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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

Nothing is more important than the welfare of the men and women who have served their country with honor and distinction. 

I’m pleased our committee is continuing to move quickly, and in a bipartisan manner, to investigate the many serious shortcomings within the VA, especially those regarding access to health care.

Now is the time for us to identify the problems so that we can move forward and implement changes.  That means working together on oversight and legislative solutions.  It also means having very frank conversations with veterans about their personal experiences – so we know what is working and what must be improved.

Over the years, this committee has identified – and helped fix – many problems within the VA over the years.  But, the VA is clearly facing a crisis, a crisis that is now being addressed by the media, and our increased oversight efforts.

In this environment, it is especially important that we are fair in our oversight and measured in our responses.  But, above all, we must never fall short of doing what we need to do to ensure that veterans have access to their health care system.

It is important for us to work together to achieve the VA we envision.  We must work together, across the aisle and across the branches of government, to fix these problems and ensure the VA is caring for our veterans.

When we work together this committee works best.  And now, that work must put us on a path to ensuring that the VA is receiving the necessary assistance and resources, and that we are, in turn, providing the necessary oversight.

As I see it there are critical questions that should be asked by this Committee. Questions that get at the root cause of the problems.  Questions relate to the broad, strategic changes needed at VA - changes in leadership climate, engagement with other agencies like DoD and HHS, increased utilization of the private sector, and long-term resource planning.  We need to ask the hard question - what should the Department look like in the future? 

These are not easy questions, nor do they have easy, simple answers.  But today, more than ever, we must ask these questions and come up with these answers.  I believe thoughtful, measured, sound policy is needed today, more than ever.

The answers need to be comprehensive, and, when necessary, nuanced.  For example, when holding leaders accountable, we need to not just focus on career Senior Executive Service members, but also the doctors and nurses who occupy administrative or executive leadership positions.  My bill, HR 4399 closes that gap in the current packages of legislation being considered by the House and Senate.

Mr. Chairman, I have always been proud of the bipartisan nature in which this committee operates. 

My hope is that this spirit continues.  Working together, we can help identify the problems and work toward solutions.

No single individual has a monopoly of concern over our veterans.  And no single individual or institution has all the answers.  The work ahead of us will be hard.  It will require us all to lend a hand as we work toward identifying and fixing the problems the VA faces.

With that Mr. Chairman, I look forward to a robust conversation today with our witnesses – not only about the problems, but about potential solution.  I thank all the witnesses for being here today.

I yield back.