tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN November 12, 2012 10:00am-12:00pm EST
s feel strongly about. it would bring everybody to the table to try to deal with the long-term effects. that was the whole idea behind putting it in place. host: lindy paull, thanks so much for joining us. it will leave it there. and that is our show today on the "washington journal", and we will see you right back here tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. "washington journal >> here's a look at some of our lives programming. they're talking about the gun without cancer program.
he concedes that live at 1:00 p.m. eastern. this will be like that three caught 30 p.m. eastern. later this afternoon we are back here for a speech by u2 lead singer bono. coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span. >> 2013 should be the year began to sell off our debts and entitlement reform. it to be in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us. >> i am open to compromise and to ideas. i am committed to solving our fiscal challenges.
i refuse to accept any approach that is not a balance. i'm not going to ask students and seniors to pay down the entire deficit with people like me making over $280,000 are not asked to pay a dime more in taxes. >> the current congress still has work to do through the end of the year. work is expected on the impending fiscal cliff including the bush era tax cuts, embracing the debt ceiling, and by how much. follow all the floor debate starting tuesday it took a p.m. eastern with white house coverage. >> have a veteran state. coming up, the first living american soldier to be awarded the medal of honor since the
president of the united states, president barack obama and first lady michelle obama. ♪ let us pray. almighty god, we invite your presence as we gather to recognize these extraordinary actions, an american soldier, a patriot, and he wrote. our hearts resonate with the of mercy more than life. what doesemember ance
know that we have selfless warriors living among us today. as we remember his actions, it may also rumored that all of our armed forces stan across the world today. may we all recommit ourselves to selfless service for our families and fellow citizens. this inspires renewed unity in our own lands. as to celebrate this day, we recognize his parents. it may we recognize the state return of their loved ones. let us never to give banks more
than we do right now, to those to pay the cloris liberty which we enjoy. this we pray in your home in maine. holy name. good afternoon, everybody. please be seated. on behalf of michelle and myself, welcome to the white house. thank you, chaplain carver, for that beautiful invocation. of all the privileges that come with serving as president of the united states, i have none greater than serving as commander-in-chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. and of all the military decorations that a president and a nation can bestow, there is none higher than the medal of honor. today is particularly special. since the end of the vietnam
war, the medal of honor has been awarded nine times for conspicuous gallantry in an ongoing or recent conflict. sadly, our nation has been unable to present this decoration to the recipients themselves, because each gave his life -- his last full measure of devotion -- for our country. indeed, as president, i have presented the medal of honor three times -- and each time to the families of a fallen hero. today, therefore, marks the first time in nearly 40 years that the recipient of the medal of honor for an ongoing conflict has been able to come to the white house and accept this recognition in person. it is my privilege to present our nation's highest military decoration, the medal of honor,
to a soldier as humble as he is heroic, staff sergeant salvatore a. giunta. now, i'm going to go off-script here for a second and just say i really like this guy. i think anybody -- we all just get a sense of people and who they are, and when you meet sal and you meet his family, you are just absolutely convinced that this is what america is all about. and it just makes you proud. and so this is a joyous occasion for me -- something that i have been looking forward to. the medal of honor reflects the gratitude of an entire nation.
so we are also joined here today by several members of congress, including both senators and several representatives from staff sergeant giunta's home state of iowa. we are also joined by leaders from across my administration and the department of defense, including the secretary of defense, robert gates, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mike mullen. where's mike? there he is, right there. army secretary john mchugh, and chief of staff of the army, general george casey. we are especially honored to be joined by staff sergeant giunta's fellow soldiers, his teammates and brothers from battle company, 2d of the 503d of the 173d airborne brigade, and several members of that rarest of fraternities that now welcomes him into its ranks -- the medal of honor society. please give them a big round of
applause. we also welcome the friends and family who made staff sergeant giunta into the man that he is, including his lovely wife, jenny, and his parents, steven and rosemary, as well as his siblings, who are here. it was his mother, after all, who apparently taught him as a young boy in small-town iowa how to remove the screen from his bedroom window in case of fire. what she didn't know was that by teaching sal how to jump from his bedroom and sneaking off in the dead of night, she was unleashing a future paratrooper [laughter] -- who
would one day fight in the rugged mountains of afghanistan 7,000 miles away. during the first of his two tours of duty in afghanistan, staff sergeant giunta was forced early on to come to terms with the loss of comrades and friends. his team leader at the time gave him a piece of advice, "you just try -- you just got to try to do everything you can when it's your time to do it." you've just got to try to do everything you can when it's your time to do it. salvatore giunta's time came on october 25, 2007. he was a specialist then, just 22 years old. sal and his platoon were several days into a mission in the korengal valley -- the most dangerous valley in northeast afghanistan. the moon was full. the light it cast was enough to
travel by without using their night-vision goggles. with heavy gear on their backs, and air support overhead, they made their way single file down a rocky ridge crest, along terrain so steep that sliding was sometimes easier than walking. they hadn't traveled a quarter mile before the silence was shattered. it was an ambush, so close that the cracks of the guns and the whizz of the bullets were simultaneous. tracer fire hammered the ridge at hundreds of rounds per minute -- "more," sal said later, "than the stars in the sky." the apache gunships above saw it all, but couldn't engage with the enemy so close to our soldiers. the next platoon heard the shooting, but were too far away to join the fight in time.
and the two lead men were hit by enemy fire and knocked down instantly. when the third was struck in the helmet and fell to the ground, sal charged headlong into the wall of bullets to pull him to safety behind what little cover there was. as he did, sal was hit twice -- one round slamming into his body armor, the other shattering a weapon slung across his back. they were pinned down, and two wounded americans still lay up ahead. so sal and his comrades regrouped and counterattacked. they threw grenades, using the explosions as cover to run forward, shooting at the muzzle flashes still erupting from the trees. then they did it again. and again. throwing grenades, charging ahead.
