Shea-Porter For Congress - Shea-Porter Testifies on Bill to Protect Veterans' Families

Speaks before House Veterans Committee on Veterans Debt Elimination Act

Washington , DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter testified today before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

Shea-Porter spoke about original legislation she has introduced in the House, the Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act (H.R. 5155). The bill would remedy the current policy that requires the government to recover debts owed by the estates of soldiers killed in combat. The bill would explicitly prohibit the Secretary of the Veterans Administration from collecting those debts.

“There is something terribly wrong when the government seeks money from families whose loved ones have given their lives in service to our country. This is a moral issue and a simple matter of respect.”

Click here for the full text of the Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act. A transcript of the Congresswoman’s testimony follows.

Testimony to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act of 2008 (H.R. 5155)

Thank you Chairman Hall and Ranking Member Lamborn for taking up my bill, HR. 5155, the Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act. I am honored to testify before you today on behalf of our servicemembers and their families.

Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are on the front lines of this generation’s epic struggle. Our nation’s bravest have answered the call, and in towns and villages around the world, they are stepping into the breech to secure freedom, preserve liberty, and provide relief.

Mourning our fallen is a difficult and somber reminder that we are in a state of persistent conflict. For some families though, the mourning process has been interrupted by an unfortunate bureaucratic procedure. Under Title 38 of U.S. Code, the Veterans Administration is required to collect certain debts from the estates of servicemembers killed in combat. That procedure is wrong, and this bill is its best and only remedy.

These collections are uncommon, but they are also unacceptable and I believe an unintended consequence of a poorly drafted policy. This fix is simple, appropriate and necessary.

When our servicemembers give their last full measure of devotion, their sacrifice has no price tag. No debt is larger than the one we owe to our nation’s fallen heroes and their families.

The Combat Veterans Debt Elimination Act ends the Title 38 requirement, and today, we take the first step forward to make this right.

It is my firm belief that the VA and I agree on the intent of my legislation, and I expect they will share those views later in this hearing. While it is not yet a perfect bill, I am committed to working with the VA and with this Committee to ensure it provides the proper remedy to this problem without delay.

Our interests and goals here are the same. Together we can agree to right this wrong and prevent further attempts to collect these small, insignificant debts that amount to little more than a rounding error – roughly 50-cents to every $30 million spent by the Federal government – a mere pittance.

This country has made a promise to our servicemembers to honor their sacrifice and care for their families while they do the work of our nation. This Committee and this Congress have made tremendous steps toward fulfilling those promises. Today we continue that forward progress.

I thank you again for this opportunity to testify before the Committee.