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

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate your holding this legislative hearing to start the New Year.

Currently we have over 265,000 servicemembers deployed overseas in the Global War on Terror.  These men and women and their families expect and should know that when they return home their service and sacrifice will be honored and supported with benefits and health care services tailored to meet their needs.

Today we will look at eight different bills that have been introduced to improve the way we deliver health care to our Nation’s veterans.

I want to thank my colleagues who have brought forth these legislative proposals and for joining us to provide testimony on their respective bills.

The first bill on the agenda, H.R. 2790, would elevate the Physician Assistant Advisor position Congress established seven years ago to a full time Director of Physician Assistant Services.  It was introduced in a bipartisan manner by Phil Hare and Jerry Moran.  The Physician Assistant profession has a strong relationship with the military, as it originated with medical corpsmen who wanted to transform their military medical training into the civilian health care field.  And, it is important that we encourage VA to foster the recruitment and retention of these important health care providers.

Two bills we will consider, H.R. 3819 and H.R. 4146, would amend current law to clarify VA requirements for the reimbursement and payment of emergency medical care for veterans in a non-VA medical facility.  A veteran enrolled in VA health care should never be subject to post-emergency treatment costs for any emergency health related situation and I strongly support a legislative change to correct any ambiguities that exist in current law.

We will also consider a number of bills that seek to create new authorities for new programs, research and studies for veteran patients with a traumatic brain injury; mental health concerns, including PTSD and substance use disorder; and to meet the specialized needs of women veterans.  The Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act provided VA with significant new funds targeted to addressing the provision of care for these emergent needs.  As we examine these measures, it is important that we keep in mind the importance of developing solutions that are principle centered, patient centered and complement rather than replicate existing authorities and ongoing efforts.

I look forward to a very productive discussion on legislation that would ensure our wounded warriors receive the best and most advanced medical care that is available.

Again, I thank all of our witnesses and those in the audience who have chosen to participate in today’s hearing.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.