Opening Statement of Hon. John Kline, a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Thank you Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Miller for giving me the opportunity to join the Subcommittee on Health to discuss this vitally important issue.
Today's hearing is an important one, especially since just Tuesday we celebrated Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill. Traumatic Brain Injury has sadly been called "the signature injury of the Global War on Terror"—an injury that doesn't always present itself immediately but which can be physically and mentally debilitating for those who suffer from it. Just as our military has adapted to fight an evolving counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, so too, must we in Congress and in the VA medical system adapt to treat this new medical threat.
As last year's Defense Authorization bill went into conference, a constituent from Minnesota alerted me to the decrease in funding for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center from the previous year's spending level. Through the Armed Services Committee and the Military Personnel Subcommittee, I campaigned to add an additional $12 million in funding authority for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center through the Defense Authorization bill. It was an easy sell. Everyone I spoke with—from then Armed Service Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter on down—saw the immediate need for increased TBI funding. Authorization for the additional funding was quickly added in conference. I was disappointed to see this funding decreased in the recently passed Continuing Resolution but am confident that we will restore increased funding this year.
The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center has proven to be an innovative joint program worthy of continued Congressional support.
The Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, just outside of my district in Minnesota, is home to one of only four of our nation's Poly trauma Rehabilitation Centers. This center provides rehabilitation care for veterans returning from combat with severe injuries that can include traumatic brain injuries, amputations, wounds, blindness or hearing disorders, complex orthopedic injuries, and mental health concerns. The high quality of care being given at this center is a shining example of what can be accomplished through innovative collaborations between DoD and the VA.
Mr. Chairman, as a veteran who has been through the veterans' health care system, I am aware that we are making progress with specialty care and services for our veterans. We must ensure that the VA system is properly equipped and its staff is well trained to provide our returning servicemembers with the best care possible.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and learning more about efforts to fight this increasingly pervasive injury.