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Public Statements

Kerry Demands Answers on Reports of DOD and VA Blocking Help for Disabled Soldiers

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry wrote letters today to Under Secretary of Defense David S. Chu and Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake asking for answers about recent reports that disabled soldiers at Fort Drum were actively blocked from receiving disability benefits. Recent news stories indicated that Army officials in upstate New York told staff at the VA to ignore disabled soldiers at the Fort Drum Army base.

"We need answers immediately about whether the Army and the VA actively blocked care for disabled soldiers," said Kerry. "Our men and women in uniform who have put their lives on the line and sustained debilitating injuries deserve nothing but the best treatment, not red tape and the run-around from the government which is supposed to help them. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure a seamless transition from the military to the civilian sector for all who have served. Telling VA specialists they can't help disabled soldiers with their claims couldn't be further from that goal."

The text of Kerry's letters is below:

The Honorable David S. Chu
Under Secretary of Defense
Personnel and Readiness
4000 Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-4000

Dear Under Secretary Chu,

This morning I heard a disturbing news report on National Public Radio: "Army Blocks Disability Paperwork Aid at Fort Drum." Highly disconcerting allegations were raised that our brave men and women in uniform are not receiving the type of advocacy that they deserve.

According to the report, Department of Defense (DoD) officials instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) not to help disabled soldiers stationed at Fort Drum - a New York installation that has experienced deployment after deployment for both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom - file their disability claims paperwork. I find it alarming that the DoD could have possibly come to this decision -- or that the VA would agree to it. I believe these allegations must be answered.

Based on the report, I have a number of questions:

Can you confirm whether VA personnel were directed to stop assisting soldiers with the filing of their disability claims at Ft. Drum?
If so, do you believe this was an insolated incident?
Is an investigation of these allegations currently underway?
What measures are currently in place to help soldiers navigate the claims filing process?
Does an agreement exist that allows VA personnel on DoD facilities to discuss disability benefits with service members?

On a separate note, as we approach the one year anniversary of The Washington Post's investigation into the conditions at Walter Reed, I find it troubling that we have yet to tackle fully the problems in interagency communication and collaboration - - especially in light of the numerous studies and bi-partisan commissions that have highlighted the urgency of reform. I therefore also respectfully request a detailed outline of the measures you are taking to further the goal of a "seamless transition" for our soldiers.

I know you share my commitment to honor the service of our brave men and women to our country. Thank you, in advance, for your prompt attention to my concerns. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

John F. Kerry
United States Senator

January 30th 2008

The Honorable James Peake
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Peake

This morning I heard a disturbing news report on National Public Radio: "Army Blocks Disability Paperwork Aid at Fort Drum." Highly disconcerting allegations were raised that our brave men and women in uniform are not receiving the type of advocacy that they deserve.

According to the report, Department of Defense (DoD) officials instructed representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) not to help disabled soldiers stationed at Fort Drum - a New York installation that has experienced deployment after deployment for both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom - file their disability claims paperwork. I find it alarming that the DoD could have possibly come to this decision -- or that the VA would agree to it. I believe these allegations must be answered.

Based on the report, I have a number of questions:

-Can you confirm whether VA personnel were directed to stop assisting soldiers with the filing of their disability claims at Ft. Drum?

-If so, do you believe this was an insolated incident?

-Is an investigation of these allegations currently underway?

-What measures are currently in place to help soldiers navigate the claims filing process?

-Does an agreement exist that allows VA personnel on DoD facilities to discuss disability benefits with service members?


On a separate note, as we approach the one year anniversary of The Washington Post's investigation into the conditions at Walter Reed, I find it troubling that we have yet to tackle fully the problems in interagency communication and collaboration - - especially in light of the numerous studies and bi-partisan commissions that have highlighted the urgency of reform. I therefore also respectfully request a detailed outline of the measures you are taking to further the goal of a "seamless transition" for our soldiers.

I know you share my commitment to honor the service of our brave men and women to our country. Thank you, in advance, for your prompt attention to my concerns. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

John F. Kerry
United States Senator


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