Addressing The American Legion family during the 54th annual Washington Conference's Commander's Call this morning, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller admitted he shares many of the same views as The American Legion about how the federal government should be taking care of its veterans.
The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs discussed Department of Veterans' Affairs funding, its handling of its executives, and the Legion's important role in monitoring how VA handles the benefits claims process with its Regional Office Action Review (ROAR) teams. Miller and the Legion will meet up again Wednesday when American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger testifies before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs.
"The American Legion believes (its) disability claims experts should be able to conduct reviews of VA's claims processing operation without undue interference  from Veterans Benefits Administration officials," Miller said. "That's why we, on our committee – both Republican and Democrat – are demanding that VA cooperate with Legion members and their (ROAR teams) by sending a House Committee of Veterans' Affairs staffer on future Legion ROAR visits to VA facilities to ensure that VA cooperates as they should."
Miller – who was presented The American Legion's Distinguished Public Service Award after his remarks – said his "Putting Veterans Funding First Act" (H.R. 813) mirrors the position of The American Legion when it comes to Department of Veterans Affairs funding. "(The measure) would fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs' discretionary budget a year ahead of schedule, ensuring that VA and all of its services would have timely, predictable funding in an area where continuing resolutions and threats of government shutdowns are all too frequent," Miller said.
Miller also said he agreed with the Legion that VA executives "who fail in their jobs should not receive a bonus," he said. "They should be disciplined or removed from their job, and I couldn't agree more. That's why I've introduced legislation that would give the VA secretary the authority to fire or demote senior VA executives based on their performance.
"Working at the Department of Veterans Affairs is a privilege, not a right. It is well past time that we have legislation that recognizes that particular fact."
Miller thanked the Legion "for the better part of the last century working so diligently to make sure that those who have served the nation receive the benefits that they have earned in a timely fashion. On any given day, you can see members of the Legion walking the halls of Congress, talking with members about the issues that are important to you – but not only the halls of Congress, but the Department of Veterans Affairs and the White House as well.
"Simply put, the work that you do – providing guidance to and a voice for those that have given so much on the battlefield – makes our job, passing legislation, just that much easier. Easier to improve the lives of the men and women that have worn the uniform of this nation – and increasing the accountability necessary to make sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs does their job as it is intended."