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Opening Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

 

Chairman Filner, thank you for holding this hearing and inviting the Secretary to discuss the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I would like to thank all the groups here today to speak on the VA budget.  The groups that authored the Independent Budget: AMVETS, DAV, PVA and VFW; you have continued to serve your country with this budget.  Showing the inadequacies of veterans funding, whether Democrat or Republican, is important to the advancement of veterans rights.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming today to discuss this budget.  I do not agree with most of it, and there is much that I would change.

First, I would like to thank you for all the building that will be going on in my district.  I see there is money for the Orlando VA Medical Center and the Jacksonville cemetery.  And yesterday the announcement of a new vet center to be built in Gainesville.

Next, however, are the proposals that hurt individual veterans, the men and women who have served their country and have paid into THEIR system with their blood and sweat.

Every year you include drug co-pays and enrollment fees.  Every year, you do what you can to drive veterans out of the VA system.  By your own estimate, enrollment fees would drive out over 200,000 veterans from the health care system they built and deserve.  You still do not allow new Priority 8 veterans into the system.

Every year, the Congress, members of both the Republican and Democrat parties, reject co-pays and enrollment fees.

And this year, you are balancing the budget on the backs of veterans even more blatantly than ever.  The money raised with this tax on veterans’ health would go directly into the US Treasury.

How dare you use budget gimmicks and tricks to fund tax cuts for the wealthy?

I cannot believe you are cutting VA Medical and prosthetic research when ever more young men and women are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq without limbs.  We are doing remarkable things for these soldiers and to cut funding at this time says to current and future soldiers to not get hurt, because you will be on your own.

And what about information security?  Recently a portable computer hard drive, potentially containing personal information on veterans, was reported missing from a VA facility in Birmingham, AL.  We held hearing after hearing last year about the loss of veterans’ data, obviously to no effect.

Tell me Mr. Secretary, what is going on with the data security promises you gave last year?

Once again I am reminded of the words of the first President of the United States, George Washington:

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country."