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Opening Statement of Hon. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Republican Member,and a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for holding this hearing in response to my July 10 letter to you.  In that letter I asked that we also hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 3047, the Veterans Claims Processing Innovation Act of 2007, which is developing broad bipartisan support.

H.R. 3047 will bring VA’s compensation and pension system into the 21st century.  By increasing accountability and leveraging technology at the Veterans Benefits Administration, this bill would improve the accuracy and speed of benefits claims; and I commend it to the attention of my colleagues.

While I was disappointed that testimony on H.R. 3047 would not be heard today, I am heartened by your promise to hold another hearing on H.R. 3047 when Congress returns in September. 

Of course, Mr. Chairman, I would look forward to you joining the fifteen or more members, from both sides of the aisle, already co-sponsoring H.R. 3047.

It should go without saying that I anticipate the opportunity to review your own legislation to reduce the backlog, once it is offered.

This afternoon, we are considering several pieces of legislation, all of which are of interest and potential value. 

Two of these bills bear my name, H.R. 2696 and H.R. 2697.  A third, H.R. 2346, introduced by Mr. Fossella, directly addresses how we determine the location of a national cemetery and is most timely.

I look forward to working with Mr. Fossella on H.R. 2346.  This is an important bill that will help provide veterans and their families with greater access to national cemeteries, and I believe it will help VA create an accurate and beneficial selection process.

The two bills I introduced support similar bills introduced by Senator Craig.

H.R. 2696, the Veterans Dignified Burial Assistance Act of 2007, has provisions that improve the VA burial benefit and state veterans cemeteries.  The bill would increase the burial and plot allowance for a veteran’s burial in a private cemetery from $300 to $400.

The bill would also repeal the current time limitation for state reimbursement for interment costs by VA.  From time to time, a state locates the remains of veterans who were not interred.  When states inter these veterans, they cannot be reimbursed by VA because of the time limit on reimbursement costs.

My legislation would repeal this limitation.

The last provision of bill would authorize the VA secretary to make additional grants to states for improving and expanding state veteran cemeteries.  States would have to submit an application to the Secretary, and could receive up to $5,000,000.

H.R. 2697 would extend eligibility for Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (V-M-L-I) to members of the armed forces. 

VMLI is a special type of life insurance that is only available to veterans who qualify for specially adapted housing grants. Many of our nation’s injured active duty servicemembers will eventually qualify for VMLI and would benefit by having this eligibility.

These are just three of the bills before us today; I look forward to the testimony and our discussion of the other legislation before us today. 

My thanks to my colleagues and the witnesses for their testimony and I yield back.