RICHARD A. SAPP, JR.
MILITARY SERVICES COORDINATOR
FORT DRUM, NY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
June 7, 2004
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) team at Fort Drum assists the Connecticut National Guard and other troops during the demobilization process.
The Buffalo Regional Office currently has three Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees assigned to the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program at Fort Drum. The goal of the Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program is to provide benefits and services to all separating servicemembers, assist in the application process, and complete the disability rating (for all benefit applications received) prior to or within close proximity to the actual separation date.
Servicemembers with more than 45 days remaining until separation are identified through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and given assistance in completing the VA Form 21-526 (Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension Benefits). The Fort Drum staff provide TAP briefings to over 200 servicemembers per month. In addition, we most recently are processing over 80 claims per month with an average processing time of 45 days.
One of Ft. Drum’s employees was recently moved to Landstuhl, Germany to assist servicemembers being discharged from there. This is a reflection of the expertise that the Buffalo Regional Office has developed in assisting servicemembers with the disability claims process.
During the next several months, separations within Fort Drum are expected to increase with a total of 1,233 demobilizations expected in May 2004, 2,245 demobilizations expected in June 2004, 649 demobilizations expected in July 2004 and 543 demobilizations expected in September 2004. The Fort Drum team’s responsibility is to provide information regarding VA benefits and services to all separating servicemembers and assist these servicemembers in obtaining benefits for which they are eligible prior to returning home.
In addition, we provide all separating servicemembers with information about medical care, disability claims processing, education benefits, the home loan guaranty program, the importance of obtaining a physical before discharge from active duty, and the importance of obtaining copies of associated documentation. We also provide general information regarding benefits available at the state and county level and the points of contact for these types of benefits. We make ourselves available to answer questions on an individual basis before the unit departs Fort Drum and returns to their home stations. To that end, an additional VBA staff member has been added at Fort Drum to ensure we are available to assist all returning servicemembers.
Mr. Chairman, we at Fort Drum take great pride in the services we provide for demobilizing soldiers. Showing that the VA is available to support them is essential for the serviceperson to make the transition into his/her civilian life and increases the likelihood of a successful adjustment. The service that we provide is an essential part of the transition process for that serviceperson and/or military unit. That concludes my formal remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions.