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Opening Statement of Hon. Harry E. Mitchell, a Representative in Congress from the State of Arizona

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

First and foremost I want to thank Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala for their efforts. 

These distinguished co-chairs have not only provided us critical information….they have provided us a model of bipartisanship on an issue of great importance.

They know that the best way for us to help our nation’s veterans is for all of us to work together.

And as their report has demonstrated, we have our work cut out for us.

We need to improve information-sharing between the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.  This is not only inefficient, it poses a risk to the quality of care our veterans receive.

We need to reduce the long wait times veterans are enduring at the VA, and ensure that the VA has the resources it needs to serve veterans in a timely manner.

We need to do more to help the families of veterans who, in many cases, are forced to shoulder the burden of advocating for health care services.

The President’s Commission outlined six specific changes to the current veteran care organization that can be made through Congress, which would improve the services that our nation’s veterans receive.

Some of these recommendations will be easy fixes requiring little negotiation or further investigation.

Others, like the restructuring of disability and compensation systems, will require us to put our partisan differences aside and work creatively to arrive at the best outcome.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq pose different challenges for our VA than previous conflicts.  Many of our returning heroes are bringing back new and different kind of injuries which need new and different kinds of treatments.

Our challenges are great, but working together, I know we can meet them.

Our veterans have served us, and they have a right to expect us to serve them.  And that is exactly what we are going to do.

I look forward to today’s discussion, and I yield back.