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Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Ranking Democratic Member, Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Good afternoon!  Welcome to Capitol Hill, Commander Samuels and thank you for your service.  I and the other members of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees, certainly look forward to hearing the legislative priorities of the Disabled American Veterans for 2013.

I want to welcome those of you in the audience who are here from California.  It’s great to see you all and we all thank you for your selfless service.  It is truly appreciated. 

Commander, I would like to begin my remarks by extending my compliments to

your DAV Washington staff.  You should be proud of the continued professionalism and advocacy that they convey to this Committee on very important issues that are critical to veterans, veterans’ families and the community as a whole.  I would also add that this Committee continues to look to the Independent Budget for solid information concerning all veterans’ issues and I want you to know that we recognize your staffs’ hard work and dedication to this key document. 

As you know, a few weeks ago the Obama Administration released their VA budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 and the Advance Appropriations request for 2014.  In discretionary funding VA requested a 4.5 percent increase, and a 16.2 percent increase in mandatory funding, for an overall budget increase of 10.5 percent in 2013.  The majority of these discretionary funds have already been provided through advance appropriations. 

Rest assured that both the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees are thoroughly reviewing this request for veterans’ funding and will work with the President to ensure we continue to provide adequate, timely and predictable funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My support of the President’s and Secretary Shinseki’s efforts to transform the VA into a 21st Century agency remains steadfast.  I have committed to Secretary Shinseki that I will work with my colleagues to ensure he gets the funding that he has requested.

However, I too have reservations about some of the projected savings and share your organizations’ concern of “budget gimmickry”. 

Commander Samuels, I want you to know that this Committee will fight to protect VA’s funding from any cuts that may be proposed.  I am sure you will agree with me that our veterans deserve no less.

During the recent budget hearing we heard from the Disabled American Veterans about the Veterans’ Benefits Administration’s ongoing struggle to transform its claims-processing system into a modern, paperless based system. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue and other legislative priorities of the DAV.