Opening Statement of Hon. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
First, I would like to thank Secretary Nicholson for testifying before the committee today. I have a great deal of respect for the work you have done since taking office, and am confident that you will continue to serve our nation’s veterans well.
I am pleased that the President’s budget request would provide $86.75 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs – a nearly 8 percent increase from the previous year. Having said that, I do have concerns about this budget. Once again, the President has included a proposal establishing an enrollment fee and increased prescription drug co-payments for category 7 and 8 veterans. I have always said that Congress should not impose any new fees without expanding access to care. In fact, I recently introduced legislation, H.R. 92, to ensure that veterans receive timely access to health care. Too many veterans are waiting too long for care, or worse, shut out of the VA’s system altogether. The President submits this proposal year after year, and every time I vehemently oppose it. This year will be no different.
Some are saying that this budget does not provide adequate funding to the VA. I want to make certain that this budget will adequately meet the needs of those veterans seeking benefits and medical care. With increasing numbers of our brave men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA will face a significant strain for the near future. As Members of Congress, we have an obligation to ensure that those who served are receiving the care they need. Therefore, it is essential that Congress continue to direct funds and resources to areas in need, while bringing greater efficiency to the VA.
Once again, thank you to all of today’s witnesses. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 110th Congress to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the care and support to which they are entitled.