finally, they reached one of their men. he'd been shot twice in the leg, but he had kept returning fire until his gun jammed. as another soldier tended to his wounds, sal sprinted ahead, at every step meeting relentless enemy fire with his own. he crested a hill alone, with no cover but the dust kicked up by the storm of bullets still biting into the ground. there, he saw a chilling sight, the silhouettes of two insurgents carrying the other wounded american away -- who happened to be one of sal's best friends. sal never broke stride. he leapt forward. he took aim. he killed one of the insurgents and wounded the other, who ran off. sal found his friend alive, but badly wounded. sal had saved him from the enemy -- now he had to try to save his life. even as bullets impacted all around him, sal grabbed his friend by the vest and dragged
him to cover. for nearly half an hour, sal worked to stop the bleeding and help his friend breathe until the medevac arrived to lift the wounded from the ridge. american gunships worked to clear the enemy from the hills. and with the battle over, first platoon picked up their gear and resumed their march through the valley. they continued their mission. it had been as intense and violent a firefight as any soldier will experience. by the time it was finished, every member of first platoon had shrapnel or a bullet hole in their gear. five were wounded. and two gave their lives, sal's friend, sergeant joshua c. brennan, and the platoon medic, specialist hugo v. mendoza. now, the parents of joshua and hugo are here today. and i know that there are no words that, even three years later, can ease the ache in your hearts or repay the debt
that america owes to you. but on behalf of a grateful nation, let me express profound thanks to your sons' service and their sacrifice. and could the parents of joshua and hugo please stand briefly? now, i already mentioned i like this guy, sal. and as i found out myself when i first spoke with him on the phone and when we met in the oval office today, he is a low- key guy, a humble guy, and he doesn't seek the limelight. and he'll tell you that he didn't do anything special, that he was just doing his job, that any of his brothers in the unit would do the same thing. in fact, he just lived up to
what his team leader instructed him to do years before, "you do everything you can." staff sergeant giunta, repeatedly and without hesitation, you charged forward through extreme enemy fire, embodying the warrior ethos that says, "i will never leave a fallen comrade." your actions disrupted a devastating ambush before it could claim more lives. your courage prevented the capture of an american soldier and brought that soldier back to his family. you may believe that you don't deserve this honor, but it was your fellow soldiers who recommended you for it. in fact, your commander specifically said in his recommendation that you lived up to the standards of the most decorated american soldier of
world war ii, audie murphy, who famously repelled an overwhelming enemy attack by himself for one simple reason, "they were killing my friends." that's why salvatore giunta risked his life for his fellow soldiers -- because they would risk their lives for him. that's what fueled his bravery -- not just the urgent impulse to have their backs, but the absolute confidence that they had his. one of them, sal has said -- of these young men that he was with, he said, "they are just as much of me as i am." they are just as much of me as i am. so i would ask sal's team, all
battle-hardened. each with specialized roles and responsibilities, but all with one thing in common -- they volunteered. in an era when it's never been more tempting to chase personal ambition or narrow self- interest, they chose the opposite. they felt a tug, they answered a call, they said, "i'll go." and for the better part of a decade, they have endured tour after tour in distant and difficult places, they have protected us from danger, they have given others the opportunity to earn a better and more secure life. they are the courageous men and women serving in afghanistan even as we speak. they keep clear focus on their mission, to deny safe haven for terrorists who would attack our
country, to break the back of the taliban insurgency, to build the afghans' capacity to defend themselves. they possess the steely resolve to see their mission through. they are made of the same strong stuff as the troops in this room, and i am absolutely confident that they will continue to succeed in the missions that we give them, in afghanistan and beyond. after all, our brave servicemen and women and their families have done everything they've been asked to do. they have been everything that we have asked them to be." if i am a hero," sal has said, "then every man who stands around me, every woman in the military, every person who defends this country is." and he's right. this medal today is a testament to his uncommon valor, but also to the parents and the community that raised him, the military
that trained him, and all the men and women who served by his side. all of them deserve our enduring thanks and gratitude. they represent a small fraction of the american population, but they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of our burden. they fight halfway around the globe, but they do it in hopes that our children and our grandchildren won't have to. they are the very best part of us. they are our friends, our family, our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers. they are why our banner still waves, our founding principles still shine, and our country --
the united states of america -- still stands as a force for good all over the world. so, please join me in welcoming staff sergeant salvatore a. giunta for the reading of the citation. >> the president of the united states of america, authorized by act of congress, march 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of congress, the medal of honor to then specialist salvatore a. giunta, united states army. specialist salvatore a. giunta distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, in action, with an armed enemy in the korengal valley, afghanistan, on october 25, 2007. while conducting a patrol as team leader, with company b, 2d battalion airborne, 503d infantry regiment, specialist giunta and his team were navigating through harsh terrain when they were ambushed by a well-armed and well-coordinated insurgent force. while under heavy enemy fire, specialist giunta immediately sprinted towards cover and engaged the enemy.
seeing that his squad leader had fallen, and believing that he had been injured, specialist giunta exposed himself to withering enemy fire and raced towards his squad leader, helped him to cover and administered medical aid. while administering first aid, enemy fire struck special giunta's body armor and his secondary weapon. without regard to the ongoing fire, specialist giunta engaged the enemy before prepping and throwing grenades, using the explosions for cover in order to conceal his position. attempting to reach additional wounded fellow soldiers who were separated from the squad, specialist giunta and his team encountered a barrage of enemy fire that forced them to the ground. the team continued forward, and upon reaching the wounded soldiers, specialist giunta realized that another soldier was still separated from the element. specialist giunta then advanced forward on his own initiative. as he crested the top of a hill, he observed two insurgents carrying away an american soldier. he immediately engaged the enemy, killing one and wounding the other. upon reaching the wounded soldier, he began to provide medical aid, as his squad caught
up and provided security. specialist giunta's unwavering courage, selflessness and decisive leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability to defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow american soldier from the enemy. specialist salvatore a. giunta's extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, company b, 2d battalion airborne, 503d infantry regiment and the united states army.
>> made his compassionate actions shallots and inspire us all to do the same for generations to come. please give them great wisdom in roles that lie before them or they continue with dignity, honor, courage, and the humility. may your wisdom rest of our president to serve our great country. god bless the marriage of our armed services. god bless america. amen. >> thank you so much, everybody. ive him one more big
round of applause. >> two medal of honor recipients talk about why they joined the military. this is the highest u.s. military honor. it is using presented by the president of the united states. this is about 40 minutes. >> i am proud and honored today to introduce two of america's military is great is individual.
he is a former staff sergeant in the united states army, the first living person to receive the united states highest award for valor. the second is james e. little stem. he was awarded the united states highest military decoration during the vietnam war. he served on active duty in the marine corps of our 33 years before returning on september 1, 1995. his decorations included the medal of honor, silver star medal, a bronze star medal,
purpleheart, navy accommodation metadal. i now present the major general and staff sgt. [applause] >> the start of this in 2006. jerry certification at hotels and conference centers in new york and northern virginia. while serving as general manager as a resort in leesburg, he founded the national medal of honor society.
15 recipients participated. the went on to raise a total of $150,000. this continues to this day. in addition to volunteering, he also volunteers for the church hill center which was founded in 1968. he is the proud father of three children yet also volunteered over the years -- who have also volunteered over the years. he took winston churchill's
lifestyle very seriously. the wine flowed very freely. >> welcome. good afternoon. is this microphone on? can you hear me now th? july 12, 1962, president abraham lincoln signed a joint resolution that created the first medal of honor appeared the first recipient was presented to an army won in 1963.
