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Opening Statement of Hon. Ginny Brown-Waite, Ranking Republican Member, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for calling this hearing to review the status of the electronic medical records sharing between DOD and VA.  This subcommittee has already held two hearings in the 110th Congress on the issue of seamless transition of our servicemembers. 

The first hearing was held in March and the second in May, both of which focused primarily on the sharing of critical medical information of critically wounded servicemembers between DOD and VA.

I would like to assure the witnesses here today, that this issue is of the utmost importance to all Members of this Committee, regardless of political affiliation.  I am pleased the Chairman has requested that representatives from DOD testify here today.  It will be important to hear their perspective on the timely exchange of critical medical information between DOD and VA for the seamless continuum of delivering healthcare to our servicemembers. 

I look forward to hearing the steps DOD has taken to allow all critical medical information to be viewed by the VA when active duty servicemembers are transferred to VA facilities.  In addition, I will be interested in hearing from VA on whether technological obstacles or bureaucratic intransigence prevent this from occurring today.

This past week, staff members visited Keesler Air Force Base and the VA Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi to see how the Air Force and the VA are coming together in VA/DOD resource sharing. 

Unfortunately, the progress in this area is a result of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the dynamic personalities of senior leadership at these facilities, and not the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense Health Resources Sharing and Emergency Operations Act of 1982. 

It appears that the ball has moved forward more in the last 24 months than the last 25 years.  It is a shame that it took Hurricane Katrina, the debacle at Walter Reed, and the devastating wounds of war to expedite progress between the two largest federal bureaucracies.

I am also looking forward to hearing from representatives of both departments about how they plan to implement the recommendations of the recently released Dole/Shalala Commission Report, and the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission Report.

Again, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing.  This issue is a top priority for our Subcommittee, and look forward to continuing our oversight responsibilities.