Issue: Veterans

STATEMENT: Walorski Supports American Legion Call for Resignation of Veteran Affairs Secretary Shinseki

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) released the following statement after today’s announcement from American Legion National Commander, Daniel M. Dellinger, calling for the resignation of senior Veteran Affairs (VA) administration officials.

“There is no excuse of delayed care for the millions of men and women who have fought and defended our country. Unfortunately, it has taken dozens of wrongful deaths due to VA negligence, including 13 in Indiana, for the mismanagement at the VA to get the attention it rightfully deserves,” Walorski said. “Nowhere else in the country would this lack of accountability and transparency be allowed. The American people deserve better and I will continue to fight for increased accountability in our government.”

Recent reports have linked many Veterans Affairs (VA) patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities, including at least 31 preventable deaths at VA medical centers nationwide that were all completely preventable. Several examples of this trend can be found on the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website.

Last month, as part of her efforts to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Walorski participated in a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing entitled, “A Continued Assessment of Delays in VA Medical Care and Preventable Veteran Deaths.” Walorski, a member of the committee, heard heartbreaking testimony from Barry Coates, a terminally ill veteran, who spoke of the gross negligence and crippling backlog within the VA medical system.

Also last month, Walorski joined Speaker Boehner and fellow GOP lawmakers to join in supporting greater VA accountability.

Walorski has co-sponsored H.R. 4031 the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014” in the House of Representatives to address widespread problems currently plaguing the VA.

Walorski Votes to Increase Funding for Veterans

House passes funding bill that includes Walorski amendment to protect veterans with diabetes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4486), by a vote of 416-1.

This bill, which is the annual funding bill for military construction and veteran’s affairs, increases funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion dollars while still spending $1.8 billion less than last year’s funding bill.

Specifically, this provides funding for housing, education facilities, and medical facilities for active duty service members. It also boosts funding to address the long-standing backlog issues at the Department of Veterans Affairs and provides support for mental health, suicide prevention, and homeless veterans programs.

“We are indebted to our service members, veterans and their families, all who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Walorski said. “Today, we’ve given every veteran, marine, soldier, sailor, airman, along with their spouses and children, the opportunity to thrive and have a better life. As a member of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, it’s unacceptable to me that the backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to grow. These men and women deserve the best quality of life and I hope we have the attention of the VA that this dysfunction won’t be tolerated.”

Walorski also offered an amendment to protect veterans with diabetes by ensuring the VA continues to offer diabetes patients a variety of supplies through the competitive bid process. That amendment was adopted by a voice vote.

“Right now, 25 percent of veterans in the VA healthcare system have diabetes, compared to about 8.3 percent of the general public,” Walorski said. “As a result, diabetes care places a significant cost burden on the VA’s budget—accounting for almost 4 percent of the overall VA health care budget and costing almost $1.5 billion annually.”

The amendment would provide healthy competition both for the patient and the marketplace—allowing the VA to utilize significant purchasing power. Because of this competition, vendors would be forced to reduce costs and innovate.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.

Walorski Presents Military Service Awards To Wabash Veteran Roger Panning

Walorski honors Roger Panning with seven military service awards

WABASH, IN –Congresswoman Jackie Walorski today presented Wabash veteran Roger Panning with seven military service awards at a ceremony in the Wabash County Courthouse, joined by Veteran Service Officer Cam Lochner, American Legion Post 15 Chaplain Jim Black, and the Wabash County Honor Guard.

“When our nation calls, Hoosiers are amongst the first to respond,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I am deeply humbled to award Mr. Panning with these much deserved military awards, and extend my sincere gratitude to his family for their support.”

Mr. Panning completed basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and went on to serve as a crewchief and gunner on a “Huey” helicopter in Vietnam as a member of the 35th Engineer Group. After flying over 329 hours for over eight months, he returned safely home.

Congresswoman Walorski presented Mr. Panning with the following awards:

  • Air Medal with Numeral “3”
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Expert Badge with Rifle Bar
  • Marksman Badge with Auto Rifle Bar
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device
  • Walorski Awards Legion Of Merit To Peru Native Colonel Gregg Hammond

    Walorski honors Col. Gregg Hammond for over 30 years of military service

    PERU, IN – In recognition of over 30 years of military service, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski awarded Colonel Gregg K. Hammond with the Legion of Merit at the Miami County Courthouse this afternoon, joined by Mayor Jim Walker, Veteran Service Officer Jay Kendall, and the Miami County Honor Guard. The Legion of Merit is awarded for outstanding distinguished conduct for exceptional achievements and service.

    “Colonel Gregg Hammond is an exemplary Hoosier war hero who has dedicated his life to the defense of our nation at home and abroad,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “It is a privilege to present the Legion of Merit to Colonel Hammond in his hometown of Peru today, and I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to his family for their support and sacrifice over the past three decades.”