today there are only 81 living recipients of the medal of honor. i'm very honored to be here with two of these great american heroes. before i asked general livingston for some questions. i fell one of the most interesting facts, is as whether a woman would be asked to be president of the united states appeared to be know who there is one woman who earn the medal of honor? let me tell you a little bit about her appeared dr. mary walker was born in 1832. she was a prisoner during the american civil war. she was assigned to duty as an
assistant surgeon. she served as a contract surgeon and the service of the united states. she was not a commission officer. she was an early leader of women's rights in america. she wore pants. she cause a big scandal back in the day. president andrew johnson presented her with our country's highest military award, the medal of honor. she wore that pinned to her chest. it was rescinded in 1917 with 900 and others. she refused to return the medal of honor. she wore it stubbornly and proudly to her death. the story does not end here. jimmy carter restored her medal
of honor. we do have one woman who has received the medal of honor. perhaps one of these days we will have another woman earn the medal of honor. you can read about her on the medal of honor website. i like to start with you. in your book, there's a wonderful photo a few swearing in your daughter in 1991. do you want to tell us about that experience? >> let me acknowledge a special lady first of all. i was coming to her early today appeared last time we saw her husband we were at a bar in georgia. we have a couple of years to get
there. it is good to see you. he get to see all of these veterans. i was very pleased to hear about the stories of the korean war. my daughter is a very special person. she was 17 years old. we doctor at the naval academy and got on an airplane and went to the philippines. to is by yourself or a year before she came to visit us. she excelled in the naval academy. she became a flag sergeant. we are just proud of her. put as far as women in the military, i am convinced there is a great place for ladies in the military. i am also convinced the place is not to be on the front lines.
and not think that is the place even for men to be some time. this is something we can all be particularly proud of. this was done with an exceptionally fine job. i am pleased to have the opportunity to serve. we welcome to the ranks and except on the frontlines of combat that they can do any job any man can do. >> would you like to share your thoughts and comments? >> i did not serve with any ladies in the military really. it is one team, one fight. to defend this country and to stand up for this country, we
are all capable of it. we say 18 years old is when you should come in. we are all capable of doing everything we want as long as we set our minds to it. that is a level playing field. >> this talk about that you grow brew up in georgia. the graduate a year before i was born. there is a great quote in your book. you need to go back to school and do better or write this tractor for the rest of your life. tell us what happened after that. >> i was going to north georgia college military school. they had me locked up for a year
trying to get my grades to be a little bit better. my dad allow me to transfer to auburn university. i joined a fraternity which i never should have done. i parted for a quarter. when i got my report from the first quarter, the war f's.erfy were all my dad brought me home. he said i could work on his tractor go back to auburn and study hard. i graduated in 1962. there remain a defining moment in my life. that was a very defining moment. >> why did you decide to join the marine corps?
what lessons did you learn about leadership during york trad -- during your training? >> after i attended north georgia college, back in those days you had to have two years of rotc. i went to auburn university and i had one year of r.o.t.c. remaining. i joined the air force because i did not want to carry a rifle. i finished my two years and i got my draft notice in 1961. i had all intentions of graduating from auburn and going to work as a civil engineer and never had anything to do with the military. i got my draft notice income across ago looking marine purity city could go to quantico and they will get you in good shape.
i had to do both boot camps and one summer. -- in one summer. i then went back and graduated in joined the marine corps. it was the most defining experience of my bike. i have all intention of staying in three years and getting out. as i got involved with the people in the leadership and the mission of the marine corps and what we're doing for the country and just the experience itself, i decided to stay. it was a great opportunity for me to serve the country. what i learned from that experience is everyone that you meet in the military and the country has something to offer. everyone has something to offer. everyone is capable of doing something. you are more capable of doing
more than what you expect to can do. i always say that we always raise the bar higher. that was some of the experiences. people are extraordinary. the young marines were exceptional all through my career. >> your younger days were a bit different. i read eager up in iowa. he worked at a subway sandwich shop. >> i did. i was a stand which artists. ndwich artists. >> you served under john fitzgerald kennedy.
why did you decide to join the united states army? >> i was a senior in high school. i graduate in in 2003. i did not really feel like going to school anymore. i did not want to go to college. i did not know what i wanted to do. one night i was mopping the floors around 930 or 10:00 at night. a subway was closed and a regular commercial came on and something to the tune of see the recruiters to get a free t- shirt. i was working as subway. i wanted a free t-shirt. that sounded fun. i went down there and talked to the recruiter. he told me what they tell you. we are a nation at war. we have been at war in iraq since 2003 and afghanistan since 2001. if you want to make a tangible difference, join the military. i thought that was pretty solid.
i took the shirt and i left. what he said to me really resonated. all these privileges and freedoms we have as americans and given to a so really, at such a great cost. they come from the costs of other people that have provided us this lifestyle. all these people have something in common that they have stood for sending more than themselves. i thought that sounded like something i wanted to do. i am proud to be an american. the best way i could do that was to join the army. i went in and i told them wanted to join the army. he asked me what i wanted to do. i did not know. i thought you just joined and they decided. i had to come up with something. what do want to do? spit and fight bad guys.
there was a parachute hanging in the office. of searching for something. i sit up out of planes appeared he said thousand extra $100 a month. i want to do it. i signed up for four years. >> you were decorated with the medal of honor by president nixon in may 1974 your heroic actions. in looking back, how did the training you receive help you have the courage to take the heroic action you took that day? >> the defining moment was witnessing the young americans
that i was certain with. and understanding the intensity. the head into companies up until that point. they had been wiped out. this is a thing that i remember most about that particular battle. the thing that i liked it is back morning we had a company totally pinned down. later we found that there were 10 vietnamese in that area. i had 180 marines. we had to go across a rice patty that was totally open to help rescue that particular company.
at 5:00 in the morning, i tell these young marines to fix bayonets and we are going. there is no moment of the legislation -- of hesitation. there is no looking back. they wanted to rescue their fellow marines. i tell you what. that particular moment in my life, to see that happen with a 19 year-old marines, it is a defining moment in my life. how great and how lucky this country is to have young people here would be in a situation of that sort on that morning who did not realize what would happen to them. as a consequence, 35 marines walked away from that engagement. it was not over.
i said we have to sell up and held the other country. the 35 remaining marines are hesitating. it is an indication of the exceptional quality of the people who are wanting to serve this country today your and never was so proud to see how what they would do in a moment of difficulty, how they would rise to the occasion. i did not answer your question. it was a message to wanted to get out. we are blessed in this country. >> president truman often said he would rather wear the medal of honor then the president of the united states. you received the medal of honor by president obama. what did he say to you when you
were presented with its? >> that is a difficult question. i do not remember that so much. that he was proud of me and that the country was proud of me. one thing for me that that it, it is not for me. i've never been in a gunfight or battle alone. i've never been asked to do anything alone. we have always done it together. it is not about the individual. it is about the team in the person to the left and right of you. . that at the white house thing with the president was something very special. to see my body's region my buddies that i fought alongside with -- to see my buddies and i fought alongside with receiving the alkylates was something very special that validated what we were doing and that people did appreciate what was going on
in the small pockets of the mountains in afghanistan. he told me he was proud of us. >> we have a very important election coming up in a few days. if you questions about the democratic process. i like to know your thoughts on the democratic process here in america. some people have to live under the role of dictators and elected leaders. >> i just about the number of people in the world today that have an opportunity to vote an exercise that democratic process because young americans were willing to go into harm's way. as i listen to the korean veterans, south korea. i listened to the world war ii
veterans in thing of all the people in the world who have the opportunity to exercise that right to vote and elect their leaders. the thing i would say about this great country we call america is we are the greatest hope of the world. we absolutely need a strong, responsive, at least from upfront america. -- lead from up front america. if we did not have that, i'm not sure where we would be today. your responsibility is beyond my ability to express. what you represent not only to your country but to the people of the world. i am really honored to have a chance to have surged this great nation and witnessed through the years what we have done for the
world's, specifically what those who have served have done for the world where people can exercise the freedom to vote. >> i am 27 years old. this'll be my first time voting. i say that because lots in the military has spent all my times overseas. i did not want to have to vote on something and then find out the person i wanted did not win and the decision on what we were going to do was going to be at up to someone else. i am excited about voting. i feel bad that i am 27 and it will be my first time ever have. i am excited for its. this'll be a good step for me to actually participate in my own government. i'm pretty proud of it. we should. a lot of people still do not have that opportunity.
