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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Anthony Principi
Veterans Affairs Secretary
In Focus: Veterans

October 28, 2004


Anthony Principi

Michael, from Rhode Island writes:
I am and old Marine Vietnam Veteran. My brother was KIA as a Marine also in Vietnam. I was not a model Marine and that has bothered my ever since my discharge. Now that we are engaged in one of the most vital wars in our history and the services are stretched thin I was wondering if there is not something tangible for someone like me to do to help the president and the country. I am 54 but I can't help but think there is something I could do to relieve some active duty members burden and assist them in their duties.

Anthony Principi
Michael, I cannot thank you enough for your willingness to reach out to others. I suggest you consider volunteering at a VA medical facility. We're always looking for new volunteers to help with myriad activities. You can tell us how much time you have to give and we'll match you up with a specific need. Please contact your nearest VA medical center. They'll be grateful to hear from you.

Will, from New York writes:
There are caps on how much aid veteran's are given in education aid, but those caps fall far below the tuition at the nation's best schools. Can the government help the exceptionally gifted soldiers who want the best educations after they've served their country?

Anthony Principi
The rates for the Montgomery GI Bill are set by Congress, and over the last four years, President Bush has signed legislation increasing the maximum monthly rate from about $670 to more than $1,000. It should also be noted that the President has announced his intention to increase MGIB benefits for Reservists and members of the National Guard, since 400,000 of these brave men and women have been mobilized to fight in the war on terror.

To learn more about the Montgomery GI Bill, I encourage you to log onto our Internet Web site -- While we're on the subject of education, I want to point out that VA has special educational benefits for service members with disabilities. To see if you're eligible, contact one of our benefits counselors at 1-800-827-1000.

Jacalyn, from Washington, DC writes:
With V.A. hospitals shrinking, what will the President and the Veterans Department do to keep this program up?

Anthony Principi
The VA health care system is not shrinking. It is expanding. One budget is up 40 percent since 2000, and, as a result, the number of veterans we treat is up almost a million over what it was four years ago.

Earlier this year, I approved a new plan called CARES, short for Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services, that calls for building two new VA medical centers, in Orlando and Las Vegas. In addition, it will create more than 150 new community based outpatient clinics, as well as new spinal cord injury centers and blind rehabilitation centers, and renovate many old, outdated hospital. Over the past four years, VA opened 130 new community clinics. We now have 158 hospitals and more than 850 clinics.

CARES is designed to provide greater access to quality care closer to where most veterans live. No veteran loses health care as a result of CARES, nor will there be any gaps in health care services. CARES allows VA to expand outpatient services and provide more of the care veterans want and use.

Valerie, from Minnesota writes:
In past years, the President has declared a National Veterans Awareness Week. Will there be a National Veterans Awareness Week 2004?

Anthony Principi
Most definitely, there will be a National Veterans Awareness Week this year. As it the past, it will encourage educational programs about the contributions veterans have made to this nation. The language of the resolution is posted on VA's Internet site at

Rodger, from Arlington, VA writes:
How do you feel being in competition with another disability program run by the military services instead of the Veterans Administration (the experts when it comes to administration of compensation programs. What I am referring to is the Combat Related Special Compensation Program.

Anthony Principi
The Combat Related Special Compensation Program is a Department of Defense payment to military retirees with disabilities. It doesn't compete with VA's disability compensation. In fact, everyone receiving that new category of Pentagon pay is also receiving VA disability compensation. So, rather than competing, they work together.

I think it's important to note that President Bush was the first chief executive in 100 years to address the inequity that kept military retirees from drawing both their military retirements and veterans' disability pay. In fact, President Bush has signed two bills that provide “concurrent receipt” of both military retired pay and VA disability compensations.

Joe, from Chicago Area writes:
Whom do I contact (address-phones-email) to get the Veterans Administration Board of Appeals to act on my claim to raise my compensation to 100. I am 65 years old, currently awarded 60 "Service Connected" Disability. I am represented by the Americvan Legion but they are as frustrated by the "stalling" and other procrastinations. If it were not for my letter to PRESIDENT NIXON (who helped me) I woukld be getting "nothing" as the VA kept insisting I was not eligable.

