NOVA President Mike Viterna Testifies Before House Subcommittee on Lost Veterans Records



December 6, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Cathy Cuddy, Executive Coordinator
Tel: (202) 587- 5708
Email: ccuddy@vetadvocates.org

On December 4, 2012, NOVA President Mike Viterna testified before the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs at a hearing entitled, “Wading through Warehouses of Paper: The Challenge of Transitioning Veterans Records to Paperless Technology.”  Recent media focus highlighting that records for many veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are lost, destroyed, nonexistent, or otherwise absent was a focal point of the hearing.

“Issues pertaining to the thoroughness of DoD’s record keeping have recently received media attention in light of evidence that some units were not properly documenting in-service events, such as combat-related incidents,” said Rep. Jon Runyan, Chairman of the Subcommittee.  “This has been a source of significant frustration for many veterans who file claims with VA and are dependent on such documentation to substantiate their claims.”

Complete and accurate service department records are essential to a veteran claiming disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  “If relevant service records are not available because they are lost, destroyed, nonexistent, still classified, or never created, then the burden unfairly shifts to the veteran to either attempt to obtain the records or submit other evidence,” Mr. Viterna stated.

During testimony, Mr. Viterna presented the following recommendations on behalf of NOVA:

(1)    Service departments must be required to keep complete and accurate records of their personnel and unit activities.  The Department of Defense (DoD) must provide these records in electronic format for ease of use by VA.  We ask Congress to mandate that DoD and VA work together to assure a seamless transition of records.

(2)    The evidentiary burden must be lessened for veterans whose service records have been lost, destroyed, remain classified, never created, or are otherwise unavailable through no fault of their own.

Specifically, NOVA proposed that lay or other evidence shall be accepted by VA to establish the incident or aggravation in service if consistent with the circumstances, conditions, or hardships of such service even if no official record exists.

NOVA applauds efforts by VA to transition from a paper-driven system of records to an electronic format and is grateful for this Subcommittee’s interest in that transition.

For the complete NOVA testimony, click here.

 

About NOVA

The National Organization of Veterans' Advocates is a not for profit educational membership organization incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1993. NOVA is a national organization of attorneys and other qualified members who act as advocates for disabled veterans. Our goal is to provide excellent representation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to veterans who have disability claims against the government resulting from their service as members of the armed forces.  Offices are at 1425 K St NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20005.  Phone: (202) 587- 5708, Fax: (202) 587- 5600, Email: ccuddy@vetadvocates.org.

 

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