Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Since its inception, the Priority Eight Veteran category has caused its share of controversy. The arguments made for its creation and the suspension of Priority Eight enrollment raise very valid points and concerns. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has a grave responsibility to ensure our brave veterans receive top-notch healthcare in a timely fashion. On that same line, this healthcare should be for all veterans.
Levels of disability, both service-connected and non-service-connected, are a fact of life, and there are different disabilities that require more frequent and more urgent care. However, I do not think that VA should address the more urgent healthcare needs by completing shutting out those with less urgent needs. A veteran is a veteran, and VA needs to adjust its operations, its budgeting, and its healthcare system so that all veterans can be treated.
For several years, this Committee has seen requests from the Administration in its annual budget requests to establish enrollment fees and increased pharmacy co-payments for certain Priority Eight veterans. Consistently, Congress has overwhelmingly not supported those proposals. The message is clear that all veterans have earned quality care. I look forward to today’s testimony and hope that some constructive solutions can be offered so that veterans are not shut out of the system. If VA cannot adequately address the issue with their current structure, perhaps a more significant change needs to be proposed.