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Opening Statement of Hon. Henry E. Brown, Jr., a Representative in Congress from the State of South Carolina

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing to examine how the Department of Veterans of Affairs is providing a mix of extended care services and how VA intends to address the provision of long term care in the future.

Today, one of the biggest challenges in both VA and the private sector health care systems is providing long-term care to a growing aging population.  This challenge is amplified for VA, which must facilitate care for the special needs of our disabled and aging veterans.  The Department is also facing an emerging new need to care for seriously injured younger veterans returning from the Global War on Terror. 

I appreciate that at our hearing today we have witnesses representing the State Veterans Homes.  On Veterans Day last year, I had the privilege of dedicating a new State Veterans Home in

Walterboro, South Carolina .  This 220 bed facility, the Veterans’ Victory House, is one of the most modern of its kind in the United States, and includes a 52 bed secured dementia unit.

In partnership with the VA, State veterans’ homes can help provide a broad range of services to meet the long-term care needs of our veterans. Last year, with the enactment of Public Law 109-461, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006, Congress expanded the authorities for State veterans’ homes.  The law requires VA to reimburse State veterans’ homes for the full cost of care for a veteran with a 70 percent or greater service-connected disability rating and in need of care for service-connected conditions.  It also ensures that veterans with a 50 percent or greater service-connected disability receive, at no cost, medications they need through VA.

Additionally, Public Law 109-461, requires VA to publish a strategic plan for long-term care. Hopefully, this plan that has been a long time in coming will provide a clear map of the Department’s future plans for delivering long term care for those veterans who rely on VA to provide these services.  I look forward to the delivery of this plan as required by law.  We have allowed VA to drag its feet on this issue for far too long.

Mr. Chairman, we need to remember that the quality in which we provide long-term care is a reflection on how this country honors the sacrifices of our Nation’s veterans. 

I look forward to our discussion today and to explore innovative steps we can take to provide the best patient-centered care to enhance the quality of life of veterans in need of long-term care services.  Knowing what a busy day today is, I yield back