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Opening Statement of By Hon. John Boozman, Ranking Republican Member, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Good afternoon and thanks to each of our witnesses for taking time to be here today.  Budget season is always a busy time around here but the sometimes hectic schedule serves a good purpose, and that is a more thorough understanding of the President’s budget for the next fiscal year.

Before I begin my remarks, at our final subcommittee hearing of the 109th Congress, I mentioned the possibility that Ms. Herseth and I would be changing roles on the subcommittee.  And darned if that didn’t happen.  So Stephanie, congratulations on assuming the chair and as I stated in November, I will give you the same bipartisan support you so graciously gave to me.  I am confident we will have another productive session with you at the helm.

As a general rule, the President sent us a good VA budget.  Not perfect, but good and both sides of the aisle have presented our views and estimates to the Budget Committee.  Now it is up to them to pass a Budget Resolution that works.

I believe that we were in agreement with the majority when it came to suggesting 1,000 additional FTE for VBA.  We also suggested additional funding for IT programs and the need to conduct significant business process reform because just piling more FTE every year will not solve the structural issues preventing rapid processing of claims of all types.

The challenge is before VA and VETS to make programs work.  It is clear that the people expect not just programs, but ones that actually deliver the goods to the beneficiaries.  We need to get the processing times down for both VR&E and education.  Last session, we mandated a report on streamlining education processing and I hope the Department will send us a legislative proposal to change the way they do business if that is required.

The Veterans Employment and Training Service still lacks sufficient data in many areas and I look forward to Mr. Cicollela’s testimony on how they propose to do better in that area.  One thing I am very disappointed in is the flat budget recommendation for the National Veterans Training Institute in Denver.  As you know, PL 109-461 imposed new training requirements for DVOPS and LVERs and when the staff visited NVTI last year, they were told that NVTI would probably need an additional $1 million to meet the additional throughput, so you might want to address that shortfall here today.

Madam Chairwoman, congratulations once again and I yield back.