Chairman Akaka Calls for Action on Caregivers and Veterans' Health Care Legislation

Chairman Akaka watches as President Obama signs into law his Advanced Funding Bill for Veterans

Chairman Akaka speaks at a Rally for the New GI Bill

Back in Hawaii the Chairman takes in a Hearing

Committee Information
Chairman Daniel Akaka
Daniel K Akaka, HI
Ranking Member Richard Burr
Ranking Member
Richard Burr, NC

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held an oversight hearing today on the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES).  This evaluation system, recently tested as a pilot program, is a collaborative effort between VA and DoD to streamline the process by which servicemembers are evaluated for disabilities by both departments.

"Both departments must ensure that each new location has what it needs to effectively operate the Integrated Disability Evaluation System before it is expanded," said Chairman Akaka.  "The rush to move forward quickly should not come before our goal to provide a quality process to servicemembers.

"If broadened before it is ready, the new process could negatively impact servicemembers and veterans.  I am optimistic that an effectively implemented program will improve the transition from active duty to civilian life for warriors disabled during their service to the nation."

Currently, wounded servicemembers who are discharged after receiving their disability rating from the military must go through the process again to receive a new rating from VA.  The program, if implemented effectively, would eliminate this duplication. 

At the core of IDES is a joint disability medical examination that can be used for the existing DoD Medical Evaluation Board/ Physical Evaluation Board process and VA disability compensation process.  The hearing examined the problems that have surfaced over the course of the pilot program and VA and DoD’s plans to expand the program worldwide. 

John R. Campbell from the Department of Defense, Daniel Bertoni from the Government Accountability Office, and John Medve from the Department of Veterans Affairs provided testimony for this hearing.

Chairman Akaka and the other members of the committee posed a number of questions regarding issues encountered during oversight visits in the pilot phase of the program, including shortages of staff to perform disability medical evaluations, program funding, and program participants’ satisfaction.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: LINK.



Many of the calls and emails received by the Committee are questions about the VA Benefits Claims Process or requests for help in resolving a claim.


If you are seeking help in resolving a specific problem with VA, we recommend that you contact one of the Senators from your home state.  Each Senator employs trained professionals who specialize in assisting constituents with federal processes such as VA and Social Security applications. 

If you are from  Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,  or West Virginia, then one of your Senators is on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  Please Click Here for our membership list, and contact your home state Senator.  Members of this Committee have staff who focus specifically on veterans’ issues.

If you are not from one of the states listed above,  please click on: My United States Senator.  

 Requests for assistance received by the Committee will be forwarded to the attention of your home-state Senator. 


Am I eligible for VA service-connected disability compensation?

If you served on active duty in the Armed Forces (including being deployed while serving in the National Guard or Reserve), were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, and believe that you developed a disability or aggravated a preexisting disability, during or as a result of military service, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation.  In some circumstances, veterans of the National Guard or Reserve whose disabilities are related to military training may also qualify. 
In addition, veterans who have a service-connected disability that led to an additional disability may receive compensation for that disability.  Veterans who have a non-service connected disability which is aggravated by a service-connected disability may also qualify for compensation.  Veterans who are disabled as a consequence of receiving care at a VA hospital or during vocational rehabilitation may also qualify for compensation. 
There is no time limit for filing an application for disability benefits, but waiting may make the claim harder to prove since records could be lost or destroyed.  Benefits are not retroactive, so an application should be filed as soon as there is evidence of a disability.

How do I apply for service-connected disability compensation?

Download VA Form 21-526, Veteran’s Application for Compensation and/or Pension, or access the web-based application at the Veterans ON-line Application (VONAPP) website.   This document can be printed out and mailed to the appropriate VA Regional Office or submitted online via VONAPP.

Fill out this form in FULL.  List ALL disabilities for which you are claiming service-connection, including all information you have on treatment dates and locations.  Include any information concerning environmental exposures, combat or activities that you believe are related to the disabilities being claimed.  If a section is not applicable, mark “N/A”, rather than leaving it blank.

You may also send a letter to VA stating that you wish to apply for service-connected compensation benefits.  You will need to complete the application within one year from the date of your letter in order for such a letter to be treated as the original date of your application.

Can I get help with my application?

Many veterans service organizations are accredited by VA to assist with applications for benefits (a full list is available by Clicking Here.) In some locales, county and state veterans service officers provide free help with VA claims.  You can call 1-800-827-1000 and ask what service officers are available in your area.  You may not pay an attorney for services relating to the filing of your original claim.

What should I submit with my application?

• Service medical records and all other medical records relevant to the disability you are claiming.  VA will try to get these records if you do not have them, but it saves time if you gather them yourself.  When gathering your medical records, it is important to remember that there are three basic requirements for proving that a condition is service-connected:
1. You must have a current disability or symptoms of a disability.
2. There must be evidence of a disability in service or of an incident or event during military service which could relate to the current, claimed disability.
3. There must be medical evidence of a link (sometimes called a “nexus”) between the in-service disability or the incident or event and your current disability.
• Information about your family.  If you have a spouse or other dependents, complete all information on the form including Social Security numbers, dates and location of birth, marriage, divorce or death of previous spouses, and court records of adoption.

• Proof of disability for an adult child who became disabled during childhood.

• DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other separation papers

If you do not have a copy of your DD Form 214, you may submit Standard Form 180 (SF 180), Request Pertaining to Military Records, to

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
Fax: (314) 801-9195
Online: National Archives’ eVetRecs website.

