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Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, Ranking Republican Member, Subcommittee on Health

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Many share my concerns about the topic of today’s hearing, and I am grateful that this committee is meeting to exercise its duty of ensuring that actions taken by VA are for the benefit of our nation’s veterans. 

Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina, there is still not a clear plan on how veterans’ healthcare needs will be addressed in the region, and I am troubled by many of the proposals.  The proposal receiving the most attention has cost estimates approaching $1.2 billion, yet there is very little certainty about where this facility will be located. 

Taxpayers and veterans both can be better served if VA would look take a more fiscally responsible approach and situate a facility that won’t be subject to a repeat of what happened to the old hospital.  With a declining population of veterans in the area prior to Katrina, a medical center where veterans are actually located would provide a quicker path to delivering healthcare to those in need.  Furthermore, new hospitals are going up all around our country at a third of the estimated cost. 

Veterans in Southeast Louisiana deserve timely access to healthcare just as veterans throughout the rest of the nation do.  That is never in question.  However, I question the proposed joint venture, and the significant amount of time that has lapsed with little progress makes me question that plan even more. 

Putting a replacement facility in a flood-prone area looks like no lesson was learned in the past, and putting a replacement facility back in the same area after years of population shift looks like VA isn’t looking clearly toward the future. 

I look forward to today’s testimony and hopefully constructive ideas on how veterans in this area can receive timely access to healthcare at a cost that best serves the interest of the taxpayers.