Commission on the Future for America’s Veterans: Maybe, Just Maybe... Part I of a Series

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to your favorites / bookmarks. Check in on it from time to time. While we Veterans, as members of various Veteran Services Organizations have accomplished much, one thing we -- the Organizations and its members -- have not been able to do is take a page from the successful "books" of the AARP and the NRA; we have not effectively "spoken" with one voice, one loud and in unison voice, such that our local, regional, state, and federal representatives hear us and respond accordingly. The Commission on the Future for America's Veterans might just provide us with that needed voice.

Their Mission

Once in a generation, forward thinking people have a chance to focus their life's work on a strategic act that can change the future for millions. In our generation, so challenged by the threat of global terrorism, that opportunity lies in keeping our promise to those who have served our country. The history of veterans programs is marked by a handful of bold acts on the part of a small cadre of visionary leaders. The issues of our time, once again, demand bold leadership. Using every tool at its disposal, the Commission on the Future for America's Veterans will gather the best minds of our generation to find innovative solutions to the challenges before us.

Their Beginning

A Veterans Coalition was formed in June 2006 as a result of unprecedented consensus on the steep challenges facing 21st Century veterans and a shared commitment to the development of a comprehensive plan for keeping America's promise to the men and women who defend our freedom; their mission, to focus our Nation's attention on current veterans' issues and to ensure - far into the future - the provision of benefits and services needed to support the lifelong health and well-being of all of serve.

The Coalition then created The Commission on the Future for America's Veterans and offers resources and support for its work. It does not influence the conduct or outcome of the Commission's deliberations.

On September 11, 2006, this independent Commission was convened with the sole purpose of defining a "Future for America's Veterans." That future is changing because modern warfare and a revolution in technology and medicine bring more and more of our military men and women home with unprecedented challenges. We must transcend political and budgetary battles to support lifelong health and well-being for today's veterans - and for the generations before and after them.


: The Commission on the Future for America's Veterans is an independent, autonomous body tasked with charting a clear course to a new era of veterans programs and services. It is not appointed by government, nor does it represent the views of individual stakeholder organizations.


: The Commission analyzes data and trends affecting the future for America's veterans with the support of professional staff, a respected research institute, and expert working groups from academia, industry and the public policy arena.


: Commissioners were selected on the basis of their experience and expertise. Each is committed to an objective process, free of preconceived agendas and preordained outcomes.


: The Commission receives financial support from grant making organizations, private sector partners and individuals. It accepts no funding from government sources.

The Individuals Who Are The Commission


Hon. Harry N. Walters

- Managing Commissioner: Former Administrator, Veterans Administration

Hon. Everett Alvarez

: Former Deputy Administrator, Veterans Administration

Hon. Mike Bilirakis

: Former Member of Congress, House Veterans' Affairs Committee

Hon. Ray Boland

: Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, State of Wisconsin

Mr. Chad Colley

: Former National Commander, Disabled American Veterans

Mr. Jack Dack

: Former Commandant, Iowa Veterans Home

Mr. Ron Conley

: Former National Commander, American Legion

Hon. William Diefenderfer III

: Former Deputy Director, Office of Management and Budget

Hon. Kenneth W. Kizer, MD, MPH

: Former Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs

Hon. Susan Livingstone

: Former Under Secretary of the Navy

Hon. Bryan Sharratt

: Former Executive Director, Employer Commission on the Guard and Reserve

Hon. Jo Ann Webb, RN, MHA

: Former Assistant Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs

The Commission's Advisory Council

- Hon. Anthony J. Principi, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Hon. Tom Ridge, Former Secretary of Homeland Security
- Hon. Leon Panetta, Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, & White House Chief of Staff
- Hon. Rob Simmons, Former Member of Congress and Chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee
- Hon. Jonathon Perlin, Former Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
- Hon. Thomas Garthwaite, Former Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs
- LTG Ronald Blank, MC, US Army Retired, Former Army Surgeon General
- Major General George K. Anderson, MD, MPH, USAF, MC Retired

The Organizations Who Are The Coalition

Founding Members:

The American Legion


Veterans of Foreign Wars


Disabled American Veterans




Paralyzed Veterans of America

Associate Members:

Vietnam Veterans of America


Blinded American Veterans Foundation


Jewish War Veterans


Military of the Purple Heart

The Coalition's Advisory Council

- James E. Altmeyer, Altmeyer Financial Services
- Thomas Ballenger, President, Business Acquistion Group
- James Carpenter, Senior Managing Director, Riverside Management Group
- Peter M. Dawkins, Vice Chairman, Citigroup Private Bank
- General George A. Joulwan, US Army (Retired), Former Supreme Allied Commander, NATO
- Bernard J. Kelley, Retired President of Merck Manufacturing Division
- James V. Kimsey, The Kimsey Foundation
- Peter B. Lily, Chief Operating Officer, Consol Energy, Inc.
- Frederic V. Malek, Thayer Capital Partners
- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (Retired), Commander, Operation Desert Storm
- Lee Van Arsdale, Triple Canopy, Inc.

