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Opening Statement of Hon. Henry E. Brown, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of South Carolina (STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD)

Chairman Michaud and Ranking Member Miller, thank you for calling this important hearing to address a continuing concern of this Committee: the challenges that many of our veterans face in accessing health care through the VA system.  While my district is home to the Johnson VAMC in Charleston, a veteran from Myrtle Beach needing treatment or a test has to invest the larger part of an entire day for this visit.  While treatment at our VA medical facilities is some of the best in the world, there is something about what I just said that doesn’t make sense at all. 

Last Congress, when I served as chairman of this subcommittee, I was honored to travel up to Maine for a field hearing in Mr. Michaud’s district to examine some of these very same challenges.  During that hearing we discussed some of the serious challenges that rural veterans face – not because of lack of dollars – but simply because they live in rural areas.

One of the messages that I came away from that hearing with is the need for Congress to continue to prod the VA forward in thinking outside the box to deliver care in innovative ways.  We know the successful turnaround our VA hospitals have seen in the past decades.  That turnaround required a commitment not just from Congress or the VA’s political leadership, but a commitment from within the heart of the VA’s bureaucracy. 

Technology certainly is a tool that can have an impact – especially in the case of the veteran in Myrtle Beach who now has to spend their entire day traveling to and from Charleston for a test.  For veterans in Maine and other extremely rural areas, we need to look at collaborating further with local health care providers to provide care through the VA system.  Collaboration has worked at the VAMC level across the country – we should not be afraid of it across other areas of the VA system. 

Thank you again Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the VA to address the access needs of our veterans.