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Posted by Randy | June 11, 2012

Today, I called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to address the underlying causes of the severe claims backlog plaguing the Veterans Benefits Administration.

In spite of considerable efforts to reverse this negative trend, the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen its claims backlog jump from just 390,000 at the beginning of 2009 to over 904,000 at the end of May. Our nation’s veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices, and they are deserving of far more expeditious and accurate claims decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In some cases our veterans have been forced to wait for months or years to get an adjudicated claims decision – this is simply unacceptable and an egregious breach of faith with those who have served our nation honorably.

In a letter to Secretary Shinseki, I expressed concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs’ actions thus far have not rolled back the enormous claims backlog that has ballooned over the last three years. “Considering that claims receipts are expected to reach 1.25 million in 2013, prompt, substantive action is required to both critically assess and address the root causes of the claims backlog and more importantly implement meaningful reform to the claims processing system,” I wrote.  The full text of the letter is available here.

Current claims backlog figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs are available here.

To read more information on my work on behalf of veterans, please visit my website here.

Posted by Randy | June 05, 2012

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” – General Dwight Eisenhower, D-Day, 1944.

On this day sixty eight years ago, Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in a pivotal display of resilience.  Although the mission seemed impossible, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said we would “accept nothing less than full victory.”   More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies held Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

On that day, June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a prayer to the nation.  The prayer began, “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.  Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.  They will need Thy blessings.  Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong.  He may hurl back our forces.  Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph."

You can read the full text of President Roosevelt’s prayer, entitled, “Let Our Hearts Be Stout,” here.

Today, our nation pauses to honor those soldiers who were a part of D-Day.  I invite you to share a story of someone who served in WWII. 

 

Posted by Randy | February 02, 2012

As you may know, Arlington Cemetery has been under an ongoing investigation regarding burial mismanagement that was revealed in June 2010.

This week, two House Armed Services Subcommittees will hold a joint oversight hearing to review findings from the Army’s new “Arlington National Cemetery Gravesite Accountability Task Force” report provided to Congress at the end of last year. The hearing will also look at efforts to address accountability issues.   

The hearing will be streamed online tomorrow via a live webcast.

Joint Hearing: Update on Accountability at Arlington National Cemetery

Friday, February 3, 2012

11:30 a.m.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

(Note: Timing of the hearing is subject to change if votes are called in the House.)

The Arlington Cemetery burial mismanagement reports continue to be tragic for us as a nation and for the families of the men and women who have selflessly and faithfully served our nation. I’m hopeful that this hearing will prove that the accountability issues are being rightfully addressed.

Posted by Randy | January 10, 2012
This weekend, I traveled to Fort Lee to celebrate the return home of the last support battalion to leave Iraq. The 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion served a 10-month mission and became responsible for bringing American troops home -- they directed logistics for the remaining military personnel and supplies until the December 31 complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  These men and women were a part of the last unit in Iraq, signifying the end of the conflict.

I was filled with gratitude for their service as I shook the hands of our military men and women who were returning and watched as families were reunited.  We are so very grateful to be amongst men and women of such courage.

Here are some photos of the ceremony as we welcomed home our heroes. Let’s express our gratitude for their service to our nation:

Posted by Randy | December 09, 2011
"No religious items (ie: Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."

Those words were included in a memo issued September 14 by Walter Reed Medical Center, one of our nation’s primary medical facilities for thousands of wounded military men and women.  

The policy was brought to the attention of my colleagues and me, along with valid concerns that family members or pastors would not be able to bring Bibles or other religious materials to visit their wounded sons or daughters or husbands and wives. My colleague Rep. Steve King pointed out that “It means a priest that might be coming in to visit someone on their death bed couldn’t bring in the Eucharist, couldn’t offer Last Rites. This is the most outrageous affront.”

Our troops have risked their lives for our freedoms and liberties - including our religious liberties. To deny them this freedom when they return home is deplorable.

This week, I hosted a meeting with officials from Walter Reed regarding the policy. The officials said that the policy was not properly vetted and has been rescinded. The following apology has been posted on their website:

We are in the process of rewriting our policy and would like to offer the following statement:

Bibles and other religious materials have always been and will remain available for patient use at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The visitation policy as written was incorrect and should have been more thoroughly reviewed before its release. It has been rescinded. We apologize for any confusion the policy may have caused.

Please know that at admission, all patients are asked for their religious preference and a chaplain associated with their preference visits them regularly to provide spiritual services. In addition, their families may also bring religious material and we will not refuse any religious group entrance.

WRNMMC provides multiple venues at WRMNMC for religious expression and worship. There is daily Catholic Mass as well as Protestant, Hindu, and Muslim services. Eucharist is also available at the bedside. There are weekly Torah studies, multiple weekly Christian bible studies, as well as weekly Qur'an study. Furthermore, chaplains coordinate spiritual needs for those whose faith groups are not represented by staff chaplains (such as Latter-Day Saints, Buddhist, and Christian Scientist).

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center remains committed to supporting the religious preferences of all our patients and we will continue to ensure their spiritual needs are met.

I have requested background information about the policy, how it was implemented without proper vetting, and what forces were behind its implementation. Additionally, Rep. Steve King was featured on Fox and Friends this week to discuss the situation. You can view his comments here.
Posted by Randy | December 07, 2011
It is a marker that defines the Greatest Generation. It is one of the darkest days in the pages of our nation’s history book.  It has indeed become a day that “live[s] in infamy.”   

70 years have passed since the message rang across the Oahu naval base: “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Today, the first-hand experiences from the day are becoming increasingly rare (the youngest survivors are in their late 80s). But as our immediate connection to the day flickers, we are resolved to remember. We are resolved to pay tribute to the members of the Armed Forces and those civilians who died in the attacks, and the subsequent 320,000 Americans who sacrificed their lives in World War II for freedom across the globe. 

