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Opening Statement of The Honorable Corrine Brown

Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member:

On January 16, 2003, in response to an increase in veterans requesting benefits from the VA, the Bush Administration limited the number of veterans who could access the services they earned through their sacrifices.

On June 15, 2009, Secretary Shinseki reversed this order and because of that decision, millions more veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system.

The Secretary also created numerous presumptions regarding the illnesses Vietnam veterans are suffering. In addition, veterans who suffer from PTSD and TBI were given access to the VA system. This was the right thing to do, even though it also added millions of veterans to the system.

Mr. Chairman, I am surprised at the direction this committee has taken.  The news reports correctly say this is only the second subpoena of the VA in its history.  What they don’t say is that both have been prompted by the current chairman.

And today the Chairman called for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki after saying for weeks that he wanted to wait for the Inspector General’s complete report to be released. We should keep in mind that the interim report states that “despite the number of allegations, each individual allegation is nothing more than an allegation.”

It is incumbent upon us to wait for the evidence before passing judgment. Attacking the people doing this work is not conducive to serving our veterans.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I had the honor to talk to many veterans about the care they are receiving. In Clay, Alachua and Seminole counties; and the cities of Jacksonville and Orlando, I talked to those veterans who have a vested interest in how the VA functions and I didn’t talk to one person who was upset by their care.

As the President said recently, those “who have been fighting on the battlefield… should not have to fight a bureaucracy at home to get the care that they’ve earned.”  I agree and am pleased the VA has brought down the claims backlog by almost half, and is well on its way to being eliminated by the stated goal of 2015.

The VA provides quality and timely healthcare to our veterans. We have a duty to make sure that all those who have defended this country when called upon receive the care they have earned through their service.  I support the Secretary in his nation-wide access review and look forward to hearing his report when it is finished.