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Opening Statement of Hon. Michael F. Michaud, Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, and a Representative in Congress from the State of Maine

The Subcommittee on Health will come to order.  I would like to thank everyone for coming today.

This is a joint hearing with the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

Today, we will examine the Department of Veterans Affairs programs regarding women and minority veterans.

The face of the military is changing and so is the face of the veteran population.  According to the 2000 Census minorities make up over 14 percent of the existing veteran population.  The population of women veterans is projected to continue to rise, from 6 percent in 2000, to 8 percent in 2010 and to 10 percent by 2020.

VA needs to constantly evaluate existing programs to address the needs of these special groups, and make changes when needed. 

I further believe that VA should implement new and innovative programs to help close the many gaps that exist today in delivering high quality, safe health care and the other benefits and services VA provides. 

Service in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom has created growing challenges for VA in meeting the needs of the women and minority veterans as they separate from service. 

We know that an unprecedented number of female servicemembers have been routinely exposed to combat or combat like conditions.

VA reports that the prevalence of potential PTSD among new OEF/OIF women veterans treated at VA has grown from 1 percent in 2002 to nearly 19 percent in 2006.  This represents a considerable and disturbing increase.

Issues such as cultural differences, effective outreach, education, research and delivery of care should be carefully examined in an effort to provide the best possible service to these veterans.

I hope that we will learn how VA is meeting the needs of these populations, what challenges are on the horizon and what we can do to provide these veterans with the best possible care available.