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Opening Statement of Hon. Silvestre Reyes, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

Secretary Shinseki, I want to thank you for coming today to address our concerns with the care of our nation’s Veterans.  I also want to thank you for your outstanding service to this nation.  As a Veteran, the issues we address in this committee are very personal to me.  They are also very personal to the more than 80,000 veterans that live in my district.

Many Veterans issues have come to the forefront in the recent weeks. They include violations of the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act, high rates of homeless veterans, failure of the administration to honor the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, and the recent lawsuit by victims of sexual assault, although against the Department of Defense, it is brought by veterans.  These are just a few issues that are affecting the brave men and women who have fought for this country. 

Even with all these high profile issues, the most important thing we can give our Veterans is comprehensive health care for the injuries they sustained in service of their nation.  As a member of this committee, and the Armed Services Committee, I feel very strongly that one of the most effective ways the Veterans Administration can provide these services to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines is to ensure a seamless hand-off between the Department of Defense and the VA.  Too often wounded service members must wait for months while their records are transferred between the two agencies, and what’s worse, is that the information that is transferred is not comprehensive in regards to what our soldiers were exposed to on the battlefield.  The Vietnam War ended almost 40 years ago, and to this day there are Veterans that have still not received medical care for their exposure to Agent Orange.

It is my goal that we address all of the challenges facing our Veterans.  Although we cannot erase the mistakes of the past, it is imperative that we move forward with the programs that will efficiently and effectively provide care to those who have give so much defending this country.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.