Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki are scheduled to testify before a joint hearing of two House committees Wednesday morning about collaboration between the departments in assisting servicemembers returning to civilian life.
The “Back from the Battlefield” hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the House Armed Services Committee will focus on the “silos” that exist between the departments and missed deadlines for implementing changes to help servicemembers departing the military, according to background papers prepared for the hearing.
“Too often we have seen territorial fights over information technology, repeatedly missed deadlines for collaborative projects and veterans getting stuck in the system,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “This has resulted in duplicate programs, wasted funds and longer wait times for our veterans.”
Among the topics will be Transition GPS, a long-awaited overhaul of the military’s Transition Assistance Program to help troops leaving the service, which was formally announced by President Obama on Monday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev.
Transition GPS will help military members apply their experience to additional training, formal education, and develop successful civilian careers,” Panetta said in a statement Tuesday.
Shinseki told the VFW convention Tuesday that he has made improvement of the oft-strained relationship between the departments a top priority.
“It takes both departments to create a seamless transition for separating servicemembers to return home ‘career ready’ to live, work, raise children and contribute to restoring the strength of our economy,” Shinseki said.
The VA secretary said improved collaboration between the departments will help address the backlog of disability claims that have plagued veterans.
“With the planned draw-down of up to a million troops over the next five years, the number of new claims will continue to grow,” Shinseki added. “It will take both departments for VA to go paperless. Hence, my close working relationship with Secretary Panetta — he and I are pulling our departments into the future.”