VA Resources Must Meet Growing Demand
During the 2013 Mid-Winter Conference, National Commander Larry Polzin presented
DAV’s National Legislative Program at a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’
Affairs Committees. Polzin called upon lawmakers to make sure the Department of
Veterans Affairs has the resources it needs to meet the growing demand for veterans
programs and services. Following are highlights of the Commander’s presentation,
which received enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation from the hundreds of
DAV and Auxiliary members gathered for the event.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committees, I am honored for this
opportunity to discuss our major concerns and legislative agenda for the coming
year. Since our founding in 1920, DAV has remained dedicated to fulfilling our promises
to men and women who served and to their families and survivors.
Part of our mission is advocating for meaningful, reasonable and responsible public
policy for our injured and ill veterans of all generations. With the proposed downsizing
of our military forces and the slow recovery in our domestic economy, more veterans
will be relying on the Department of Veterans Affairs for services and benefits
for decades to come.
We must ensure that the VA is prepared to handle such a large influx of veterans.
However, based on my experience with the VA, I’m not yet confident that our government
is fully prepared to fulfill its promise to our nation’s veterans. All of my adult
life has been spent in service to my fellow veterans. And in 1971, the company that
hired me after I was discharged from the Marine Corps turned its back on me when
I needed openheart surgery.
While I was in a VA hospital, a DAV Department of California Service Officer helped
me file a claim for benefits I had earned, and I became a member of DAV. Later,
I was offered a job as a National Service Officer, and it was an amazing chance
to help my fellow veterans. That has been my life ever since.
And while the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal has yet to be presented,
DAV and other veterans group have recommended a $68.4 billion discretionary appropriation
for the VA. Detailed recommendations for funding and policy priorities can be found
in The Independent Budget.
A major area of concern is that the VA is forced to operate at last year’s level
under yet another continuing resolution. That short-term funding measure also does
not provide any advance appropriation for veterans medical care for fiscal year
Demand for veterans health care and services has outpaced the resources allocated
to the VA. And with widespread reports of long waiting times for medical and mental
health care, long delays for claims decisions and the still growing backlog, sufficient
funding for vital programs and services is an absolute must.
DAV members also are deeply disturbed by the possibility of further delays in veterans’
disability compensation or lost access to VA health care. DAV believes delay means
denial, and we will not stand by and allow this to happen.
Mr. Chairman, as a service-disabled veteran and a retired DAV National Service Officer,
I have taken a great interest in the VA’s disability compensation system. Of course,
we are encouraged by the VA’s effort to streamline and modernize the claims process.
And we are convinced that the Veterans Benefits Administration is headed in a right
Eliminating the backlog will be a welcome milestone. However, to achieve real success,
the VA must focus on creating a benefits system that gets each claim done right
the first time. Only when the VA has adopted a culture of quality, accuracy and
accountability will true reform in the claims process succeed.
DAV looks forward to the complete rollout of the Veterans Benefit Management System
later this year. That and the continued development of e-benefits and the other
technology improvements show great promise for better serving veterans.
Mr. Chairman, we are pleased that the veterans organizations have played an important
role in developing or refining a number of new initiatives being deployed and we
look forward to continued progress.
In fact, DAV became the first veterans service organization to file a completely
I am also pleased to report to the members of these committees that the American
Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Project has cleared the last major hurdle and
is on track to be completed and dedicated in 2014. And I hope that you will be able
I now turn to a topic that fills me with great pride, the dedication of DAV members.
I will summarize some of our work.
Veterans making the transition back to civilian life must overcome many obstacles,
and DAV provides programs that address their overall health and well-being. Beyond
helping hundreds and thousands of veterans each year access their government benefits,
we fund rehabilitation and counseling programs, link veterans to job training programs
and work to address homelessness. All DAV services are free.
America’s veterans, more than any other group, have lived up to their responsibilities
by putting their lives on the line in defense of our country. We are willing to
sacrifice for the good of our nation as long as that sacrifice is shared by all.
No one knows more about sacrifice than those who were wounded or injured serving
in our nation’s military forces and their loved ones.
Everyone before you today knows DAV well because, collectively, with our 1.2 million
members, we are DAV. These men and women are vital to our mission and the well-being
of our nation’s injured and ill veterans. They represent some of the 14,000 DAV
and Auxiliary members who volunteer their time to assist America’s wounded, injured
and ill veterans. In 2012, they provided more than 2 million hours of essential
service to our nation’s veterans.
Some of them are volunteer drivers with DAV Transportation Network, which provides
free transportation to veterans in every state and nearly every congressional district.
In 2013, we will donate 110 vans to VA medical centers. From 1987 to 2012, we have
donated 2,586 vans at a cost to DAV of nearly $57 million. Last year, our more than
9,000 volunteer drivers logged more than 27 million miles transporting nearly 800,000
veterans to and from their medical appointments.
DAV also extends our commitment to the families and survivors of those killed in
the line of duty and our most severely affected veterans.
We recognize that children have their own unique needs. That’s why DAV and our Auxiliary
have launched a new “Just B Kids” scholarship program that enables children facing
hardship at home to spend a week enjoying the great outdoors.
This new program, funded in part by a grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust,
means more children can attend the highly acclaimed Camp Corral. The week-long camping
experience is operated through the generous efforts of a longtime DAV partner, Golden
Mr. Chairman, we also are proud of our National Service Program, which is second
to none. Each year, our National Service Officers, all of whom are wartime servicedisabled
veterans, represent more than 300,000 individuals with their claims for benefits
from the VA.
DAV helps by far the largest number of claimants annually, ensuring that they receive
all the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice. Our highlytrained
and dedicated NSOs provide free representation to any veteran or their dependents
And I would encourage you to put the veterans in your district in touch with a DAV
National Service Officer when they seek assistance with their benefits.
As you can imagine, I am extremely proud of the work we do. No other veterans service
organization contributes more to the well-being of our nation’s veterans than DAV.
We understand their needs because we are an organization of veterans helping veterans.
For almost a century, we have a proven track record of helping hundreds of thousands
of veterans each year. And we are standing up for veterans because they stood up
I assure you DAV stands ready to assist you and your committees in finding ways
to improve the services and benefits that veterans have earned from a grateful nation.
Mr. Chairman, this completes my remarks and my staff and I would be pleased to respond
to any questions you may have. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to appear
before you on behalf of DAV to share our proud record of service to veterans and