Congress Declares War Against Disabled Veterans
The Disabled American Veterans
Wednesday 10 September 2003
WASHINGTON The House majority leadership has shown callous contempt for the sacrifices of America's defenders by attempting to impose overly restrictive conditions that would limit benefits for disabilities from military service, said the Disabled American Veterans.
At issue is a proposed modification to the 2004 Defense authorization bill that would deny disability compensation and priority for health care to Americans who become disabled while serving their country if their disabilities are not directly related to performance of their official duties. Known as a "direct performance of duty" standard, this provision would overturn current law which authorizes service connection for disabilities incurred in the line of duty during service in the United States Armed Forces.
"Disability incurred in the line of duty is sometimes not directly due to a job injury, but may be due to less obvious factors attributable to the military environment," said DAV National Commander Alan W. Bowers. "Proof of a causal relationship may often be difficult or impossible to establish. Current law equitably relieves disabled veterans from the onerous burden of establishing performance of duty or other causal connection as a prerequisite for service connection."
An untold number of men and women will return from Iraq and the war on terror with disabilities. The military and veterans organizations worry that many of them will not be able to directly identify or prove the origin of their ailments, but that certainly does not mean they should be ignored. "Any suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and shameful," Commander Bowers said.
The nation's veterans and military service organizations are adamantly opposed to any change that would redefine service-connected disability or restrict the circumstances under which service-connection may be established. "We are shocked and appalled that any member of Congress or the Administration would suggest that such a draconian measure," said Commander Bowers.
"Our nation is engaged in a war with a hostile enemy that would willingly kill innocent civilians. Yet it seems that some members of our government would shortchange those who protect us," said the DAV's National Commander. "Disabled veterans should not have to fight their own government for the benefits they earned. In a callous effort to limit government's obligations to our former, current and future defenders, authors of the provision in the Defense authorization bill took it upon themselves to rewrite the law regarding benefits for disabled veterans, bypassing the relevant congressional committee and without holding public hearings on the matter."
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