Certain Issues Under Discussion


: In recent years, the VA health care system has received accolades for its high quality, safety and technological innovation, and service to veterans. The VA health system is comprised of more than 1,000 hospitals and medical outpatient clinics, making it the largest integrated health care network in the world. VA's affiliations with medical colleges and its vast biomedical research programs inextricably make VA central to the overall American health care system. The long-term viability of the system, however, remains in doubt due to significant funding challenges. As a result, VA has been forced to restrict eligibility to veterans and waiting times for doctor's appointments have sometimes been as long as six months or longer. Moreover, VA's infrastructure and organization may be outmoded for the 21st century. With an aging infrastructure, much of it built in the post-WWII era, VA must make the necessary adjustments to meet veterans' need for services when and where they are required. At the same time, VA's organization structure, consisting of 21 regional networks, may no longer be the most efficient or effective way to oversee the 200,000 health care professionals who provide services to over five million veterans. As medicine continues to undergo technological transformation, VA must be properly situated to continue delivery the highest quality health care to our veterans.


: In addition to health care, millions of American veterans also receive a wide range of benefits, including disability compensation, vocational rehabilitation, education support, home loan guarantees, and life insurance policies. In total, the Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies provide over $30 billion of non-medical benefits and assistance to veterans and their survivors every year. Yet, thousands of disabled veterans sometimes are forced to wait years before determinations are made about their claims for compensation; many actually will not live long enough to hear these decisions. The GI Bill education program, which played a leading role in building the modern American middle class after World War II, falls farther and farther behind the rising cost of college education every year. As home prices have soared, the value of the VA home loan guaranty program has diminished in its ability to help veterans purchase their first homes.


: Returning veterans need prompt and convenient access to all of the benefits and services that they have earned, without any artificial barriers from bureaucratic compartmentalization. The transition from receiving benefits and services from the Department of Defense (DOD) to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should be "seamless" with the technology available today. Yet, transferring veterans' records and medical histories continues to be problematic despite many years and hundreds of millions of dollars of federal investment aimed at providing this "seamless transition." Furthermore, over the past five years, it has become apparent that the "seams" in this process have allowed far too many veterans to fall through the cracks. It is time to close these gaps and make sure that no more veterans are ever left behind.

Catastrophic Disability

: Improved body armor, more effective battlefield triage, and the ability to rapidly transport wounded individuals to tertiary care medical facilities are saving more lives than ever before. These improved measures, however, produce a greater percentage of catastrophically disabled individuals than have resulted from similar injuries in previous wars. These veterans are returning with multiple amputations due to multiple shell fragment wounds, blindness, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other severe disabilities. Also, the nature and conduct of these wars create great challenges to veterans' future mental health and readjustment to society. On repatriation, many more individuals than ever before will require specialized care and tailored assistance for the remainder of their lives through a multiplicity of dedicated facilities and programs.

National Guard and Reserve

: There are growing concerns about the status of National Guard and Reserve members called to active service to support Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), particularly after they are released back into civilian life. A number of sources report that these veterans are generally not well informed about their rightful benefits and experience inconsistent follow-up and aftercare programs. To address this issue, VA and DOD may need to "readjust" their programs to ensure consistency and appropriate care to all groups of veterans across the nation. Furthermore, for many of these men and women, extended activations have resulted in severe economic dislocations for their families, both while serving and after their returns. For those who were self-employed or small business owners, the impact can be devastating. And with unprecedented numbers of Guard and Reserve continuing to serve extended tours on active duty, these problems are expected to rise in the years ahead.

"Conversations" on the Future for America's Veterans

The Commission kicked off a multi-state tour on January 16 in Charleston, West Virginia. The two-day event included a "town hall-style" meeting in the West Virginia House of Delegates Chamber, as well as an open, public Working Session of the Commission. Future meetings of the Commission are planned for Tampa, Fla., in March and San Diego, Cal. in May. The purpose of the "Conversation" is to actively engage the American people in helping the Commission develop a long term, strategic plan to meet the needs of veterans decades into the future. At the first 'Town Hall' meeting, the Commission heard from and engage in dialogue with federal VA and state officials, veteran leaders, civic, labor and business leaders, and other interested veterans and concerned citizens.

"Despite admirable achievements by the Department of Veterans Affairs over the past decade, the fact remains that there is no long term strategy in place to meet the needs of a changing veteran population," said Harry N. Walters, the Managing Commissioner and a former VA Administrator. "This private, independent Commission will operate outside the normal political process in order to develop a visionary plan that can meet the future challenges faced by those who have served our nation," he said. "In the end, we will only be successful if we fully involve the American people from the beginning of the process," Walters said. "We must engage the very best expert among veterans, those who care for veterans and everyone else who cares about the future for America's veterans," he said.

Your Voice Needs To Be Heard

Be a part of history in the making. Contribute your insights to the ongoing discussion on the Commission's website (

). Make a donation. Or become a sponsor of the Commission's work. It is often said that freedom isn't free. But inaction can also carry a heavy cost. Join them. Together you can ensure that those who serve America receive the full measure of our commitment, our support and our gratitude for a job well done.

So, get involved -- subscribe to the Commission's mailing list (


A Final Word

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

-- Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), Irish orator, philosopher, and politician

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt