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01-05-04, 12:53 PM
VA Secretary Visits Ft. Hood

FT. HOOD, Texas (Jan. 2, 2004) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J.
Principi began the New Year by visiting with families of deployed Fort Hood
soldiers today. During the visit, the secretary was linked by video
teleconference with deployed soldiers.

Principi talked with the soldiers and their family members about what the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is doing to support service members
stationed overseas and their families back home.

He said his visit "reinforces the importance of my mission to care for these
men and women when they come home, to ensure that they receive the benefits
that they've earned."

Principi, who called it an honor to meet with the men and women of the 4th
Infantry Division and their families, said Time magazine was right to name
the U.S. soldier as the "Person of the Year," but he said he would include
military families, too.

The VA secretary, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, has two sons on active
duty in the Air Force, both having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The VA secretary oversees the nation's second-largest cabinet department,
with a budget of nearly $60 billion and 230,000 employees.

One of VA's primary objectives is to work with the military to provide a
"seamless" transition into civilian life for military members leaving active
duty and their families. That means, among other goals, that pre-discharge
physicals given to service members meet VA's standards for documenting
service-related disabilities.

Among initiatives taken to ensure this level of service, VA has detailed
benefits counselors and social workers to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., both key
military hospitals where wounded service members are frequently sent.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Department of Veterans Affairs may
visit the VA Web site at http://www.va.gov/.