we are very blessed to be able to have that opportunity. >> for those individuals here who decide to serve in the military, how does that leadership and experience better prepare them for civilian life and work in the private sector? >> i think the biggest, and i can say in answering that question, i think the thing that really defines the military and how it translates to the civilian sector is to learn about people. if you want to be successful in the military, you do it through other people. you have great expectations of other people. i look at the ceo's in the country. they do not do by themselves. they are able to delegate and
get people authority and responsibility and empower people to get the job done. regardless if you're in the military or the ceo of a company, if you have the ability to really understand and empower and delegate requirements to people, people will perform for you. there's really no difference between the military and the civilian world. the person who knows how to deal with people can be successful either in the military or as a ceo on wall street. >> i think the military has given almost all my experiences. too often in the civilian world you have a boss. in the military they have a leader. they're like to say follow me i'm going to do this. i will show you how to do it.
next time you do it. they can still be your boss but first and foremost they are leaders. the military taught me about standards not just making standards in setting standards but obtaining the standards. not everyone is good enough to run with the big dogs. we except that. by inspiring one another in the military, as soon as you join you will be inspired by others because it is no longer about you. it is about you and everyone around you. and having a list ankles. a nine year old can have goals. without a plan failing to prepare is preparing to fail. that is a guarantee.
the military has helped orchestrate a plan. >> as we are approaching this election, i like both of you to think back in history, all the way back to 1776. food or some of your favor president's you admired the most and why? -- who are some of your favorite president you admire the most and why? >> general livingston knows more president. i only have a few i can actually draw on. >> way to be politically correct fella. a fello >> i went to john f. kennedy high school.
it seemed to me he was an amazing president. one that has always stuck out to me fdr and the new deal and how he inspired a country in the personal adversity. he had polio. he is in a wheelchair. he did not let that bother him. he did not show weakness. no matter what we think our disability may be, we can overcome that and show a strong response and we can push forward and motivate others. for that i like that. i like him. >> we had so many inspiring presidents. i do a lot of reading about george washington. that had not been for george washington we will not of a country. i've always been very inspired by him.
abraham lincoln made those decisions that are necessary at the time to pull the country back together and put us on a new course. in terms a modern day, and with that of the president's. we are at a very critical point in our history. i think he has been the most touching for me individually. i hear pros and cons about the president. i think the american people thought they were the best candidates. i would ever say we've ever had a bad president. all is that better presidents. they did to come along at the right moment.
i think they all came along in the right moment. it is a tough job. i think we have been blessed to have great presidents. but this point i think we'll open it up to the audience for questions. >> thank you. before that day in the white house how you deal with the massive attention that has befallen on your >> the attention it is good, i think, because it is not really about me, it is about the military and actions that happen every single day. i tried to stress how generic my story is.
in the day i received the medal of honor for the actions, october 25, 2007, i was not there alone. i did not shoot the most bullets or kill the most bad guys do anything more amazing that anyone ever of us were doing. we had a job to do. we had more steps to concord and people to cover them and we -- we did not go in there not knowing what we were getting into. none of us worked at subway. we were all professional soldiers. i think after receiving the medal of honor, i still was one of the boys -- never been special. average at best. it speaks so greatly about the military. i can say that because there are a lot of people are around the united states within that i am something special. and i am not. i can use this medal because they will listen to me and it will give me a microphone to say i am not. we are all capable of doing more and changing the world. every single day we wake of we
have a new opportunity to do good things for ourselves and others and if we don't take advantage of that we are missing out of the opportunity. the spotlight is on me but i will tell stories about of the people. it has never been about me, ever. >> of u.s. army retired -- i was with you this morning you receive the medal of honor at the sheraton hotel in washington, d.c. i met your wife also in the elevator and had a good chat with her, too. i did not know if she is here or not, but i would sure like to meet her again. when i talked -- you have, long way. one i talked you that they. you were going to go to the white house that morning. and that when i met you at the
hotel. there were a whole bunch of 173rd guys there and i was there for the funeral of a guy i served in vietnam with with the guys -- too see ed burke be buried. you just happen to be there waiting to go to the white house. and maybe you do not remember that. i gave him my card and i said if i could help you in any way, let me know. i am still around. it was an honor to meet you. i nthee got a grandson big red one in afghanistan right now, and he got wounded about three weeks ago. just took a few mortar fragments in the legs and was calling home and saying he was sticking with the outfit and not getting medically evacuate.
i just want to say, hi. >> hello, sir. good seeing you again. [applause] >> i think i am getting noted about asking about books but i have been a teacher-librarian, and we are all fortunate enough to be here in this convention and it is education which is better than any class from i have been in. tell us about the books. we were talking earlier about the one written about you. and the one thing we can do is go back home and make sure our public libraries and school libraries have these books so people can learn about the people we have gotten to here today and this whole week.
>> i just wanted to acknowledge the vietnam veterans who are here. let me see your hands. i want to thank you for your service and, ladies, for your service and say, we never lost a fight in the war, it was lost in washington. and i just want to acknowledge the fact you did a wonderful job. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, everyone, for joining us today and special thanks to general livingston and --mr. guinta. >> looking at some of the live programming coming up today, veterans day this afternoon, roger daltry and pete townshend from the who will talk about young adults and teen cancer programs. little later, british prime minister david cameron will make remarks at the annual lord
mayor's banquet in london. and we will be back here in washington for a speech by u2 lead singer bono who will talk about social movements from georgetown university. live coverage starts at 6:00 p.m.. >> i enjoy watching book tv and re-broadcasts of various television news programs. c-span provides and-to-end coverage of events without all the sound bites and editing d.c. and other programs and it gives you the opportunity to consume the news and information and make up my own mind. c-span is a great way of getting an unfiltered view of the day's events. >> derek watch c-span on comcast. c-span -- created by america's cable companies in 1979 and brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> we have more veterans they
programming now. recently the american legion's national commander said the department of veterans affairs growing backlog of claims is greeting mistrust among veterans who were promised benefits of they were to become disabled. the efforts to reduce the backlog which hovers around 1 million cases has not produced positive results. from last month, this is just over 90 minutes. >> good morning, everybody. thank you so much for being here. we appreciate you making the trip to washington. i am pleased to be joined by colleagues from all not all -- not only across the capitol but across the aisle as well. and as i told some of you this morning at breakfast, you know, the congressional schedule changed a few weeks ago so a lot of members are not in washington today. senator bozeman u.n. this morning as a matter of fact.