Anthony Principi
I do not know the current status of your claim with VA, so I will give you some general information.

If you believe that your current rating does not reflect your level of disability, you can reopen your claim and ask VA to reevaluate of your condition. We would schedule a physical examination and also ask you to provide any new medical information that would show your condition has become more severe.

If you have already received a reevaluation from VA and disagree with our decision regarding your current condition, you can file an appeal and have your claim considered by the Board of Veterans Appeals.

For more information on reopening a claim or appealing a rating decision, please call the Veterans Benefits Administration at 1-800-827-1000.

Tom, from Missouri writes:
Concerning the priority system in the VA healthcare system. Do you plan on opening the VA healthcare system back up to include all veterans? I was enrolled in the VA system at one time, now I find myself being denied care, due to income.

I thought the VA was to provide care to all vets. This was the reason a lot of us joined the military, because we knew we would be taken care of later in life. I know I am not the only one who is being denied care due to priority 7 and 8 in the VA system.

Anthony Principi
Until 1998, when Congress opened up VA's health care system to all veterans, the only veterans who were guaranteed health care were those with service-connected disabilities and the poorest of the poor.

All other veterans had access on a space-available basis. This year, VA will treat almost a million more veterans than we treated in 2000.

The new priority scheduling system ensures that services are focused on veterans with the greatest needs: those with service-connected disabilities, low-income veterans, and veterans who need specialized services.

George, from Manitou Springs, Colorado writes:
I've heard a lot of different things that the President is going to donot do for Veterans through the VA. What is the Presidents' stand?

Anthony Principi
I'm very proud of what VA has been able to accomplish under the leadership of President Bush, working in partnership with Congress.

Assuming passage of our fiscal year 2005 budget, VA's health care budget alone will have increased more than 40 percent in the last four years, and we will treat a million more veterans this year than in 2000.

Outpatient visits have increased from 44 million to 54 million. The number of prescriptions filled increased from 98 million to 116 million. Lists of veterans waiting more than six months to get an appointment have been eliminated, and we see over 93 percent of veterans requesting primary care within 30 days.

When scientific evidence linked military service with specific health problems, we moved faster than any previous administration, giving automatic disability compensation and health care to Gulf War veterans with Lou Gehrig's Disease and the same benefits to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange who have type-II diabetes.

Our compensation system once had a backlog of more than 430,000 claims. We were able to cut that to about 250,000 last year. The average processing time for disability claims has been reduced by one-third to 156 days, the percentage of claims taking six months to decide has decreased from 48 percent to 18 percent, and the number of claims decisions made each month has risen from 40,000 to 70,000.

Raul, from Cleveland writes:
What do you recommend Americans should do to honor the military on Veteran's Day?

Anthony Principi
I would recommend that they visit a national cemetery if there is one in their area to pay their respects to those who have paid the ultimate price to defend our Nation's freedom as well as to acknowledge those who served and then returned to civilian status.

I'd also recommend visiting a VA hospital or domiciliary since some of the veterans there do not have relatives who can visit them. The gift of time can be more valuable to the recipient than any amount of money.

Wayne, from Marlboro, Mass writes:
Hello, On Veteran's Day, I am have a ceremony for the veteran's ( I also am a veteran) at work. I planned to have my guest speaker read the President's Veteran's Day Proclamation if I can get it in time. When will it come out? If I can't get it in time I plan on using your speech from July of 2003.

Anthony Principi
Thanks for your vote of confidence in my old speech. I'm glad to hear that it still has some life in it.

The President's Veterans Day Proclamation should be coming out any day. With the Internet, you can get it within hours of its signature. Just log onto the White House Internet site - - and look for the listing of proclamations on the left-hand side of the screen.

VA has another good Internet site with valuable information about Veterans Day. The main Web site is Go to "Public Affairs" and once you're there, go to "Special Events."

Good luck. And thanks for making the effort to put on a Veterans Day program.

Anthony Principi

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