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Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Chairman, and a Representative in Congress from the State of California

Welcome to Capitol Hill Commander-in-Chief, Kurpius.  As you know, the Committee did not hold joint legislative hearings last year for the VSOs.  Reinstituting this very important hearing was one of the first things I did as Chairman.  We are certainly looking forward to hearing your organization’s legislative agenda for 2007.

Before we start, I would like to extend my complements to the VFW Washington staff and to tell you, Commander, what a pleasure it is to work with them. 

Commander Kurpius, as you know, the VA submitted a budget that calls for an increase for veterans’ medical care, somewhat of a departure from past submissions.  Our job as a Committee is to make sure that as we analyze this “landmark” budget request, as it is so often characterized, we are not led off course and lose our way.  

To their credit, the VA has requested an increase for VA medical care of $1.9 billion over the level provided for in the joint funding resolution.  The fiscal year 2008 request does, I believe, present us a framework from which we can begin to address the pressing needs of veterans.   

I would like to take a moment to recognize those in the audience who traveled here from California. 

  • Mr. John Fitzke of Citrus Heights, National District Council Member
  • Mr. John Wolfe of Sacramento, Department Commander
  • Mr. John Lowe of Sacramento, Department Adjutant/Quartermaster

Thank you all for coming – it is great to see you here today.

Commander Kurpius, I have read your statement and I look forward to hearing your views on:

  1. Health Care – particularly your focus on our retuning servicemembers from OEF/OIF.
  2. Solving the Claims Backlog
  3. A Seamless Transition into the VA system
  4. A 21st Century GI Bill
  5. Veterans Homelessness
  6. and, the protection and security of Veteran’s data in the VA system

I would, however, like to comment on a statement you made on page 7 of your testimony.  In talking about “Seamless Transition,” you said, and I concur: “…we need a system in place and cooperation between DoD and VA to ensure a smooth transition…”  You further went on to say that “…seamless transition is a problem that is talked about much, but one with little result.”  Commander Kurpius, I agree with you!  As you have asked, I pledge my efforts to ensuring that this Congress exercises its oversight authority over DoD and VA. 

We must get past fighting turf battles and show some true leadership on these issues.  The leadership our veterans deserve and America demands.

Commander, I look forward to hearing your thoughts, not only on the VA budget for fiscal year 2008, but also on the legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Before we hear from you, Mr. Commander, I will yield five minutes to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Akaka.  Mr. Chairman.