i came in last night and got caught in the fog trying to get in. you probably just drove down from maine, did in you? but we thank you for being here and rest assured all of the members will not only receive the full testimony of the commander but also from the questions that are going to be given here -- we are webcasting as well so folks will be able to see it streaming live and also it will be stored on the internet so folks can get a look and see for themselves. and i've got a full statement that i want to enter into the record, but i do want to extend a very warm welcome to your new commander. we are glad to have you. it is a pleasure to meet you this morning. the 2012-13 national commander james koutz.
we are proud to have you with us today and we look forward to your testimony and learning from you where the legion stands on your legislative agenda. i also want to welcome the legion's of delivery that is here as well. my friends from florida to i had a chance to visit with this morning at breakfast very briefly. but instead of me going through a complete statement i ask unanimous consent i can enter the full statement into the record, and with that, i would like to go ahead and introduce -- let's see -- mike, would you like to give a quick opening statement? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i , too would like to welcome
the national commander here this morning as well as the national president of the american legion auxiliary. i want to thank both of you for your advocacy for our veterans and in during support of the american legion is over 2.5 million members for our veterans. before we start, i would also like to extend compliments to your washington, d.c., staff, to let you know that the staff here in d.c., it is a pleasure working with them, but they are also out there each and every day fighting for the american legion's prairies. i want to thank you, national commander, for an excellent staff you have here in washington. i also would like to recognize and ask them to stand in the audience, the folks from maine that took the time to be here today. i think they are still out in the audience -- would the maine
american legion members stand up? i would like to thank both of you for coming here today as well. these committees are charged with oversight of the department of veterans affairs and the va's budget. and while it has been busy and frustrating, we have been able to accomplish a lot over the last couple of years. and we must also make sure that we provide of the best care and service for our veterans, and we need to first of all understand how the veterans population is growing, changing, and whether they are located geographically. in 2011 we had just over 22 million veterans 34 million dependents and we had 450,000 the sizer -- survivors of deceased veterans receiving compensation. i am pleased to see the va's
budget for 2013 reflect many of the changes. but they must do better to outreach for our veterans, particularly those who live in rural areas, and do better with dependents. the v.a. 2013 overall budget is $140 billion. an increase of 2012 request. because of the hard work of many individuals in this room, advance appropriations continue to help the v.a. with a long term planning. with advance appropriation we ensure sufficient predictable funding for veterans health care. but advanced a perforation only works when we work together to pass a long-term appropriation bills as well. short-term continuing resolutions are not helpful in the planning process. and we've got to do better as members of congress on both sides of the aisle. although congress may disagree on a lot of things, i hope we
can agree on providing strong appropriations to the va in a non-partisan effort. in that regard i would like to thank chairman miller for all of the hard effort and work he has done on the house side to make sure the committee or some of the partisan member. i was troubled by the july report from cbs news that found suicide rates for our soldiers is up 80%. our veterans are returning from war with invisible wounds. but are discouraging from seeking the treatments for various reasons. as a nation we can do better and we must get right. and to the american legion, i ask you to continue help in this regard as you lobby but committee of veterans affairs and i hope you are also lobbying committees on armed services to make sure they are dealing with this issue as well. care must began with a person
who is on active duty before they take off the uniform and become veterans as well. service members -- if you look at another area of effort we have to do better on -- it is for military training. look at jobs. service members are experienced in many different career fields that can be varied such as electronics, madison, air- traffic control, and we've got to do everything we can as congress to help our veterans find jobs when they come back. and i think it is important for the american legion with the broad outreach to different states to make sure the states are doing the same thing as well to make it easier for our veterans to define -- to find a job as well. with that, i ask for the remainder of my statement to be included in the record and i want to, again, thank the new national commander for being
here today at all members of the american legion. thank you. >> without objection, so ordered. >> senator boozman is going to yield the remainder of his time. senator lugar -- i understand you had a prior commitment. we appreciate you being here today -- in keeping with your schedule, sir, we appreciate you being here today to introduce the national commander for 2012, and 2013, commander james koutz. you don't remember this but i met you for the first time in 1977 in washington. so i have great respect for you senator. the senator from indiana is recognized, sir. >> distinguished members of the house and veterans committee, i appreciate this opportunity to address this joint committee in order to introduce a very distinguished hoosier, james e. koutz as he presents his
current legislative priorities to this committee. over the course of my service to the united states senate, i've had the distinct honor to spend time with hoosier members in all branches of the military. each time, i'm reminded of how fortunate we are as a nation to have so many men and women to step forward and defend the ideals on which our republic was founded. it is our duty to ensure those who bear the burden of defending our nation in military service receive the care and support they have earned upon their return to civilian life. since its founding in 1919, the american legion and its members have worked closely with officials in providing that support.
i am also very proud and honored that the american legion is headquartered in my hometown of indianapolis, indiana. i was especially pleased to meet with jim in august at the 94th national convention where he was elected to serve as national commander which he brings a wealth of experience to this new post. he has more than two decades in the private sector and military service. -- including his own service in vietnam. as commissioner in ward county, indiana. his service to the veterans of our state as a member and president of the indiana veterans affairs commission. i am confident the talent and diligence that he has exemplified have been the hall mark of his career to date and they will continue during his term of office.
i would like again to thank the leadership and members of the respective veterans affairs committee assembled here today for calling this important hearing. i wish jim and his wife every success and their service to the 2.4 veterans that make up the american legion. and i look forward to learning more about the legislative priorities and supporting those in the future. i thank the chair. >> thank you for being here with us today. and we know you're schedule is tight this morning so whenever you need to depart, please feel free to do . so and commander koutz, you are now recognized. >> thank you very much mr. chairman. i want to thank the senator, my senator from indiana for that kind introduction. good morning members of the committee.
-- chairman miller and members of the committee. first let me state how proud i am that you took on to have this p.o.w. empty chair and flag behind me. i understand this is not the first time and hope it's not the last time. -- i am the 10 this is the first time and i hope it is not the last time. on behalf of the 2.4 members of the american legion i appreciate the opportunity to testify before you this morning. i would like to introduce some of the national officers that will serve with me this year. as i call their names i ask they stand and be recognized. national vice commander -- david hall out of west virginia. glenn hickman department of ohio. james holland from south carolina, james from inform and -- new hampshire and ms. ray from --. sergeant of arms, a lpolito from
indiana. dan a wheeler. and our national treasure. please stand and be recognized. thank you. \[applause] >> i would like to take a moment to acknowledge some men in the audience who fully comprehend what i am just beginning to understand, what it means to sacrifice a year of your life to be the face of this organization. past members of the organization. -- past the national commanders of the american legion. gentlemen, would you please stand and be recognized? next i wish to introduce leadership of the american legion auxiliary, so please stand as i call your name to be recognized.
president, peggy thomas from virginia, vice president, nancy brown from california. national secretary, mary buckler from indiana. we also have several national past president of the american legion auxiliary joining us today. i would like for them to stand and be recognized. with us today is the national commander of the sons of the american legion. chris huntsinger from pennsylvania b. please, standing recognize. in addition, several of the men present ticket their lives to be national commander of the sons of the american legion. gentlemen, would you please stand and be recognized? most importantly, i would like to take this opportunity to introduce and thank my wonderful wife vicki and, my best friend.
