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

This Joint Hearing on VA Outpatient Waiting Times will come to order. 

Good afternoon.  I would like to thank everyone for coming to today’s hearing.

The focus of this hearing is waiting times for outpatient appointments in the Veterans Health Administration.  Outpatient waiting times are one aspect of a much broader focus of the Subcommittee on Health - access to high-quality healthcare.

Access to health care is defined as the ability to get medical care in a timely manner when needed. 

We know that access to health care is important for veterans.  It improves treatment outcomes and quality of life for those who have it.

Since the beginning of the 110th Congress, the subcommittee on health has taken broad action to increase veterans’ access to health care. 

In May 2007, the House passed H.R. 612 which extends the period of eligibility for VA healthcare for veterans of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom from 2 to 5 years.

Also in May, the House passed H.R. 2199 which develops programs aimed to improve access to care for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

And in July of this year, the House passed H.R. 2874 which among other things, provides therapeutic readjustment and rehabilitation services to veterans, provides improved transportation to rural veterans, and improves and enhances services to homeless veterans.

I am very proud of our accomplishments so far this year and I feel that we have come a long way in improving health care for veterans.  But we still have more work to do.

Today, I hope that we will learn more about how the VA is doing in seeing patients in a timely manner for initial and necessary follow-up appointments, and how VA tracks this information.

I would also like to learn how VA is managing patient care to provide necessary preventative medicine.

In a system that handles 40 million outpatient appointments per year, it is clear that efficient and effective policy, training and follow-up is critical in achieving success. 

I hope that we can use this time to work towards solutions so that we can all achieve our primary goal to improve access to health care for all veterans.  I am confident that by working together, we will be successful. 

Timely access to quality health care is something that those who have served our country have earned.  We must work together to provide it for them.