Top Ten Questions for General Shinseki

For Immediate Release
January 13, 2008
Contact: Michael Houston, IAVA, or 212-982-9699

Confirmation Hearings for General Shinseki, IAVA Releases Top Ten Questions for VA Secretary Nominee Veterans Make Sure the Tough Questions Are Being Asked

NEW YORK – Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country’s first and largest nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, put forward 10 critical questions to be asked of VA Secretary nominee, General Eric Shinseki during his Senate confirmation hearing.

“The new Secretary of the VA will be leading an urgent and critical fight to improve support for this country’s veterans. Currently, one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing serious mental health injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression. Wounded veterans are waiting months, sometimes years, to receive disability benefits. And, the struggling U.S. economy is hitting new veterans especially hard,” said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. “As a wounded, decorated, combat veteran, and the first Asian American in US history to be a four-star general, General Shinseki, has the potential to be an effective and dedicated advocate for veterans of all generations. But nobody gets a free pass. The Senate must ensure that General Shinseki is the right person for the job. He must demonstrate a thorough understanding of the issues and the unique vision necessary to lead the second largest bureaucracy in the US government.”

IAVA has outlined the following 10 critical questions the Senate committee must ask General Shinseki to thoroughly assess his stance on the key issues facing new veterans.

  1. THE GI BILL: The New GI Bill, the biggest increase in veterans’ education spending since World War Two, is scheduled to take effect on August 1 of this year. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are waiting for this important benefit. How will you ensure that these new benefits are delivered on time?
  2. THE VA BUDGET: Do you support advance appropriations for VA health care budgets? If so, how will you ensure that the VA is projecting their budget accurately? What is your strategy for coping with the economic downturn, which will likely push more veterans into VA health care?
  3. THE PASSIVE VA SYSTEM: Over the past year, the VA has taken some initial steps to reach out to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. But the VA is still a passive system, and millions of veterans are missing out on VA benefits and programs for which they are qualified. What is your strategy to advertise VA services and to educate veterans about the benefits available to them through the VA? What is your plan to reach out to underserved veterans, including rural veterans and female veterans? How do you plan on using new technology to bring VA outreach into the 21st century?
  4. MENTAL HEALTH CARE: Do you believe the Vet Center program should be expanded to provide care to active duty troops and their families?
  5. TBI: Considering that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, how will the VA work with the Department of Defense to develop effective screening tools and treatment techniques to assist TBI afflicted veterans?
  6. DISABILITY BENEFITS: Many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans return from combat with severe disabilities. But the VA ratings process is outdated and has not evolved with modern technology or the new kinds of injuries troops are facing in combat – particularly psychological and neurological injuries. How do you plan to modernize the VA benefits system? How do you plan to tackle the massive backlog in disability claims?
  7. VA STAFFING: Over the past few years, the VA has hired hundreds of new claims processors and thousands of new mental health professionals. How will you ensure that these employees are properly trained and integrated into the VA system?
  8. SEAMLESS TRANSITION: How are you going to improve coordination between the DOD and the VA, in terms of providing care and benefits to wounded troops, and lessening the paperwork burden they face?
  9. VA PROPERTY: The VA has a tremendous amount of property that is not effectively utilized. Do you believe a review of these underutilized facilities, should be conducted to find alternative uses for these properties – such as providing housing for veterans?
  10. VA CULTURE: Over the past 8 years, the VA has developed a track record and culture of downplaying potentially embarrassing internal issues – from budget shortfalls to inaccurate suicide data -- at the expense of the veterans they are supposed to be serving. How will you as Secretary build a culture within the VA that focuses on providing for veterans’ needs, instead of avoiding public relations problems? What is your vision for the overhaul of the VA’s bureaucratic culture?
Tune in to to watch an IAVA Veteran live blogging throughout the hearing to see what questions are being asked.

To arrange an interview with IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff, please contact Michael Houston at 212-982-9699 or

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the country's first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 125,000 veteran members and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country's newest generation of veterans and their families.