vicki? [applause] a month from now u.s. citizens will go to the polls across the country and cast ballots in the general election. we will be focused on the grate lansky beyond the beltway. that is where i come from. that is where you will find the american legion. you will find the american legion in rural towns of the west may have -- helping veterans meet the four-hour trip to a medical center. boasting more than 200 job fairs throughout this nation the american legion service officers are working day and night to help veterans understand their va claims and file applications that will not get stuck in a massive backlog. the american legion is in your district, your home town, and your neighborhood. for nearly a century, is
organization has fulfilled the spirit of its federal charter in ways that cannot be easily quantified. suffice it to say that in millions of hours are put into legionnaires', millions of dollars raise to help veterans and their families, and millions of lives are touched every year all through american by the american legion. by the end of my year in office, i would have spent more than 300 days traveling the nation and sometimes -- sometimes beyond visiting veterans, active duty troops, and they chatted americans everywhere. i will have a rare and unique opportunity to see the faces and hear the stories of those that have sacrificed on behalf of the nation. they will ask me what the american legion is doing for them today. and they will ask me what their elected officials are doing for them. they will want to know what you are doing to make things right for america's veterans, their
families, and communities. they have a good reason to ask. today's generation of troops come home from war, they are not sure about the future, where will the jobs come from, what if they can't get the war out of their minds? what if they need a doctor now where they cannot wait to see one in a month. they will want to know what massive cuts in the defense budget -- a massive cuts in the defense budget will mean to small businesses and factories that supply defense contractors and higher veterans. will these businesses be shut down? will it weaken the national security because of a weakening economy? these are tough questions. veterans need to know that the american it legion and our elected officials are working hard to resolve these issues confronting the nation they swore to protect and defend. these men and women have sacrificed in ways we are only beginning to understand.
the families have and will, and it is truly a to us to ensure the sacrifices are rewarded with the promise of a brighter future. that a brighter future we all know, depends on the ability to earn a decent living. in my written testimony you will find jobs among the american legion's list of priorities. a stronger economy and specifically improve career prospects for veterans will go a long way towards solving a number of problems facing our nation today. it is no secret that a larger percentage of america's veterans are struggling to find work, having faced jobless rates as much as 2/3 higher than in the comparable civilian population in the past year. the american legion has been to the forefront of efforts to combat veteran joblessness and we all know we have an ally in this congress.
specifically -- the progress in except of military experience toward the end credits toward license is, credentials, in a number of trade and career paths for veterans. it is just common sense that those who go through firefights delivering surprises -- supplies to forward operating basis of to have a leg up when they pursue over-the-road truck drivers. men who have saved lives on battlefields of the not need to start at less and one of their working to become civilian emt's. the american legion has been fighting this battle longer than anywhere else. since our landmark study of licensure and certification for veterans in 1997, we have worked with concerned parties in both the government and private sector. we have been on the hill at the
pentagon with the department of labor, side-by-side with representatives and a presidential task forces and in board rooms across the country and it is bearing results. the work for licensure and certification -- the legislation before the higher veterans act and the veterans goals for jobs act for 2012. we are grateful for this dedication and cooperation that congress has shown us on this issue. clearly, you have heard the concerns of the veterans and we appreciate everything you have done to improve the situation on the federal level. but we cannot let up. as the american legion works to capitalize on these gains and increase our efforts, we need to support to keep working with the states to improve their acceptance of military training and as the federal government
has already done. legislation like the hire at home act to recognize military training, education, and experience. the american legion is now working with groups such as the american national standards institute, solutions for information design, to advise u.s. army training -- to evaluate the programs being provided what these men and women still wear the uniform. we all need to recognize top- quality education and training men and women of the united states armed forces receive when they are serving our country. we are working with the united states chamber of commerce, military.com and recruit military llc for hundreds of hundredsfairs across the country -- big cities to small towns, convention centers to american legion posts.
if you have not been to one of these events, i strongly encourage you to do so. there you will see firsthand the quality of these returning servicemen and women, employers who understand the value and legionnaires dedicated to improving their lives. the men and women who fought for this country should not have to fight for a job when they return home. veterans, their families, and the american legion will keep working to revive our nation's economy. efforts to improve opportunities through licensing and it credentialing, through job fairs and business development must continue in earnest. for many newly minted veterans the ability to get a job and decent income has been diminished because of the sacrifices made in uniform. that is why we simply must come up with a solution to our problems that has been us for
years. unfortunately, it has gotten worse -- the va claims backlog. i would challenge anyone in this room to recall a time when the american legion did not come before this congress looking for answers to this worsening problem. among veterans in every corner of the nation, many who wait months or even years for decisions about their claims -- this is not just some nagging bureaucratic nuisance. the claims backlog, which is now hovering at about 1 million cases, is a glaring -- of mistrust between those who fought with the nation and those promised benefits if they should become disabled. our government failure to resolve the claims of time is inexcusable. these efforts to tame the backlog have not produced positive results.
american legion service officers are working the round-the-clock to help veterans through the process, and we all know the va has added employees to help solve the problem. but this is clearly not enough. schechter terry since at the -- secretary shinseki has promised to break the back of the backlog by 20 -- but we are going in the wrong direction. congress can no longer simply be concerned about this problem. congress, the v.a., an american legion must work together to solve it. and it does not mean simply rewarding processors for fast dispositions regarding -- not regarding quality. we have seen an accuracy of claims decisions made in va regional offices throughout the country, and that only slows down the process. the early this year when congress, the american legion service officers for a hearing about the back wall, we were
encouraged. these service officers at the front line of this battle every day. we have -- they have unique perspectives to of the va content with this biggest issue. we have seen many pilot programs and promises from the va. it is time to roll up our sleeves and really fix what is wrong with the system. if the social security administration and other benefit programs can handle their claims and a timely manner the veterans cannot understand why the v.a. cannot. in the american legion we may training our service officers a top priority. it is part of the job, not something that gets in the way of the job. when we bring them together in chief -- for training twice a year, they make recommendations based on the complex system they must navigate on a daily basis. they are the ones who can see the flaws in the system that the
word -- rewards quantity over quality. there simply has a better way to get this done. for instance, we need to start counting claims done right as a positive and claims done wrong as a negative so everyone can have a more accurate picture of what's getting done in these regional offices. veterans waiting past a realistic target date might be compensated with interest as an incentive to get these claims resolved on time. we're willing to role up our sleeves and work with you to find those ways. the american legion has people in the trenches who not only understand the problems but contribute to the solution. veterans are tired of hearing how the government is working on ending a backlog that
continues to grow. veterans in the american legion want results and are willing to do whatever it takes to obtain them. remember we're all partners in this. everyone knows the claims process is confusing for veterans. american legion is there with services to help navigate the system and make things easier for both the veteran and the v.a. personnel who have decided their claims -- nobody gets charged a penny for this service, not the vern, not the government. we're out there working to put these claims in order and help make it easier for these veterans by putting them in touch with the people dedicated to make the process easier for those veterans. we work with congressional veterans organizations to get the transitioning veterans in touch with people who can make
