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Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you Mr. Chairman. 

Secretary Nicholson, I want to thank you for your service to this country and our nation’s veterans. 

You are truly a man of the highest integrity and moral standards.   Undoubtedly, over the past two and a half years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has faced a number of challenges, but you have never failed to put the interests of our veterans first.  Because of your valuable leadership, we have been able to work together to make significant improvements in the delivery of benefits and health care services for our men and women who have worn the uniform.

Unfortunately, one of the areas we still have not been able to remedy is providing for inpatient services in Florida’s panhandle to serve the over 106,000 veterans who live there.  According to VA figures there are more veterans in Florida’s 1st Congressional District than the entire state of Rhode Island, which has its own Medical Center.  Yet, veterans in my district must travel two to three hours to receive inpatient care in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

There is a tremendous opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Defense (DOD) for inpatient medical services on the campus of Eglin Air Force Base that would benefit both veterans and active duty service members.  The collaboration would expand VA/DOD sharing in a cost-effective manner and provide long overdue inpatient care to veterans in the region.

Mr. Secretary, as your tenure at VA ends, I hope that you will commit to your successor the importance of pursuing enhanced VA/DOD sharing to provide needed inpatient services in Northwest Florida and throughout the rest of the nation. 

Mr. Secretary, I am grateful for your service and am eager to receive your input for a path for the future of VA.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.