Opening Statement of The Honorable Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Good morning and the hearing will come to order. As the title of today’s hearing suggests, to conduct our constitutional oversight duties, VA needs to respond in a timely manner to our requests for information.
With us today is Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson. I would note that we again invited Assistant Secretary Mooney to testify since she is, by title, the assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs and as a presidential appointee, she agreed to testify before congress as part of her confirmation process.
For the second time, we are gathered to hear how we can improve a process that too often has resulted in frustration and delay. Let me start with a positive. Since our last hearing, VA has improved its submission of testimony on time. So that is certainly an area where progress has been made. Mr. Secretary, I would also like to recognize what I view as a positive tone in your written testimony about improving the timely response to Committee requests. You are totally correct in that the Veterans Affairs’ Committees and VA have a common duty to ensure we meet the nation’s commitment to its veterans.
Unfortunately, long-delayed responses for information, documents, or questions continue. As of Tuesday, the average days pending for all 96 requests was 143 with 66 pending over sixty days and 50 over one hundred days. In fact, we have 3 requests pending since 2012 and our oldest outstanding request is 666 days pending.
The last time we visited this subject with Assistant Secretary Mooney, she testified regarding the literally thousands of requests VA receives from Capitol Hill. I understand the reality, but I will continue the committee’s active oversight of the department. As they should, Members of the House and Senate take great interest in VA and its programs because of its mission. That won’t change on my watch.
I understand there are lots of moving parts involving responses to our requests, many of which are outside VA’s control but in the end, it is VA’s responsibility to provide congress with complete, accurate and timely answers. Regardless, perhaps moving the issue up the chain of command will help improve VA’s performance in this area, so Secretary Gibson, I thank you for testifying today.