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Opening Statement of Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Chairwoman, and a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota

I would like to take a moment to remember the lives lost on the morning of the September 11, 2001.  As our country continues to heal from this tragic event of 9-11, we must never forget that today we have thousands of troops serving honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of which have served in multiple deployments overseas.  I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation of our men and women in uniform who have answered the call to duty, and reinforce my commitment to serve them honorably as they continue to serve us all. 

Keeping this in mind, we must never forget that today’s servicemembers are tomorrow’s veterans who will require the resources to succeed in life after military service.  To this end, this Subcommittee has held numerous hearings, here in Washington, DC and our Congressional districts, on programs critical to their continued success.  One such program in which we were able to make significant progress is the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

Public Law 110-252 will provide our veterans the educational entitlements needed to attend a college or university of their choice.  Certainly, this landmark legislation makes significant improvements but we must remain vigilant to ensure Congressional intent is fully implemented and the Department of Veterans Affairs is afforded the resources to meet the needs mandated by Congress.

Today’s hearing will give the Subcommittee the opportunity to better understand the VA’s implementation plan as required by Public Law 110-252.  As many of you may be aware, there have been numerous concerns over the VA’s plan to contract out services, contracting transparency, and time constraints to implement the requirements of the newly enacted law.

Last month we sent a letter inviting Secretary Peake to participate in today’s hearing.  This letter specifically states that the purpose of today’s hearing was to have VA present its plan on implementing Chapter 33 with as much detail as possible.  I am deeply disappointed by the testimony that was submitted and hope we can be properly informed about VA’s plan to meet Public Law 110-252.

I look forward to working with Ranking Member Boozman and Members of this Subcommittee to provide oversight on the implementation of the new Montgomery G.I. Bill requirements.