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Opening Statement of Hon. John Boozman, a Representative in Congress from the State of Arkansas

Good morning General Scott, members, and staff of the Disability Commission.  I greatly appreciate the work each of you has put into the report.  To those of you who are veterans, I thank you for your military service and your dedication to improve the lives of those who have followed in your footsteps.

You have produced a significant contribution to our continuing quest to care for the one percent of America who man the ramparts to protect the ninety nine percent.  I hope, at over 550 pages, you were getting paid by the word.

It is going to take some time to absorb and understand your thoughts and recommendations.  As the Ranking Member on the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, I am especially interested in your work regarding the vocational rehabilitation and employment program which should be the crown jewel of all VA benefit programs.

While not specifically in your charter, I do wish you had taken a more in-depth look at the complexity of the claims processing system because It is impossible to separate the benefits from the processes involved.  Paygo rules will make it very difficult to make the significant increases in benefits you have proposed, but we can do something to meet what I believe are the most common complaints from veterans and those center on timeliness, consistency and quality.

This committee is faced with a balancing act that pits due process against efficient and accurate rating.  It will be up to what is often called the Iron Triangle of the Congress, VSOs and VA to find a way to provide sufficient due process without constricting the flow of claims through the disability rating system.

I note that in your recommendations, the commission mentions increasing use of information technology to improve and speed processing.  In my opinion, the closest thing to a silver bullet to fix the processing mess is to implement an automated claims processing system that actually takes data from multiple sources and produces a recommended disability rating.  It is being done in the private sector and it can be done at VA if they have the will.

Once again, thanks to you and your fellow commissioners and staff members for the work you have done.