"As the Ranking Member on the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs' Committee, I am committed to serving the men and women who have risked their lives for our freedom. You can help fellow veterans by being informed and knowledgeable about the legislation that directly affects American veterans. I encourage you and your friends and relatives to contact your Member of Congress, write letters to the Editor, call talk radio shows, and be vocal about your support for veterans legislation."
The Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) Public Affairs Office recently released a warning about a possible phone scam targeting veterans. The VA indicates that there have been two reports of suspicious calls to returning veterans. The caller has been asking about deployment and post-deployment matters. Then a second caller comes on the line and asks for the veterans' Social Security Number (SSN). Please remember not to release your SSN over the phone.
I was outraged at how the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) staff handled the May 3rd theft from the home of a VA employee of the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of 26.5 million of our nation's veterans. The VA waited over two weeks before notifying the Justice Department and the FBI--and the victims of the crime, our nation's veterans, were not notified for 19 days. For 19 days, over 26 million veterans were left totally unaware that their personal information had been compromised!
As you may know, the FBI has recovered the stolen laptop and the veterans' information, and they report that none of the veterans' data was copied. But this situation revealed several past breaches of security at the VA. A bill to prevent similar problems in the future and to lessen the impact on veterans has been enacted into law, requiring the VA to take specific actions to prevent any more data theft.
The President's proposed budget for veterans for 2007 is woefully inadequate. Furthermore, the Republican majority in the 109th Congress, at the end of 2006, wrapped up the session without passing a budget! The VA must now proceed with no increase in funding over 2006 to meet inflation and the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans coming home, many with health care needs. Bob is deeply upset about this situation.
If funding stays at this level, waiting times for health care services will get longer, currently eligible veterans may be turned away from services because of inadequate resources, some VA hospitals may have to close, and veterans who make over $25,000 a year will not be allowed to enroll in the VA health care system. We cannot allow this to happen!
So Congressman Filner will be fighting for "mandatory" funding for veterans health care, which means that Congress will not have to debate the amount of funding each and every year. Instead, mandatory funding will automatically increase each year to accommodate inflation and the increase in enrollment.
Bob is a supporter of the "GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century"
This is a comprehensive package of legislation to improve benefits for our men and women in uniform and for the nation's military retirees and veterans. This legislation will bolster support for our troops in harms way and their families here at home. In addition, included are special provisions for the National Guard and Reserves that provide better education, health care and job training to these men and women whose service has been above the call of duty.
This "GI Bill of Rights" also ends the Disabled Veterans' Tax providing concurrent receipt of military retired pay and VA compensation to all eligible disabled retirees.
Bob has received several awards for his work for veterans.
In August 2001, the Air Force Sergeants Association presented Congressman Filner with the prestigious L. Mendel Rivers Award of Excellence for his work on behalf of veterans. Previous winners include former Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Sonny Montgomery, for whom the Montgomery GI Bill is named. Other awards have been presented to Bob by the Paralyzed Veterans Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, the American Legion, the Jewish War Veterans, the National Gulf War Resource Center, and the American Gold Star Mothers.
Bob is the sponsor of bills to improve the lives of veterans.
Congressman Filner's legislation, passed by Congress, will provide dental services to all ex-Prisoners of War, improve insurance for veterans, increase the amount of the VA home loan, and improve recruitment and retention of VA dentists by increasing their pay. Provisions of his bill to eliminate the Military Widows' Tax by removing the Social Security offset to the Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) for military widows were also passed.
While he strongly supported the bill which passed that partially eliminates the Disabled Veterans Tax and allows concurrent receipt of VA compensation and military retired pay for disabled military retirees, he is co-sponsoring H.R. 303, the Retired Pay Restoration Act, to finish the job--and pay concurrent receipt to all eligible veterans. His amendment to allow a study of space-available travel on military aircraft for many disabled veterans and their families has been included in the 2007 Defense Authorization bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives. A study is being conducted by the White House to determine the best way to proceed.
Bob introduced a bill to give Purple Heart recognition to POWs who died of causes other than wounds while in captivity--this bill also led to a study of the issue with a report due in March. Additionally, he has attempted to give recognition and a medal to veterans who died from causes related to their service in Vietnam but who are not eligible for inclusion on The Wall at the Vietnam Memorial in the nation's capital. Bob has also made strides to provide benefits to World War II Merchant Mariners to compensate them for exclusion from the GI Bill for over forty years (H.R. 23). Other Filner bills, which he will soon introduce into the new, 110th Congress, will provide veterans with direct access to chiropractic care and provide disabled veterans with access to commissaries.
Congressman Filner introduced an amendment to the Iraq Supplemental bill that would give preference to veterans for contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq. He called for a GAO investigation of the health effects of exposure to depleted uranium in military personnel and veterans. He is introducing a bill with Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) to eliminate "dose reconstruction", a time-consuming and misleading process that is currently required to determine compensation for Atomic Veterans.
Bob has also worked, along with the other members of the San Diego Delegation, to establish an annex to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The Navy Department and the VA Department have announced an agreement that will provide space at MCAS Miramar for additional local burials. The new site will provide approximately 200,000 much-needed gravesites for the San Diego and Imperial Counties