Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of our country's veterans, and I want to begin briefly by mentioning an organization that helps veterans that was recently brought to my attention, Patriot Outreach, a nonprofit organization to assist our military with getting the help they need to deal with the trauma associated with aspects of military service. You can learn more about that at PatriotOutreach.org, and I think they're doing a great service for our veterans.
Benjamin Disraeli once said that ``the legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name, and the inheritance of a great example.'' In our country, some of our greatest heroes are veterans, individuals who answered our Nation's call to protect and defend our freedom.
Our veterans are one of our Nation's greatest treasures and, as such, our country has given them a firm promise. Because of their willingness to protect us with their service, when their service ends, we promise to take care of them. But, unfortunately, if you talk to veterans today, they don't believe that our government is living up to their promises.
When we made the commitment to take care of our troops when they returned home, we never said anything about making them jump through hoops or navigate a complicated bureaucracy. We promised our veterans
the Moon and, instead, have failed, in many instances, to provide them with the most basic of care.
As of March 16 this year, the Columbia, South Carolina Regional Office of the Veterans Administration had over 21,927 pending cases, with an average wait time of 232 days.
Survivor benefits for veterans' spouses can take between 10 and 18 months to be disbursed, and sometimes even longer, depending on the health status of the beneficiary.
My office is currently assisting a constituent who contacted us because he has had 12 claims pending before the VA, which date all the way back to 2004. Another constituent has had her claims delayed over 18 months because she's been told by the VA that they don't have medical records. Now, this is despite the fact that she's already sent the VA her medical records twice by certified mail.
Unfortunately, claims aren't the only backlog facing the VA. Veterans are also facing delays in seeking medical attention. A lack of doctors and inefficiency in the system have forced some veterans to have to wait months to receive medical care.
Mr. Speaker, to put it simply, the VA isn't clicking and ticking. Despite the best intentions of VA personnel to deliver a high level of service and care to our veterans, too many of our former servicemen and -women are falling through the cracks.
In the Third District of South Carolina, we recently created an advisory committee composed of retired military veterans to provide insight into some of the problems that they're facing today. Their view is not that the law needs to be changed necessarily, but that the spirit of the law is not being followed. Veterans were promised certain benefits and, in too many cases, they are still waiting to receive them.
In addition to the mounting pile of problems regarding veterans services, I'm deeply concerned that veterans will be negatively impacted by the implementation of ObamaCare. The clear goal of the Obama administration's unconditional and unconstitutional health care law is to begin lumping our servicemen and -women into the bureaucracy of ObamaCare. Not only do I think that this breaks a promise made to our veterans, but I'm afraid it will make an already bad situation worse.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, we can do better; and for the sake of our living heroes, we must do better. Let us not forget the promises that we've made to our veterans, and let us not just honor our veterans with our words, but let's also honor them with our actions.
Thank you. May God bless our troops in the field, those here at home. May God bless those who have served our country in uniform, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.