Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26) brought together Western New York veterans today at the Batavia VA Medical Center for the second meeting of the 26th District's Veterans Advisory Board. The Advisory Board built upon previous discussions the group had regarding ways to improve services and further legislative initiatives to better meet the needs of Western New York veterans and their families.
This was the second meeting of the advisory board, which is comprised of 44 veterans and veteran family members from all seven counties in the 26th Congressional District. The group continued to converse throughout the year and shared many of their discussion topics with other members of the advisory board at today's meeting. (Thecomplete list of 26th District Veterans Advisory Board members can be accessed at http://chrislee.house.gov/veterans.)
"I appreciate the distinguished group of Advisory Board members once again coming together to discuss the many issues facing the more than 50,000 veterans living in the 26th district," Congressman Lee said. "The Members of the 26th District's Veterans Advisory Board share a commitment to ensuring that our nation's veterans who have sacrificed so much have access to the services and resources they need and deserve. I applaud their commitment and appreciate their dedication to this worthy cause."
"Today's meeting was a great opportunity for those who are involved with veterans' causes to come together and discuss the many issues facing the thousands of veterans across Western New York," said Hal Kreter, Director of Genesee County Veterans Services. "I look forward to continuing a dialogue with Congressman Lee as well as the veterans organizations present at today's meeting."
Steps Congressman Lee has taken to honor and support our nation's military veterans and their families since taking office
* Congressman Lee secured passage of legislation (H.R. 1595) naming a Greece post office in honor of Marine Lance Corporal Brian K. Schramm, the first resident of the 26th congressional district to lose his life in Operation Iraqi Freedom. (View related press release.)
* Congressman Lee is working with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to securean increase in funding for veterans' mental health care programs. Combat stress has been a growing issue for military leaders and families as fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken its toll on the soldiers, many of whom have been deployed three, four, or even five times. (View related press release.)
* Congressman Lee is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 1016, a bipartisan proposal that would ensure timely and predictable budgets for VA health care through an advanced appropriation that provides for funding ahead of time. Uncertain funding levels can force the VA to restrict health care services and place veterans on waiting lists. This initiative has been endorsed by a number of leading veterans service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
* Congressman Lee urges General Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to have the VA expedite efforts to address "unacceptable and unsustainable" backlog of unfinished disability claims. In the letter, Congressman Lee pointed out that with roughly 900,000 pending claims, including 7,168 in Western New York alone, the VA's caseload is on pace to reach the 1 million mark this year. (View related press release.)
* Congressman Lee introduced legislation (H. Con. Res. 232) to honor the Army's 24th Infantry Division and its 14 Medal of Honor recipients through a memorial marker at Arlington National Cemetery. (View related press release.)
* Congressman Lee helps coordinate a meeting between Western New York veterans and former U.S. Senator Bob Dole at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. (View related press release.)
This is the seventh advisory board Congressman Lee has established since taking office. Congressman lee has established advisory boards on the issues of veterans, education (K-12 and higher education), small business, first responders, agriculture and energy.