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

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate you calling this hearing today.

When I was elected to Congress last November, my fellow Arizonans told me that we need to start watching our spending in Washington.

One of the biggest expenses we have today is the war in Iraq.  But even when the conflict comes to an end, we will continue to have a financial commitment.  We will continue to have an obligation to provide the best care possible for to those that served so bravely.

We took a big step earlier this year by passing a VA appropriations bill which made the single-largest investment in veterans’ health care in the 77-year history of the agency.

I think we can all agree that this more needs to be done.

This war has not been like others in the past.  Advancements in field medicine and body armor have saved thousands lives.  However, new weapons, like IEDs, have inundated the VA with disabilities like Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

At last count, nearly 30,000 servicemen and women have been wounded in action, and the VA has estimated that it will treat more than 260,000 veterans of this war in the years to come.

Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation held a hearing on disability claims disparities.  In this hearing, we learned how the VA is not prepared to handle disability ratings, especially related to PTSD.

Improving this system will cost more time and more money, but these expenses are necessary to ensure that all veterans, regardless of age and period of service, receive the best and most fair disability benefits.

I believe that if we are willing to spend 12 billion dollars a month on war, we ought to be able to provide the highest level of assistance to those who fought and suffered.

I am looking forward to hearing from our distinguished panelists on how we can do this, and I yield back.