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

Good afternoon.  We have a lot of business to transact this afternoon so in the interest of time, I will forego my usual clever and highly insightful analysis so that we may hear from our witnesses.  I would say that we have an interesting mix of bills before us and I am eager to hear the various points of view.

I yield back.

Honorable John Boozman Remarks on HR 3681 and HR 3889

Thank you Madam Chairwoman.  My first bill on the agenda is H.R. 3681, the Veterans Benefits Awareness Act of 2007.  Over the years, Congress has given VA millions of dollars to increase outreach to raise awareness of veterans benefits.    I suspect anyone who watches or listens to sports or other types of entertainment in the national media has seen or heard ads for each of the military services.  But when was the last time any of us saw a TV advertisement in prime time or a continuing radio campaign designed to achieve those goals?

VA produces significant amounts of brochures and posters.  And VA staffs meet with lots of service organization posts and other small venues.  These are nice from a personal contact standpoint, but relatively inefficient in getting the word out on veterans benefits.

That is the purpose of H.R. 3681, to authorize VA to use modern electronic media to promote the programs earned by service to the nation.  Staff tells me there has been a body of opinion at VA that the Department was prohibited from spending on this type of outreach.  My bill will put an end to that type of out-of-date thinking.

My second bill, H.R. 3889 is designed to develop a database of outcomes experienced by those who participate in the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program.  Unfortunately, there is relatively little data on how the program improves the lives of our more seriously injured veterans.  Conducting a 20 year longitudinal study that requires annual reports to Congress will make future management decisions easier for VA and legislative decisions more accurate for Congress.  As a matter of fact, each of VBA’s business lines should be conducting longitudinal studies, but that is a matter for another time.

Finally, as an original cosponsor of your GI Bill, H.R. 5684, I believe that unlike some of the other nearly 40 veterans education bills that have been introduced, HR 5684 is an approach that is manageable and affordable.  Veterans will get between $17,000   and $18,000 per school year not counting other federal aid and VA will not be required to retool its system to pay the benefits.  I am very pleased we will be taking action on improving education benefits for our veterans and I look forward to passing the bill next week.

I hope my colleagues will support H.R. 3681 and 3889 at our markup next week and thank you for including these bills in today’s agenda.  I yield back.