The Veterans Coalition has created a commission that will tour the country to gather advice from veterans, state officials, labor and business leaders, and the public on "innovative, long-term strategies" to ensure improved medical care and other benefits for veterans of the Iraq war and other 21st century conflicts, the AP/Florida Times-Union reports. The Commission on the Future for America's Veterans plans to discuss issues including health care, benefits, transition from military to civilian life, catastrophic disabilities and the needs of National Guard members and reservists. The commission's tour first will stop in West Virginia, a state with one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation. Managing Commissioner Harry Walters said that, while the Department of Veterans Affairs currently provides high-quality, low-cost care, the department has "no vision for the future." He added, "This era of veterans has unique calls for medical services and benefits" because improved technology is allowing veterans to live longer with amputations, head trauma and other serious injuries. Walters said public-private partnerships regarding facilities and research could be part of the solution. Commission Executive Director David Sevier said the VA "budget won't allow for the incremental increases that will be needed over the next 20 years." Sevier said that rather than hiring additional claims processors to address the several hundred thousand benefit claims that are pending, a long-term strategy for providing benefits is needed. The commission said it plans to release its long-term plan by spring 2008 (Ramsey, AP/Florida Times-Union, 1/15).

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