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Opening Statement of The Honorable Jon Runyan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Good morning.  This legislative hearing on H.R. 1288, H.R. 1494, H.R. 1623, H.R. 1809, H.R. 2086, H.R. 2138, H.R. 2189, H.R. 2341, H.R. 2382 and H.R. 2423 will now come to order.

Today we have a large number of bills before us and there is a high level of interest in the policy areas that they address - particularly, the backlog of disability benefits claims. Therefore, in the interest of time, I am going to forgo a lengthy opening statement and just briefly touch upon one bill on today’s agenda which I am proud to have introduced.

H.R. 2423, the Disabled Veterans’ Access to Medical Examinations Improvement Act, has three main objectives.

First, the bill would extend the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to enter into contracts with private physicians to conduct medical disability evaluations. 

With the passage of this bill, this successful program allowing physicians outside of VA to conduct contract examinations would continue for an additional three years, through 2016.  This would allow VA to more quickly evaluate veterans’ disabilities and facilitate access to the care they need. 

Second, this bill would also extend license portability to contract examination providers, meaning that physicians with an active state license may provide C&P examinations in another state because they are working on behalf of the Federal government. 

Although VA and DoD already provide license portability for physicians working directly for them, this authority is not extended to contract examination providers.  This provision is designed to facilitate the C&P examination process by allowing contract physicians the flexibility to travel and assist in areas that are experiencing lengthy delays in scheduling examinations.

Finally, this piece of legislation would also expand the number of regional offices (ROs) allowed to utilize contract examinations from 10 to 15.  In addition, it would require the Secretary to determine which ROs would benefit most from the use of contract examinations by performing data analysis of the backlog and disability examination wait times. 

C&P examinations are a key component of the disability claims process; therefore, by expanding the authority and scope of the contract examination process, it is my hope that veterans can more quickly receive the necessary medical evidence for their claim.  This will cut down on overall development and processing time, resulting in the faster issuance of a final decision.

Again, in the interest of time, I would like to reiterate my request that today’s witnesses abide by the decorum and rules of this hearing and to summarize your statement to five minutes or less during oral testimony. We have a large number of bills on the agenda today, and I want to make sure everyone is heard in a timely manner. I would also remind all present that, without any objection, your written testimony will be made part of the hearing record.

I appreciate everyone’s attendance at this hearing and now call on the Ranking Member for her opening statement.