the system run more smoothly. if you work to hand them off to us, we will not forsake that trust. we will make that transition into a proud and productive phase of the life of a civilian vern. -- the life of a civilian veteran. the american legion understands that our nation is in a budget crisis the likes of which has not been seen over a generation. first and foremast most, our nation's veterans are concerned about what the drastic spending cuts will mean. equally the protection of the veterans' proms in other federal agencies. thanks to the work in this committee. -- especially you, chairman miller, congress and the white house have reassured us that the va will exempt from
sequestration. unfortunately, many programs important to veterans are funded by agencies outside the va. arlington national cemetery, american battle monuments commission, the joint prisoners of war missing action accounting command, and the department of labor's vetsh program labor'sud, and others. veterans as seriously concerned to these important government functions will be compromised or cut in order to make ends meet. and that does not even begin to adjust the massive cuts that would be levied against the nation's defense, which is posted bear fully half of the $1.20 trillion burden that cannot be relieved by the super committee last winter. the department of defense has asked to bear the was asked to bear the burden while u.s. men and women are still at war with
hostile enemies in afghanistan and all round the world. the american legion has been promised that the budget would not be balanced on the backs of veterans. if cuts to the department the fence tricare or diminished quality of life or put pressure on the reserve components, it is clear and unfair portion of responsibility is falling upon the shoulders of americans -- current and future veterans. while the budget does not fall squarely on the shoulders of the house and senate veterans' affairs committee, we urge you to work with your colleagues to find the right balance without sacrificing our nation's ability to defend itself or to prepare the care for its protectors. i am grateful for the word this congress have done on behalf of our veterans. i will tell legionaries and veterans throughout the country that there and let the officials
are in fact working with us, the stakeholders, to solve some very serious problems. i will explain to them that our voices matter in washington and we are being heard. now it is time for all of us to act in those voices that make good on our promises to the men and women who have served. i thank you for the opportunity to come before you and renewed commitment with the american legion to work closely with congress to ensure that we are meeting this nation's obligations to its veterans. since 1919 the american legion has been there for america's service members -- veterans and their families. our organization is a voice for the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving today in the military who are not able to speak for themselves. the american legion is there for millions of veterans, many of whom either are too proud or to humbled to demand the benefits they have earned. the american legion is there to
give you, our elected officials, a direct line of communication with a very special breed of constituents, those who have pledged their lives to the nation we all love. there is much more -- it is much more than a political sense to address the questions, problems and issues the nation's veterans and families face today. it is a sacred obligation. as think we can all agree on that. thank you, god bless you, and god bless the united states of america. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much, commander, we appreciate the testimony and look forward to the opportunity to ask some
questions momentarily. but senator begich from alaska has arrived and sends a house had an opportunity to give our boatmen statements prior to your comments, i would like to recognize senator baggage. good to see you, sir. >> thank you very much. i appreciated. i was tried to be brief -- commander koutz, thank you for your testimony of all of the members who are here today. i know as congress, the senate is out of there are a couple of us here. we want to make sure the senate as well represented. we care deeply about what is going on with the veterans and the issue of the veterans community not only in the nation -- in our state, for example. i also want to make a note of national commander jimmy foster. thank you for traveling all the way from alaska to be here. you new york -- somebody from hawaii gets a special award for traveling the distance.
mr. chairman, thank you for, once again, having this joint meeting. it is always important for us in washington to hear from you, how we are doing, what job improvements do we need regarding the veterans. and i know i have talked about active military, to -- i know you have lots of ideas and that arena. do not hesitate. this summer congress passed a pretty significant piece of legislation to honoring the veterans, the caring for cap lejeune act in 2012, which helped improve many friends. specially adapted housing for veterans, improving the va ability to end homelessness, providing health care for veterans. family members exposed to toxic drinking water at camp lejeune. removing several inefficiencies and claims process. but we all know more can be done. regards to moving the claims forward and expanding critical
health care for our veterans. and a special thank you to the v.a.. i know we are always trying to will them accountable and we are doing a good job at times, and sometimes we have to push a little extra. one thing they did four rual alaska veterans which was critical -- rural alaska veterans. the va and indian health services had and a historic act of cooperation, ensuring that veterans who are in rural alaska -- in some cases 80% of the communities are not accessible by road so they cannot get into the van to go to the clinic because there is no van to take a to a clinic because there is no road. the have to fly and it could be 1000 more dollars. the va out in rural alaska -- making sure veterans the matter where they live in any part of alaska, they will get access to
quality health care and that is a huge step for our thousands of veterans in alaska. thank you for your organization, and i think the va for being a little more innovative in their efforts. i would just listen to the continued testimony. >> i would also like to recognize my friend from arkansas, senator boozman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it is really good to be with you, and congressman michaud. many of you know i served in the house for a number of years and served with these guys for a long time. there is nobody who puts veterans first in regard -- you guys do a great job. not only you but also a pleasure to look a stance on both sides. this is kind of a unique fraternity, serving in the veterans affairs committee and house and senate.
this is an area where we've really working get along and do things in it a partisan matter. center baggage, it is great to be with you. -- senator begich is a new friend. he and i have worked on a number of bills bill -- dealing with women's issues, the assistance program, and things like that. congratulations and thank you for being here, cmdr. we appreciate you sell much and your testimony was great. i also want to thank peggy for all she has done. we know who really does the work amongst the group. i have a wife and three daughters, so i am very aware of that. but we do appreciate all that you do. and also, i thought it was so nice mentioning your wife, your partner and friend. my dad did 20 years in the air force. i think -- it is so representative that when you are in the military, it is not just
an individual thing. it takes the whole family. and so, we appreciate your being here and representing that also. i want to recognize our folks from arkansas and the state commander mary irvin is here. thank you for being here. and steve do we appreciate you also much and all you do to work so hard for veterans and the state of arkansas. certainly this is a very critical time for our nation's veterans and it is so important that the legion, so important you are here. don't ever underestimate how important it is here. telling your congressman and senators, your staffs, which is sometimes even more important, telling the stance how important things are as we move forward. i know all americans are very
concerned about employment security but veterans in particular are struggling with a meaningful employment in careers. this is certainly a very difficult economy. you mentioned, commander, the vow to hire heroes act and veterans jobs at -- certainly these are steps in the right direction. again, everyone deserves credit in a very bipartisan way in moving forward. but there are still a number of things we can do and will do in that area. on the other hand, we have to be careful. certainly we want to do these efforts. we cannot do those by mortgaging the features of our children and grandchildren by borrowing money from people like china. so, we owe this again from the veterans and a sense of their honor and sacrifice. but we can do that. we can do a gun and we will get it done. the failure of the joint deficit
committee has left us with the looming arbitrary cuts, mention from both here and down there. i am pleased that the house recently passed a bill that said, no, these impending cuts will not affect military families. certainly it is all of our position. we would like for the administration to clarify better that it is cents in concrete. so, again, certainly, as you said, commander, we must make it perfectly clear that under no circumstances we will balance the budget and solve fiscal problems on the backs of our men and women in uniform. and veterans. [applause] i thought you all were napping. the good news is it we are all
