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Opening Statement of Hon. Michael H. Michaud, Chairman, a Representative in Congress from the State of Maine

At this hearing, we will examine the Department of Veterans Affairs Research Programs.

Research is one of the core missions of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  The VA is unique, in that it has the capability to provide clinical services and conduct research within the same organization.  As a result, the VA has done ground-breaking research on topics ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder, prosthetics, smoking cessation and treatment of heart disease.

The purpose of this hearing is to examine VA research programs, particularly in light of the current conflict.  As we all know, Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom have presented us with some new challenges in caring for and treating injured soldiers.  In recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of returning veterans with conditions such as PTSD, TBI, and traumatic amputations. 

These conflicts have produced nearly 28,000 severely injured veterans, over 700 of which have had traumatic amputations.  It is vital that the VA continue to push the edge of research in order to provide these brave men and women with the most up-to-date care available – whether they need prosthetics, pain-management, eye-care, or any number of other services.

It is also important that the VA work in collaboration with the Department of Defense, academic partners and other public and private entities to leverage their resources and knowledge – and to produce the best research possible.

I would like to send a special welcome to one of our witnesses today.

On the 21st of June, 2003, Major David Rozelle was leading a convoy west of Baghdad when his vehicle struck a landmine, which resulted in the loss of his right foot.  After spending 8 months recovering at Fort Carson, Colorado, Major Rozelle returned to Iraq as a Troop Commander conducting operations in Baghdad and Tal Afar – he was the first troop commander to redeploy to the same battlefield as an amputee in recent military history.

Major Rozelle is currently serving as an Administrative officer at the Military Advanced Training Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  Drawing on his personal and professional experience, Major Rozelle helped plan and design this brand new facility – using the most state-of-the-art research available. 

Welcome Major Rozelle.

Continued research is vital to improving healthcare, saving lives and improving the quality of life for our sick and injured.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about what the VA is doing – and what the VA should be doing – to advance their core mission of research.