    During the ceremony, Congresswoman Walorski pinned the Legion of Merit Medal on Col. Hammond after reading the formal award citation and provided remarks to highlight his distinguished service record.

    Col. Hammond completed 33 years of military service in the United States Army, completing multiple deployments during the Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Awarded for his distinguished meritorious service to our nation during times of peace and war, Col. Hammond served many roles ranging from a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam to a senior Civil Affairs Officer in Iraq. Notably, the U.S. Army recognized him as instrumental to the implementation of the United States Department of State initiative for a Provincial Level Government. Over the course of his accomplished career, Col. Hammond has served with distinction in Combined, Joint, and Interagency positions.

    Walorski Presents Family of Fallen Solider U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams with Purple Heart Award

    Honored posthumously during a medal ceremony at Granger Community Church

    GRANGER, IN – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski today presented the mother and daughter of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams with one of the military’s highest honors, the Purple Heart award, for his honorable service, including assignments during his deployment to Afghanistan.

    An Elkhart native, Williams was killed in the line of duty in December 2013, when he and his fellow soldiers were involved in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Williams was deployed three times, once to Iraq from 2007 to 2008, twice to Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, and in July 2013.

    “Staff Sgt. Williams represents the best of the United States. Not just our military, but who we are, and why we are so proud to be Americans,” said Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Williams was a citizen soldier whose bravery should be a model for us all. He continually stepped forward and answered the call. Both he and his family understand what sacrifice means and I cannot thank them enough for his service to our country.”

    Walorski was joined at the ceremony by Veteran Service Officer Ron Lundy, Elkhart Superior Judge Evan Roberts and Pastor Mark Waltz from Granger Community Church.

    Williams attended Elkhart Central High School and in 2006, completed the U.S. Army basic training course. For the past six years, he worked in the electronics warfare shop, graduated from Air Assault School and traveled around the world completing assignments for the U.S. Army.

    A Purple Heart is awarded to any member of the U.S. armed forces wounded, killed or who has died after being wounded. The medal is the oldest military award that is still given to members of the U.S. military, dating back to the later years of the Revolutionary War and was originally designed as the Badge of Military Merit.

    WALORSKI JOINS SPEAKER BOEHNER, CHAIRMAN MILLER AND SENATOR RUBIO TO ADDRESS VA ACCOUNTABILITY LEGISLATION

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) joined House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders at a press conference to discuss legislation bringing greater accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

    Watch Walorski provide comments here or click on the image below.

    Walorski

    Recent reports have linked many Veterans Affairs (VA) patient care problems to widespread mismanagement within VA facilities, including at least 31 preventable deaths at VA medical centers nationwide that were all completely preventable. Several examples of this trend can be found on the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website.

    “Millions of America’s veterans depend on the VA for care and support and there is no excuse for delayed benefits to those men and women who have so bravely fought for our country,” Walorski said. “By providing authority to the VA Secretary to eliminate ineffective management and burdensome staff, we can begin to restore the faith in the VA for our nation’s courageous men and women.”

    H.R. 4031 the “Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014”, which Walorski co-sponsored in the House of Representatives, would address widespread problems currently plaguing the VA.

    The legislation would provide the VA Secretary greater authority to fire employees and remove them from Senior Executive Service (SES) due to poor performance in the same manner a Member of Congress can remove a member of their staff.

    “This straightforward measure would provide greater accountability in the VA by giving the secretary the authority to fire those responsible for historic failures within Department. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this bill passed into law.”

    The Department of Veterans Affairs released reports detailing the extent of the situation including Pennsylvania and Georgia.

    WALORSKI CONGRATULATES SERVICE ACADEMY NOMINEES

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) congratulated seven individuals from Northern Indiana who received service academy nominations from her office.

    “It is a true honor to nominate these exceptional young men for admission to our highly-competitive service academies,” Walorski said. “They are all impressive and went through a challenging selection process, demonstrating their academic excellence in the classroom, participation in extracurricular activities, and their outstanding community involvement. Each of them will represent Indiana with distinction, and as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I commend their strong desire to serve our country.”

    2014 Congressional Service Academy Nominees

    • Paul Michael Byszewski, a South Bend resident, has received an appointment from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.
    • Zachary Davis, a Granger resident, has accepted an appointment from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, where he will attend in the Fall of 2014. Davis also received an appointment from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
    • Sean Gerard Hall, a Granger resident, has accepted an appointment from the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he will attend in the Fall of 2014.
    • Connor McGuire, a Granger resident, has received an appointment from the U.S. Naval Academy.
    • Luke Michael Schumacher, a Plymouth resident, has received an appointment from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
    • Sterling Willman, a Culver resident, has received an appointment from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY.
    • Christian Wittendorf, a Granger resident, has accepted an appointment from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, where he will attend in the Fall of 2014.

