This Veterans Day, the National Council on Disability (NCD) again pays tribute to the selfless contributions to our great country of so many brave men and women in our armed services. The NCD recognizes the important intersection of the Veterans and disability communities embodied in those Veterans who have joined our community through their advocacy. NCD has been proud to count a disabled Veteran in the ranks of its membership over throughout our existence, has been faithfully served by staff who are Veterans since our inception. In addition to our own members and staff, we honor all who have served today.
In recognition of Veterans Day last year, the NCD released its report “Clearing the Backlog and Facilitating Benefits for Veterans with Disabilities,” focusing on the challenges that the Department of Veterans Affairs has faced in processing the vast increase in claims resulting from both the recent conflicts and changes in eligibility. The NCD has continued to follow up throughout this year with both the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs (VA), seeking to productively assist in any way we can. Outstanding claims have been reduced to nearly a half a million for the first time since they reached similar levels in 2005. NCD remains optimistic that the VA will meet its stated goal to eliminate the backlog by 2015 and will continue to support the progress.
Amputation is one of the “signature wounds” of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affects thousands of service members at a proportion much higher than in the civilian population. NCD has engaged with federal partners to resolve a longstanding problem faced by these veterans. Current technology and scientific advances could result in development of cutting edge prosthetic limbs which would enable users greater freedom of choice of activities in their lives. NCD looks forward to continued progress in bringing this scientific technology to market.
As we pay that tribute today to current service members and Veterans, let us all recommit to ensuring that those who have returned home have the opportunities to rebuild their lives, to get the support they require to reintegrate successfully, and to have confidence that the rights of all Americans with disabilities, including Veterans, remain robustly enforced and uniformly interpreted. Let us welcome those facing both seen and unseen challenges into our disability community, helping forge new relationships that emphasize our shared experience, however new.
To obtain or read NCD's 2013 report on ending the veteran's backlog, please visit/publications/2013/11122013