As we remember the attacks on Pearl Harbor, I want to share with you some online resources that help tell the story of the day:

Timeline, Videos, Interactive Maps, and Photos
History.com

The USS Arizona Memorial
National Park Service

United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
National Park Service

After the Day of Infamy - "Man on the Street" Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Library of Congress

The Pearl Harbor Radiogram
National Archives

“Day of Infamy” Speech
National Archives

Stories from the Veterans History Project
Library of Congress
Posted by Randy | November 23, 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to celebrate America's heroic lineage of veterans and Armed Forces members at a DAR luncheon in Chesapeake. We are grateful for the many years of service represented at that luncheon and throughout Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.

Here’s a look at the luncheon.






Tell us in the comments section -- who in your lineage has served our nation as a member of the Armed Forces?
Posted by Randy | October 24, 2011
I am happy to share with you that both the nation's largest congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization and the nation's only veterans organization comprised of wounded veterans have put their support behind my resolution, H. Res. 441, that recognizes further cuts to national security funding may cause irreparable harm to United States interests. The American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart have championed the resolution for recognizing that any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic determination of threats, capabilities, available resources, and risk.

National Commander, Fang Wong of the American Legion has said that the resolution shows a "willingness to truly meet the commitment to protect vital budgetary resources for our veterans and defenders” and National Commander William Hutton of the MOPH has called legislation "very timely and very much on target."

You can read the letters of support here and here.

While this resolution alone cannot stop the onslaught of looming cuts to our national security budget, it nonetheless sends a clear signal to lawmakers considering further cuts that our national defense will only be weakened and our nation's ability to protect vital interests will be significantly limited. Any decision on spending levels should be based upon a strategic assessment of threats, needed capabilities, available resources, and risk--not budgetary constraints.  Members of Congress would be wise to reject the long-term damage these cuts would inflict on veterans, service members and their families, and our ability to defend U.S. interests.

Learn more about my efforts to ensure a strong defense and a strong America here: www.forbes.house.gov/strongamerica
Posted by Randy | September 01, 2011

I want to share with you this editorial from the Virginian-Pilot that highlights the importance of the current military retirement system.

A Small Price for Freedom

Virginian-Pilot

September 1, 2011 

One of the defining characteristics of military bureaucracy, as any soldier or sailor will tell you, is a disposition toward caution. Safe solutions are unlikely to set off a superior or endanger a career. The downside of that caution, of course, is that it doesn’t exactly encourage innovation.

So the military has, in the military’s way, set up a variety of systems to circumvent its own tendency to play it safe. Among them is the Defense Business Board, chartered to provide “independent advice and recommendations on effective strategies for the implementation of best business practices on matters of interest to the Department of Defense.”

That creates problems of its own. Businesses exist to make profits. The military exists to fight wars - to break things and kill people, to quote the cliché. That difference creates a sometimes stark tension. It can also create major changes.

The DBB, for example, was the entity that recommended the end of Joint Forces Command, which it concluded had outlasted its usefulness. Now the DBB has turned its eye to the military’s pension system, which faces obligations so expensive that it may cripple the nation’s ability to fight.

There’s no dispute: When compared with the private sector, a soldier gets a generous retirement. As soon as age 38, a 20-year sailor can retire at 50 percent of his most recent salary. Health care is covered. Meantime, a military “retiree” is free to find a job or a second career.

Similar retirement benefits don’t exist anywhere else in the public or private sector. That’s because there are no other jobs like military service.

Soldiers and sailors have hazardous duty. People shoot at them. Try to blow them up. They handle dangerous equipment and work ridiculously long hours. They are forced to spend months away from their families in spartan conditions. They must follow orders, including ones given by fools.

They must adhere to strict rules, whether at work or at home. They are required to be physically fit. They must volunteer to live like that for 20 years before they can retire.

In exchange, the military pays a barely living wage, covers housing and food and necessities. And, at the end of 20 years, it promises to pay retirement and medical care and a few other benefits.

That makes the military different. Few businesses today provide pensions, which guarantee a retirement income based on a worker’s length of employment and salary. Businesses instead are more likely to offer 401(k)s and similar programs, which send money to an account to which a worker also contributes.

That money is then invested — usually in bonds or stocks — and the resulting nest egg can be used to finance retirement. If the stock market tanks, the money dwindles. If it explodes, it can mean more money. No retirement amount is guaranteed.

The DBB’s proposal would turn the military’s retirement into something similar, at a time when research shows most 401(k) accounts are going to be inadequate to fund their owners’ retirements. It’s a horrible idea.

If a worker chooses a company with a crummy retirement plan, that’s the way the free market works. He is free to choose another company, or to start his own.

A soldier has no such freedom. What’s more, the freedom of an entire nation depends on making sure military service remains attractive to the nation’s finest volunteers.

The Pentagon’s retirement system could certainly stand reform. Eligibility could be changed and probably should be.

But the men and women who guarantee America’s freedom shouldn’t be placed in the hands of a Wall Street incapable of keeping promises.

Posted by Randy | August 08, 2011

This weekend we received the tragic news of the death of 30 Americans who were killed when a U.S. helicopter was shot down in eastern Afghanistan. The attack marked the deadliest day for Americans in the war in Afghanistan.  Twenty-two of the troops were reportedly from a specialized Navy SEAL Unit based in Virginia Beach.

 

We grieve the loss of these valiant Americans and honor the sacrifice they made while on a mission to rescue fellow servicemen and women. Their courage in advancing the cause of freedom was exemplary and it will not be forgotten. Our prayers continue to be with the families of these service members who will feel the absence of their loved ones long after the news stories have ended. We pray they find peace.