By Frank Lewis
State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) has announced that the Senate has concurred in two resolutions he sponsored.
House Concurrent Resolution 21, joint sponsored by Johnson and Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina), urges the president, Department of Veterans Services, and Congress to take prompt action to reduce the processing time for veterans’ disability claims.
“For veterans who are in need of care, having to wait a year or more before receiving necessary treatment drastically hinders their ability to live happy, normal lives and prevents some from having jobs,” Johnson said. “A better solution is needed. We need a system that encourages veterans to make claims—not deter them. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable.”
Nationwide over the past year, average time for a decision on a veteran’s disability claim increased from 2 months to more than 260 days. As of April 13 of 2013, there were 852,000 claims awaiting a decision—69 percent of which had been waiting more than 125 days. The Department of Veterans Affairs also added some conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange during Vietnam, which reopened 260,000 previously closed cases which added to the backlog. From January 2009 to December 2012, the number of vets waiting more than a year increased 2,000 percent.
The other resolution (HCR 24) passed by the Senate and sponsored by Johnson urges the Department of Defense to do everything they can to rescue Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the United States’ only current prisoner of war. Bergdahl, originally from Idaho, was serving in the mountainous Paktika Province in the southeastern region of Afghanistan when he was taken captive on June 30, 2009 by members of the Haqqani network, a militant group allied with the Taliban. Since his capture, the Taliban has released multiple propaganda videos of Sergeant Bergdahl in captivity.
“A lot of people don’t even know we have a POW right now,” Johnson said. “I sponsored this resolution to raise awareness and to show his family that he is not forgotten—that we in Ohio are with them. We need to do everything we can to get this young man home to his family.”
While in Portsmouth on Memorial Day, State Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) said he had a heavy heart about a prisoner of war in Afghanistan.
“This is a very special time for us to remember, and here we are at the KIA-MIA here in Portsmouth, and most Americans don’t know that we have a prisoner of war in Afghanistan right now,” Johnson said. “His name is Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. He’s from Idaho, and he has been held prisoner by the Taliban or the Haqqani network in Pakistan we think since June of 2009. I have introduced a resolution on the floor of the House that we are going to bring attention to this matter.”
On Tuesday Johnson announced that the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 24. The resolution urges the federal government, particularly the Department of Defense, to do everything possible to rescue United States prisoner of war Sergeant Bowe Robert Bergdahl.
“It is distressing to know that so few people have been made aware of the fact that the United States of America has a soldier held captive by our enemies in the Global War on Terror,” Johnson told the Daily Times. “We owe it to this man, and to his family, to show that we recognize their pain, their great anguish, and their special sacrifice on our behalf. In the US military we have a creed that we will leave no man behind. That certainly must apply to Sgt. Bergdahl, as it would to any other service member who has not returned home from duty. My prayers go out for his safe and speedy return.”
A native of Hailey, Idaho, Sergeant Bergdahl was based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.