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Opening Statement of Hon. Ann Marie Buerkle, a Representative in Congress from the State of New York

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As a Freshman Member of this Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Health, I take very seriously my responsibility to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is adequately funded to provide our veterans with the benefits their service afforded them.

We are all aware of our country’s current economic crisis. We have a $14 trillion debt. We have an unemployment rate that is close to ten percent.  There is no doubt we have to take a critical look at how we spend our tax dollars and make tough choices.

However, laws providing for the care of our Nation’s veterans were some of the very first laws enacted by Congress because our Founding Fathers had the foresight to know that America’s veterans deserve the gratitude of a grateful nation and providing care and benefits for those who had proved so worthy would make our country stronger.

I hope that our hearing this morning will point the way toward close cooperation among all of us as advocates of our Nation’s veterans to respond to their evolving needs and those of their families.  That does not mean that there aren’t many areas where we can improve.  We can, we should, and we will conduct rigorous oversight to ensure the VA is being a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. 

 I want to thank the Secretary for his appearance before the Committee today and I thank you for your leadership. 

I also appreciate the Veterans Service Organization representatives for participating in our hearing today.  Your outlook on funding recommendations for veterans programs and input into the budget is of great value to me in this process.   

I look forward to today’s discussion and yield back my time.