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Opening Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida (STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD)

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

I would like to thank the groups here today to speak on the VA health budget.  The American Psychiatric Association, Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Mr. Under 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.

I look forward to hearing new information from you on the specific health budget.

However, why do you continue to put forward 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.

Last week the Secretary said there were 1.6 million Priority 8 veterans.  Also that it would cost $1.7 billion to include them in the system.  Isn’t that the point- to include all veterans in the VA health care 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?

No matter what the Secretary said last week, you are cutting VA Medical and prosthetic research. At a time when ever more young men and women are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq without limbs, we need to fund this. 

Thank god that more soldiers than ever are surviving their battlefield injuries.  Why does it seem to me you are doing all you can to push them out of the system.

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.

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."