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The Military Order of the Purple Heart
SOME GAVE ALL, ALL GAVE SOME

For Immediate Release

Springfield, VA - March 29, 2013

Military Order of the Purple Heart Supports Efforts by Secretary Shinseki to Improve the Department of Veterans Affairs

The MOPH is concerned that recent public calls for the resignation of top VA officials, including Secretary Eric Shinseki and Undersecretary Allison Hickey, because of delays in processing and backlog of benefit claims, are misguided.  The MOPH agrees that criticism of claim delays may be justified, but often overlooked is the remarkable progress that has been achieved in numerous areas of veterans’ services, including mental health, PTS, TBI, Agent Orange, and Gulf War illnesses, plus insurance, housing, education, and training.  Since assuming office, Secretary Shinseki, a highly decorated soldier and combat wounded veteran, has been engaged with and has consistently sought direct input from the many Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) including hosting monthly meetings with VSO representatives.  The focus of these open discussions is always, “What is best for Veterans?  What can the VA do better?”

It is important to dispel the misperception about what a delay in claim processing really means.  It does NOT mean that eligible veterans are NOT receiving medical treatment.  In fact, OIF/OEF veterans automatically receive 5 years of full health care which begins at the moment of separation from active duty.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have spurred an increase in the number of claims coming to the VA, and the complexity of the claims has increased as well. The number of veterans claiming eight or more disabilities jumped by more than 200 percent in the past decade, each claim often requiring extensive research and documentation to justify approval. As a result, the number of claims considered backlogged (pending more than 125 days), has jumped from 180,000 to 600,000 over the past 3 1/2 years.  MOPH appreciates and supports Secretary Shinseki’s commitment to eliminate the backlog by 2015.  Once a disability claim is approved, the veteran will receive his benefits retroactive to the date of the original claim.  While the VA continues to serve all veterans, there is now an understandable focus and Congressionally mandated priority on post-9/11 Veterans.

What is not needed is new inexperienced people at the top to operate the Nation’s largest integrated healthcare system now serving more than 8.8 million Veterans and their families who have served their country and earned the benefits and services they are due.  What is needed is time – time to fully implement all the new technology systems and policy advancements already underway which will ultimately reduce the VA claim processing backlog.  DOD and VA must continue to successfully implement the merger of DOD and VA Health Care medical records systems providing a seamless transition process for Service members moving to Veteran status.  Of the approximately 1.4 million Veterans who have returned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 67 percent are already receiving some VA benefit or services.  Demands on the VA healthcare system will only be compounded in the coming years as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down.  The potential for one million serving men and women leaving military service  over the next 5 years will place demands on the VA. 

MOPH continues to support Secretary Shinseki and the VA’s mission to treat all Veterans in a speedy, accurate and fair manner worthy of the Veterans who have and continue to serve this Nation.

The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all combat wounded veterans and active duty men and women who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, through veteran service, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance.  Through the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers selflessly provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA medical facilities and State Veterans Homes.

For information contact:
National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535
Email: PublicRelations@Purpleheart.org
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