    Every Member of Congress has the privilege of nominating a limited number of constituents to the United States service academies. The honor of attending a service academy comes with a commitment to serve in the military for a minimum of five years upon graduation. Service academies have not yet completed their appointment offers, which can be made up until initial training begins.

    WALORSKI’S BENEFITS BILL FOR SURVIVORS OF MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA GAINS BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT

    Walorski testifies on bipartisan bill to aid survivors of military sexual trauma

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswomen Jackie Walorski (IN-02) testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Health regarding H.R.2974, a bill she authored with Annie Kuster (NH-02). This legislation, which has strong bipartisan support, makes victims of military sexual trauma (MST) eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) beneficiary travel benefits, which would ensure travel expenses are covered for veterans seeking treatment for MST through the VA.

    “A veteran should never have to skip treatment for conditions related to MST due to distance or a lack of transportation,” stated Walorski. “I applaud VA’s commitment to provide counseling and treatment for our men and women struggling with the physical and psychological trauma associated with MST. However, it is vital that veterans are able to access these important resources and services. Survivors of MST should not feel re-traumatized and helpless because of geographic barriers to treatment.”

    Lisa Wilken, a Hoosier Air Force veteran who was sexually assaulted during her military service, strongly supports Congresswoman Walorski’s bill to increase accessibility to treatment. “Transportation and geographic issues should not be barriers to treatment for MST. If eligibility requirements for care are waived in cases of MST, transportation costs should be covered, too. This legislation is a step in the right direction to help ensure that veterans who have experienced MST get the treatment, care, and follow-up services they need,” said Wilken.

    According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 100 men screen positive for military sexual trauma. The VA provides counseling, care, and services to veterans and certain other servicemembers who may not have veteran status, but who experienced MST while serving on active duty or active duty for training.

    Walorski’s bipartisan legislation has gained strong support from several organizations, including Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), VetsFirst, Service Women’s Action Network, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG).

    VA COMMITTEE REVIEWS WALORSKI CYBERSECURITY BILL

    WASHINGTON, D.C. –The House Veterans Affairs Committee today reviewed legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Walorski that aims to correct serious cybersecurity weaknesses within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This directive, which is the product of many months of careful investigation and research by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, directs the VA to secure its network; upgrade outdated operating systems; secure web applications; protect applications from anonymous user access; and comply with federal information security laws, standards, and guidance.

    “The continued cybersecurity threats within the VA put the personal information of thousands of veterans at risk,” said Walorski. “The security of VA’s network has been an open question for years, and the VA has continually failed to fully comply with recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, the Office of the Inspector General, and even federal law.

    “This is a betrayal of the thousands of veterans counting on the VA to keep their information safe. In a day and age when we increasingly rely on electronic data, failure to protect our veterans’ personal information is not acceptable. This legislation will provide the VA with a clear roadmap for immediately securing its system, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the VA committee to get this legislation passed quickly into law.”

    Numerous reports of data breaches as well as the VA’s own documentation demonstrate critical cybersecurity weaknesses at the VA. These vulnerabilities have been verified by independent cybersecurity experts, who told the Committee that VA’s security weaknesses are severe and require immediate attention.

    Congresswoman Walorski serves on the House Veterans Affairs, Armed Services and Budget Committees. Click here to view Walorski testifying at HVAC.

    WALORSKI TOURS WALTER REED NATIONAL MILITARY MEDICAL CENTER

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, a member of the House Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Monday to tour the facility with medical staff and learn more about treatment options available for injured servicemembers and their families.

    “I was deeply humbled to visit the Walter Reed Medical Center where our servicemembers receive cutting-edge treatment after their brave service to our nation. It was incredibly moving to witness the individual progress gained through innovative therapy and rehabilitation efforts that assist on the road to recovery,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “I will continue to support efforts in Congress to strengthen benefits for our warheroes and their families, particularly to ensure our wounded warriors have access to the health benefits they need.”

    While visiting the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Walorski toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) and the Military Advanced Training Center (MATC). NICoE is the military health care institute for traumatic brain injuries and psychological health conditions, and focuses on a combination of comprehensive and holistic treatments to provide care for servicemembers and their families, such as art therapy and meditation. Different treatment plans are developed using a collaborative approach, including focused research, clinical care, and access to educational resources for injured servicemembers and their families.

    MATC is a new facility that specializes in prosthetics, physical, and occupational therapy. MATC features three labs designed for specific rehabilitative treatments, to improve physical activity, biomechanics, mobility, and weapon operation proficiency for servicemembers. MATC is also home to a therapy pool, exercise room, prosthetic fitting room, and prosthetic adjustment lab.

    Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda opened in 2011 and features a 245-acre refurbished center with new structures, including a new outpatient facility offering women’s health services, pediatric care, and an amputee center for new prosthetics and rehabilitation.

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