on board. thank you for your efforts on suicide prevention. it is something we are working on very hard. in regard to that -- the other thing i am concerned about is military voting. that is something, if anybody has got a right to vote, it is the men and women serving overseas. and a bipartisan way we are working to ensure it is not going to be a problem. we appreciate your efforts also in doing likewise. thank you for being here. ahead, mr. chairman. i know we have questions for the panel. >> we appreciate your comments. again, because with two house members and two senators and we made this mess with the typical five minute question period. i will probably ask the question and then turn to mr. michaud or
senator begich so we could have a little more free flow of discussion that we normally would in a process like this. i do want to draw attention to the fact that you congratulated or thanks to the u.s. chamber of commerce for the job fairs they are holding around the country. i had the opportunity a week ago tuesday to be in west palm beach to be with allen west attending a job fair and function, and they have been all over this country. for some reason, they have not been to my district yet. we will see of we can fix that. but your organization and there's has been working collaboratively. and we know that because the unemployment rate is so high among our returning veterans that something has to be done. we see a lot of corporations around the country and small businesses as well joining together to make sure we can use the talents that our military
men and women have when they come home and transition back to civilian life. and that is something that, again, you have helped us get the word out to many of the state's' governors around the country is, that the jobs they had in the military certainly should transition well into the private sector. i've said it many times -- i have a good friend who is a home builder. he said, give me somebody who has been in the military that knows how important it is to show what for work every day on time, as good critical skills and decision making skills and i can teach him how to build a house. but bring me somebody who knows how to build a house to his absence of the skills, it is difficult to me to be successful -- >> can i just add -- >> no. >> very shortly. the chairman was talking about
these job skills. last night i got up at 5:00. i had a 6:00 flight so i was at the airport at 5:00 i was up at 4:00, but before that i was riding with a little rock police department different areas just try to get a feel how we could be helpful. but one of the things i mentioned was how desperately they need placement, and how much they liked returning servicemen and women, the great job they do. one of the things they mentioned was the training process -- it takes a long time. and it just goes to what we talked about, getting certificates in the military so the military policeman, once he completes his training, is given a certificate. they can take certificates from other training states and things like that, but they did not have the ability to do in there. it just highlights what you are talking about, how we can do some of these things again to
very quickly put men and women in the work force. >> very true. because it is also a process of putting it together. the folks looking for people who went to work and getting the people want to work -- that is where military.com and monster and a lot of other organizations have done a great job. although, the job is yet to be finished. but they are helping to but the folks together. but i want to hone in on the claims back wall, because obviously that is a huge issue that is out there that everybody in this room is concerned about. congress is concerned about it. the department of veterans affairs is concerned about it. but it does not seem to be getting any better. secretary shinseki said several times -- you quoted it -- by 2015, within 125 days the idea was that everybody would have
their claims adjudicated at 100%. not -- it is not happening. and we had a hearing a couple of weeks ago where we kind of took a status check with the va -- where are you? the focus was more on what the overturning out, which is exactly what you talked about. and that is important. a million claims being adjudicated. but the backlog is growing. you and keeping up with the backlog it will certainly not assist in fixing the problem. again, i would like to hear from you, if you would, your perspective on what are the things that can be done, what can congress do legislatively if you will to assist the problem? we all talk about the electronica medical record but that is years away from being able to truly have the seamless transition. we are moving in that direction but we got folks today who are waiting one, two years in order to have their claims
adjudicated. we put dollars forward, we put bodies forward, it does not seem to fix the issue. i would like to hear what you think. >> mr. chairman, i think one of the things we can do is do more hiring of the adjudicator is, do more hiring of processors. as you probably know, a lot of these claims are coming back -- they are not completed. they need to be fully developed claims. i believe like any other business, and if you are in a backlog, the only way to get it taken care of is hiring more people. i understand in the va -- being a former -- still commissioner of the indiana partner of veterans affairs it takes time to train.
to train an adjudicator or claims processor. that will take time. but maybe we can -- i did not know how much overtime there working, if they are working overtime. but i think they've got to do these claims more accurately. because when they come back, the first thing we see our mistake, then the claim goes right back. and we are starting right do all over began -- again from step 1. the biggest thing, given the accuracy -- the secretary was 98% accuracy. if we get to that number i think you'll see the back wall claim be reduced. >> do you know the percentage of claims your service officers put together are adjudicated complete? they may not necessarily get the rating there are asking for but the percentage of packages that are completed?
>> i do not know what -- peter gaytan will probably have something for you. >> the american legion take very seriously the quality of our work and the training of the service officers. twice a year we put our service officers through rigorous training to ensure they have the qualifications, knowledge, and skills not only to produce quality fully developed claims we submit to the va but also to help reduce the backlog. because it is going to be a team effort to do that. we are going to have to have come as the commander had, qualified will train service officers to do the work. your specific question of the number of the american legion adjudicates -- i would like to refer to director of jones in that area. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we received a report from the va last week and i can tell you the number of claims. the american legion handles
244,000 claims a heavily -- that is the number this year -- 244,000. i am not sure of the exact percentage but the number is 21 44,000 for the american legion nationally. >> if you would, just of the record, fifth of you can let us know just the percentage. i am trying to get a handle on how many claims are being done by the veteran themselves. obviously using a veteran service officer. the assumption from my standpoint is it would be better to go through a service officer in order to file your claim. but i am interested for no other reason than i think folks up here would like to hear. mr. michaud, do you have a question? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i also like to thank senator boozman for his kind and generous remarks and glad to see you have not forgotten where you came from -- willing to come back here to the house side.
i really enjoyed working with you and to continue working with you. once again, i would like to thank you for coming here today to put forward your ideas on what the american legion would like to see congress do, and some concerns you currently have out there. the american legion is a strong advocate for our veterans, and for all of those who have served. that is known throughout the halls of congress. i want to take this opportunity, however, today to discuss an issue that is really important to our troops and for our country. we all remember the outrage in this summer when it was discovered that our olympic athletes were wearing uniforms made in china. i think we should be as equally outraged about the fact that our troops are not wearing 100% american-made uniforms.
our soldiers put their lives on the line for us. they should fight in uniforms they can trust. uniforms made in the usa. next week i will be going to a funeral for a soldier who died over in afghanistan in may. when you talk about the uniforms made in the u.s.a., i read an article -- and i left you a copy. i know you did not have a chance to read yet. but i am not the only person upset with what is happening to the military today. i was reading an article in the air force times where it says master sergeant says no to chinese-made boots. he was issued a pair of chinese it-made boots. he made a stink about it and he ultimately did get american-made boots. he was sent to afghanistan and
over and afghanistan he was given a uniform, army operation and during freedom camouflage uniform. he asked for a pair of required boots, the tan boots. does what? he was issued a pair of chinese- made votes once again. -- boots once again. in the article, you will see at the end -- the master sergeant said, and i quote -- "this is about patriotism. this is about following the very eminent set forth over 60 years ago. this is about american soldiers wearing our country's uniforms made by americans." and i couldn't agree with more with the master sgt. at a time our nation is divided and the discourse in washington, d.c., is extremely negative. d.c., is extremely negative.