Steve Rogers

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Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Video: Lawmakers Say Veterans Benefits Safe, No Mood for BRAC

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) — One of the nation’s top veterans affairs lawmakers says military men and women won’t face extensive cuts in their benefits in the future.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller fielded questions today from veterans, spouses and active duty personnel at Mississippi State University.

Mississippi Congressmen Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper put together the meeting.

While fielding concerns, Nunnelee, Harper and Miller stressed that veterans benefits weren’t an entitlement but a benefit military men and women had earned. And they said those benefits must remain stable if the nation is to continue to attract people to the military.

Miller, a Florida Republican, says the $150 billion the nation spends on veterans health care, education, housing and other expenses have been and will be off limits to the budget ax.

“It’s the one budget that is relatively safe when it comes to the budget ax in Washington. Unfortunately, we have wielded that ax too much on the Department of Defense and it’s important that we go back to building up our defense and our capabilities,” Miller stated.

Miller also said he also didn’t think Congress would approve another round of base closures in 2017.

Miller says base closures may generate savings over 30 years but in many cases cost money in the short run and often have major negative impacts on the communities where the bases are located.

Miller was at Mississippi State Wednesday and said the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act does not include another round of base closures in 2017 as recommended by the Secretary of Defense.

“I don’t see an appetite on Capitol Hill, in the House or the Senate, to go through with a BRAC. The unfortunate thing is it costs money to close a base,” he saidColumbus and Lowndes County officials have cautiously been watching Washington for indications of a closure movement that could threaten the future of Columbus Air Force Base and its 3 thousand jobs.

MISSISSIPPI STATE PRESS RELEASE

STARKVILLE, Miss.–Current and former military service members from around the area were given the opportunity Wednesday [May 14] to share concerns with three visiting congressmen.

During a special morning meeting at Mississippi State University, U.S. Representative Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, addressed an audience at the Colvard Student Union. Also making remarks were U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper of Mississippi.

Those in attendance included veterans and active duty, National Guard and reserve members, as well as interested members of the general public.

Miller, a Pensacola resident, has represented the Sunshine State’s 1st District since 2001.

Addressing numerous national news reports of major deficiencies in health care services available to former military members, Miller acknowledged that all veterans have not been given access to the care they deserve.

He added, however, that “I think what we’ve got right now within the Department of Veteran Affairs is a laser focus on a lack of accountability and a lack of transparency within the system.

“It is a moral obligation of ours to keep our promise: When you put on that uniform, we will take care of you,” added the congressman whose district is home to numerous major military facilities.

In addition to thanking military men and women in attendance for their service, Miller praised Mississippi State for its institutional role in serving needs of veterans.

“You truly understand the importance of taking care of veterans long after they have hung up their uniform for the last time or who may still be serving in the Guard, Reserves, or active duty and may be coming through and taking classes,” he said of the university.

Nunnelee, an MSU alumnus, agreed. “It’s very fitting that we have a meeting like this on the campus of Mississippi State, a university that has been recognized as one of the most veteran-friendly campuses in America.”

The Tupelo native praised the university’s administration for its commitment to “provide an academic-friendly environment in which men and women serving their country can come home and get the higher education they’re looking for.”

Nunnelee said the meeting also provided an opportunity to honor the legacy of “Mr. Veteran himself.” He was referring to late fellow alumnus and former longtime U.S. Congressman G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery of Meridian, who became a nationally acknowledged leader in veterans support during a long Capitol Hill career.

“Sonny reminded all of us: You took an oath to serve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and along the way, the government made a commitment back to you and your families,” Nunnelee said. “You have kept your commitment, and it is up to our nation to keep ours.”

Nunnelee said it is “vital that the men and women who wore the uniform of the United States receive their benefits and they have confident leadership to deliver those benefits,” adding “You could not have a better person here defending that commitment than Jeff Miller.”

Congressman Harper agreed that accountability is key to solving current challenges facing the U.S. Veterans Administration.

“If there’s an issue or problem, we want to know about it because we want to see to it that you get the best care and that we do it in the way it’s supposed to be done,” Harper said. “I want you to know we’re here to help in any way we can.”