Where do I send my application?

Photocopy the complete application, including DD Form 214, completed VA Form 21-256, and all supporting materials and KEEP A COPY for your records.  If you do not submit the application on line, mail the application and all supporting materials to your nearest VA regional office.  Be sure to put your file number or Social Security number on all documents you submit in person or by mail.  You can find the mailing address in the telephone book or by Clicking Here. 

What happens next?

After VA receives and reviews your application, it will send you a letter stating what, if any, additional evidence is needed to support your claim, what part of that additional evidence you are responsible for getting, and how VA will help with gathering material.  You will receive a decision on your claim after VA obtains all the information and evidence.

Additional information on the claims adjudication process may be obtained by Clicking Here. 

What do I do if I do not agree with VA’s decision?

You can file a “Notice of Disagreement” in writing with VA.  This notice must be received by VA within one year of the mailing of the decision being appealed.  If you do not appeal within that time period, you will be required to submit “new and material” evidence to reopen your claim. 

If you do not appeal within one year and new and material evidence is received after the one year period, your benefits will only be paid from the date of the reopened claim. You may also pay an attorney or work with the veteran service organization of your choice in preparing your appeal.  VA’s pamphlet concerning appeals may be found by Clicking Here.


The above information is general information provided for overall guidance only.
It is not intended to constitute legal advice for a particular veteran and should not be relied upon for that purpose, as individual circumstances may affect rights and procedures in individual cases.  For additional guidance, please consult your regional VA office, a veterans’
service organization, or an attorney specializing in veterans’ benefits issues,
who may be able to help advise you on your particular situation.



Russell Building Room 418







Individuals who are planning to attend a Committee hearing or meeting and require an auxiliary aid or service should contact the Committee at 202-224-9126.  So as to best enable staff to make arrangements, please call at least 3 business days in advance.


  • Among other things, staff can arrange for ASL interpreters, convert hearing testimony to Braille, and reserve seating for individuals who have service animals. 


  • The Committee’s hearing room in Russell 418 has a hearing induction loop installed to assist visitors with hearing aids; and also individual wireless hearing amplifiers are available from any Committee staff member.


  • The Committee routinely leaves space open at hearings to accommodate individuals in wheelchairs.


The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs holds most of its hearings in the Russell Building in room 418.  However, we occasionally schedule hearings in public hearing rooms in the Hart and Dirksen Buildings.


There is no parking available to the public on the Capitol grounds.  The best drop-off location for Russell Building access is the corner of Constitution and Delaware Avenues, NE.   The closest Metro stop is Union Station.


There are metal detectors at each entrance so be prepared to empty your pockets of electronic devices, change, keys and all other items that cause concern at metal detectors.  There is also the option of being “wanded” manually rather than going through the metal detector at the door.


All of the public hearing rooms in the Senate are wheelchair accessible.  Please see the information on the following pages to assist you in finding the wheelchair accessible entrance(s) to the Russell, Dirksen, and Hart Buildings.


**In case of an emergency requiring you to evacuate during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, the Committee staff has been trained to assist, and will help you reach the designated evacuation site.





The Russell Building


  • The wheelchair accessible entrance to the Russell building is on Delaware Avenue, NE.  It is to the left of the staircase that is at the corner of Constitution and Delaware Avenues, NE. 


  • The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is located in room 412 on the Constitution Avenue side of the building.  After entering Russell through the wheelchair accessible entrance, proceed to the fourth floor using the elevator bank to your right.  Upon exiting the elevator, proceed to the right.



  • In the event of an emergency evacuation while you are in the Russell Building, proceed to Russell Freight Elevator 16 which is on the C Street side of the building.  The freight elevator has been designated as the primary evacuation site for employees and visitors with mobility impairments.  This elevator is marked with a blue sign that says “Primary Staging Area”.  The Capitol Police will operate the elevator and assist with the evacuation.  The likely instruction will be to take the elevator to the basement, and proceed through the Russell loading dock, exiting near the corner of First and C streets.






The Dirksen Building


  • There is one wheelchair accessible entrance to the Dirksen building on C Street, NE, near the corner of First Street.  It is very close to the entrance to SDG-50, the Dirksen Auditorium. 
  • If you are attending a hearing in Dirksen 106, the closest wheelchair accessible entrance is in Hart, at Constitution and 2nd Street.



  • In the event of an emergency evacuation while you are in the Dirksen Building, proceed back to the C Street side of the building.  The freight elevator # 2 has been designated as the primary evacuation site.  This elevator is marked with blue signs that say “Primary Staging Area”.  Take the elevator to the Ground Floor and exit the building on C Street.  The Capitol Police will check these areas and provide assistance.






The Hart Building


  • There are two wheelchair accessible entrances to the Hart building:


    1. Constitution Avenue, near the corner of Second Street, NE

This entrance is the closest wheelchair accessible entrance to the hearing room in106 Dirksen. 



    1. Second Street, NE,  in what is called “the Hart Horseshoe”

Once you have entered the Hart Building through either wheelchair accessible entrance, proceed toward the large sculpture in the center of the Hart atrium.  There are elevator banks located at either side of the sculpture. This entrance is closest to the hearing room in Hart 216.


  • In the event of an emergency evacuation while you are in the Hart Building, please proceed to the C Street side of the building.  Freight elevator #14 has been designated as the “Primary Staging Area”.  The Capitol Police will check these areas and provide assistance.



Updated February 2010

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