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Opening Statement of The Honorable Michael Michaud, Ranking Member, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Good Morning, and thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today.

I appreciate that we continue to gather invaluable information about what works and what doesn’t work in our VA healthcare system.

This information is guiding our efforts to reform the VA and ensure our veterans receive quality, safe, timely healthcare – where and when they need it.

I’m looking forward to the testimony we’ll hear this morning from our panelists on best practices in the private sector.

I believe that we should always strive to do better.

And I think we can learn and get some good ideas in areas where private healthcare providers have had great success, and either tackling, or outright avoiding, many of the problems we are confronting today in the VA.

One area where I think we need to hear more from the private sector is  related to scheduling and patient medical records.

Clearly, the scheduling practices – and technology – within the VA system are not working. The system can be manipulated, there is no standardization, and patients aren’t getting seen in a timely fashion. I would be interested to hear about some of the scheduling models various private sector organizations use.  Getting patients seen right away – before their medical conditions are allowed to worsen – absolutely must be one of our first priorities.

Also, the VA has clearly struggled to anticipate and plan accordingly for the surge of veterans seeking to access the healthcare system as we continue winding down two wars. I would like to hear how other health facilities have developed strategic plans that are tailored to the current and anticipated needs of their specific populations.

I believe that, in order for us to maintain progress on things like the wait list backlog, and to ensure individual VA facilities have the resources they need to treat their patients in an acceptable amount of time, the VA needs to do a better job of looking a few years down the line, figuring out what regional and local veteran population medical needs will be, and planning accordingly.

We also should keep in mind, as we hear these best practices, the VA is the healthcare system best-suited to meet the needs of our veterans. It provides a number of specialty services for our veterans that just can’t be found in the private sector.

Despite the many problems throughout the VA system, it remains the system best-suited to meet our veterans’ health needs across their entire episode of care.

As we all know, our veterans generally have greater health concerns and are older than the general population.

The VA has developed a bench of medical professionals who are trained to treat the service-specific needs of veterans better than most. That includes issues like prosthetics, spinal cord injury treatment and in-patient mental health services.

Also, a high number of medical professionals in our country – more than 60 percent – train at VA medical facilities. 

I want to be clear: we are not talking about privatizing VA care. We are talking about strengthening a healthcare system that is uniquely suited to serve the needs of our veterans with best practices that are working in the private sector.

I’d like to thank the panelists who are joining us today, and I look forward to hearing today’s testimony.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.