06.20.14

Legislative Update from Senator Richard Burr

Yesterday, I spoke on the floor about the growing threat in the Middle East. I understand that our nation is weary of war. I respect the sacrifices made by our service members and I work every day to ensure that our brave men and women, our veterans, are provided the care and treatment they deserve. Their efforts should not be in vain. Our service members served and sacrificed overseas so we could be safe at home. We cannot in good faith let the Administration dishonor their efforts with a misguided policy. The continued draw down of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan will provide Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani network with a safe haven to train operatives and plot further attacks against the United States of America and our allies. Contrary to the campaign statement of the President and Vice President, Al Qaeda is not on the run. I urge this Administration to avoid further actions that may endanger our nation. Watch my floor speech here.

On Thursday, Senators Kaine, Blumenthal, and I introduced a resolution to recognize Veterans Day, November 11, 2014, as a special "Welcome Home" commemoration for all who have served in the military since Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Every November 11th, as a nation, we take time to honor our veterans and reflect upon their service. These men and women selflessly give of themselves to defend our freedoms, and we are constantly humbled by their strength and courage. This year we would like to recognize our veterans who have served post 9/11 in a special "Welcome Home" tribute. It is my hope that the Senate will swiftly pass this bipartisan resolution so communities around our great nation can plan events for our post 9/11 warriors. Read more about this resolution by clicking here.

This week, I released a statement on two recent VA Inspector General reports - one from June 6th and another from June 10th. The June 6th report outlined the results of the IG's audit of VBA's use of temporary 100% disability ratings. The June 10th report outlines the results of a routine inspection of the regional office in Reno, Nevada.

These reports are an indicator of an alarming practice at the Veterans Benefits Administration -- make a few statistics look better but ignore overall service to veterans. We've been raising the alarm for a while that the VA has been allowing work that isn't included in VA's narrow "backlog" statistic to pile up, including appeals and award adjustments that can impact a veteran's bottom line and overall care. But, these reports suggest that the scope of work the VA has been ignoring may be even greater, including training, quality assurance measures, and steps to ensure program integrity. So, is the drop in the VA's backlog all just smoke and mirrors? To read more about each of these reports, click here.

Finally, this week the House and Senate have named their respective conference members for the VA legislation. Conference members from the Senate include Senators Sanders, McCain, Coburn, Isakson, Johanns, Rubio, Begich, Blumenthal, Brown, Hirono, Murray, Rockefeller, Tester, and myself. Representing the House will be Representatives Miller, Lamborn, Roe, Flores, Benishek, Coffman, Wenstrup, Walorski, Michaud, Brown, Takano, Brownley, Kirkpatrick, and Walz.