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

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I would also like to thank Lieutenant General James Terry Scott for coming before this committee to present the findings of the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission.

Last month, we met to hear from Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala about the care of returning veterans, and just last week, we heard from a host of experts on the requirements for funding the VA into the future.

While the testimony varied… the distinguished panelists all echoed a similar concern… we have to change the way the VA does business.

Some of this change requires a monetary investment, yet the majority of the change requires us to work together in a bipartisan way to solve complicated problems.

Earlier this year we passed a VA appropriations bill which made the single-largest investment in veterans’ health care in the 77-year history of the agency.

And while it represents an important step forward, I think we can all agree that we need to do more.

All veterans deserve the benefits they were promised in exchange for their service to our nation, especially those veterans who sustained life-long service-related injuries.

Unfortunately, the disability compensation system is outdated and burdensome.  It fails to effectively address the wide range of disabilities that impact the lives of veterans, regardless of age and rank.  The system also neglects the sacrifices made by the families of disabled veterans.

Next week, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation will hold a hearing on disability rating disparities, which is one of the major problems identified by the Commission.

These courageous men and women put their life on the line for our country.  The least we can do is move quickly to provide them with the best benefits possible.

I am looking forward to hearing from our guest on how we can accomplish this, and I yield back.