed.
"Nor is there a demand for immediate action to get the DoD and VA to share electronic medical data.
"But we can make progress. Our veterans health care funding bill - that will be making its way to the President shortly - exceeds his request and is the largest increase in the history of the VA. Such an increase is appropriate at a time when we are asking so much of our military personnel and their families.
"We have inherited many years of neglect in funding the needs of our country's veterans. The magnitude cannot be corrected overnight but we must begin to address the serious shortfalls that exist and we welcome the attention of the President on this critical situation."