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Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, Chairman, Full Commaittee on Veterans Affairs

Thank you Chairman Murray. Good morning. First and foremost, I want to thank all of you for coming here today. It is both an honor and a privilege to be here in front of so many of our nation’s veterans and surviving spouses.

It is truly a humbling experience to be in a room made up of the men and women who have selflessly risked their lives or lost a loved one in defense of our great country.

On behalf of a grateful Nation, I thank you for your service and for making the trip to Washington to share your legislative agenda with our Committees and the Congress.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize the members of the different organizations who - like myself - are proud to call Florida home. Gentlemen and ladies, would you please stand. Thanks again for all you do and I look forward to working with you all during this 112th Congress.

I also want to recognize my colleague and good friend, Dr. Phil Roe, for being the 2011 AMVETS Silver Helmet Congressional Award recipient. Dr. Roe has worked tirelessly for veterans’ causes since being sworn into congress in 2009. There is no person more deserving of this award, and we are very proud to have him serving on our Committee.

I am pleased to join my colleagues from across the aisle and across the Capitol for our 3rd joint hearing of this new Congress. While we may at times have philosophical differences, I can assure you that Chairman Murray, Ranking Members Burr and Filner, and I are all committed to the same noble cause…, helping our Nations Veterans.

One area where I know we all share a common interest is the implementation of the caregiver assistance program required by Public Law 111-163. We worked hard with our friends in the Senate to get that bill to the President.

I made this point during our last hearing but I believe it bears repeating. It troubles me that the first public plan the administration has put forth regarding this important program was three months overdue and met with serious concern from advocates and stakeholders.  

Last Friday our Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the implementation of the caregiver program to ensure that VA’s plans are consistent with Congressional intent. Early indications are that it was a positive step forward and I thank my colleague, the Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Buerkle, for her efforts.

I was also pleased to join Chairman Murray and Ranking Members Burr and Filner in a letter to the President asking for his leadership in getting VA to make timely changes to the caregiver plan.  At the end of the day, I believe all of us up here are committed to getting this right.

As we enter into an era of increased fiscal discipline our Committees will continue to welcome input as to how we can eliminate any wasteful or ineffective spending that exists within VA.

Veterans and survivors are not only beneficiaries of VA programs, they are also taxpayers.  All of us should expect strict accountability for every cent that VA is given to help veterans and survivors. To that end, I’m asking all of the great organizations here today to help us going forward. 

I’ve reviewed the testimony in preparation for today’s hearing and can see we share many of the same concerns.  We all agree that there are significant challenges ahead for VA to reform its claims processing system; we agree that quality health care must be ensured; and we agree that we must finally break down the barriers that exist between the Department of Defense and VA when it comes to effectively delivering services to transitioning service members and families.

Again, your members use these programs routinely or have experienced what works and what doesn’t work. We welcome any and all recommendations for improvement.

I want today’s hearing to be the beginning of an open and on-going conversation between us as partners in creating a better future for American veterans and their families. I look forward to continuing that dialogue with the testimonies this morning. Thank you.

I yield back.