U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,  promise to speed up

From: "\"Doc\" Melson" <docmelson@docmelson.com>

X-RCPT-TO: <Will@willpete.com>


Retired Marine Col. Walter Osipoff heard some good news Friday from the head
of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, who promised to speed up
veterans' claims that have jammed the system for years. "I'm glad he's
addressing this issue because I've got a claim I've been pressing for some
time," said Osipoff who was injured in a World War II parachuting accident.
Anthony J. Principi, who took over the Veterans Affairs system three months
ago, spoke to 136 veterans at Air Force Village West during a meeting of the
Riverside Chapter of The Retired Officers Association. Osipoff and the other
vets gave the secretary a long standing ovation after his talk. He won their
support by telling them he was honored to serve them and 25 million veterans
nationwide, saying he deeply apreciated their patriotic service. Principi, a
decorated Navy combat veteran during the Vietnam War, singled out retired
Army Col. Lewis Millett of Idyllwild, a Medal of Honor recipient from the
Korean War, for his service. The secretary, who has a home in San Diego, was
picked by President Bush to improve veterans care issues. He was invited to
address the 800-member association and to receive an award for his service to
veterans. "It is just unbelievable, because of his stature, that we have the
secretary here, and that he's taken so much of his time to talk to us," said
association President Larry Stumpf. "We're the ones who feel so honored," he
said before the speech. Principi's short speech addressed one of the nation's
key veterans issues. He said the nation must never ignore its promise to care
for its veterans. Unfortunately, many veterans feel Americans have forgotten
their service and sacrifices, he said. And the agency's bureaucracy over the
years has so bogged down veterans claims that some die before their cases are
processed, he said. About 600,000 such claims are in the pipeline. And more
than 400,000 additional claims are anticipated because of added benefits and
illnesses due to the use of Agent Orange, Principi said. "It takes too long
to decide a claim. And the error rate is too high," Principi said. Claims can
take up to nine months to process and appeals can add another two years. he
said. Principi said he has appointed a 10-member task force to analyze the
agency's claims process and come up with recommendations within 120 days. He
also wants to improve communication between the Defense Department and
Veterans Affairs to speed up processing of veterans' service records. "We're
looking for practical solutions and I don't want abstract theories," the
secretary said. "I want hands-on solutions." Despite these problems, Principi
said he is proud of his department which is the federal government's second
largest with an annual budget that will jump from $48 billion to at least $51
billion under the Bush administration.


"When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass through."    I. Ching