Kansas' Moran to lead Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says his top issues as he prepares to become chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee are suicide prevention and ensuring that veterans get the care they deserve when suffering from cancer and other illnesses tied to toxic exposure.

The two-term Republican said he will be leaning on veterans to help set the committee's agenda when he replaces retired GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia in January as chairman of the Senate panel that oversees the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Moran has served on the committee since joining the Senate in 2011 and says most of the veterans-related legislation he’s worked on has originated with veterans in Kansas, The Kansas City Star reported.

“Somebody who calls the office, somebody who runs into me on the street, somebody who comes to one of my town hall meetings and they’ve got a story about something’s gone wrong in their lives and they need help. Or something’s gone wrong and they’ve been seeking help from the VA and they haven’t gotten the help that they need,” Moran said.

Moran said he’s sensitive to the perception from many veterans that it takes too long to process claims or provide care.

Eric Gang, a New York-based attorney who specializes in filing veteran appeals, said the agency takes a skeptical approach to claims as a check against fraud. But for veterans with cancer who can’t afford months or years of denials, “it’s devastating to them, they often don’t survive many times.”

Moran has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the committee’s top Democrat, aimed at reducing the suicide rate by increasing the number of VA psychiatrists and providing more assistance for the transition to civilian life.

“Now that I have this job I need to do more than just pay honor and respect,” Moran said. “This is also about making sure that the promises that were made are kept.”