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Opening Statement of Hon. Jerry McNerney, Ranking Democratic Member

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

The purpose of today’s hearing will be to explore the policy implications of eight bills, ranging on issues as varied as the disability compensation COLA to the residency requirements of the judges of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The bill numbers are H.R. 2051, H.R.2377, H.R. 2498, H.R. 2717, H.R. 4114, H.R. 4142, H.R. 4168, and H.R. 4213.

I support several of these bills, especially the disability compensation COLA offered by you Mr. Chairman – I am glad to be a cosponsor of that bill, H.R. 4114. I also want to thank the chairman for his support of two bills that I introduced this morning that would extend the temporary residence adaptation grant as well as the VA work-study program.  

I am encouraged by the Veterans Day Moment of Silence measure offered by Mr. Frank of Massachusetts, and the American World War II City bill, offered by Mr. McIntyre of North Carolina.

I think that all of the bills before us today are worthy of consideration by this Subcommittee.

However, I have reservations with some of the measures because they are duplicative or unnecessary, and hopefully this hearing helps to address some of those issues.
 
The Veterans Missing in America Act, H.R. 2051, sponsored by Mr. Tiberi is a good and well-meaning measure.  This bill has support from some VSOs, but the VA has expressed some reservations, such as the unintended consequence of confusion and uncertainty in benefits it may create for veterans and non-veterans alike. I look forward to further delving into this issue.  

I also took note of the possible duplication and confusion concerns raised by the VA and the VSO witnesses regarding provisions of the RAPID Claims Act, H.R. 2377.  They noted that it might also thwart efforts already underway in a provision already enacted into law in P.L. 110-389, the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act. I hope that we will gain additional insight on these concerns today.

I look forward to hearing more about H.R. 4168, introduced by Congressman Guinta, which would direct the ABMC to maintain Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines.  I believe proper justification, including diplomatic inputs, is needed to decide this issue.  While we discussed this topic briefly at our last hearing on cemeteries, the ABMC implied that it had serious reservations with this directive.  I think we must all work together to properly honor and remember those individuals who are laid to rest at Clark Veterans Cemetery.

I’m looking forward to hearing more about the CAVC residency bill, H.R. 4213, also sponsored by you Mr. Chairman, which would require CAVC judges to live within 50 miles of Washington D.C.  I concur with the stakeholders that there are probably better requirements upon which to base qualification to or service on this Article I Court, especially given the advent of modern technological capabilities.  At the very least the distance limitation should be rethought.

I thank all the Members for their thoughtful legislation.  

And, I thank our other esteemed witnesses for joining us today and look forward to receiving their testimonies.

Thank you and I yield back.