FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 5, 2009
Office: (202) 225-5665
Kagen Presses Veterans Issues with Secretary Shinseki
(APPLETON, WI) Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. is marking the 65th Anniversary of D-Day by continuing his fight for veterans in Northeast Wisconsin and throughout the country.
“On that day, 65 years ago, a generation rose to a challenge and changed the course of history. Today, we must rise to the challenge of building a better future for all of us by providing our brave soldiers with the benefits they have earned – before during and after serving in harm’s way,” Kagen said. “May the example of those who fought on D-Day inspire us to do great things for our returning heroes.”
Congressman Kagen spoke with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki yesterday and urged the VA to advance several measures that will help our brave soldiers when they return home.
In a letter to Secretary Shinseki following their discussion, Kagen said, “I wish to extend my personal gratitude for your dedicated service to our country and all our veterans who will benefit from your compassion and intelligence.”
The letter goes on to outline Congressman Kagen’s priorities for giving veterans the benefits that have earned, including health care for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and cancers caused by Agent Orange.
“I hope you will consider creating a pilot program to provide Vouchers for returning veterans and their families with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, allowing them to receive the care they require closer to home at any willing provider willing to accept TRICARE rates as payments in full.”
Kagen, who served as a doctor in a veterans hospital, has authored the Rural Veterans Mental Health Improvement Act which would provide eligible veterans with vouchers to pay for necessary mental health services at local private facilities if they live more than 30 miles from a VA facility.
Congressman Kagen has also introduced legislation adding all GI tract cancers to the list of illnesses presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The bill will allow Vietnam veterans to receive a presumption of service connected disability when they are diagnosed with cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. Several Vietnam veterans from the 8th congressional district are currently suffering from cancer of the GI tract.
Kagen told Secretary Shinseki, “It’s time to provide our veterans with a presumptive diagnosis of Agent Orange-induced cancer when found anywhere within the gastro-intestinal tract. Vietnam Veterans deserve the benefits they have already earned. Everyone understands that Agent Orange is carcinogenic, and that Agent Orange was ‘in theater’ and on our Navy ships as well. Let’s cover their backs now, as they did for us when serving in harm’s way.”
The Congressman also asked the VA to provide a standard accreditation process for County Veteran Service Officers rather than forcing them to get multiple accreditations and to consider increasing the minimum coverage for Veterans Group Life Insurance.