Opening Statement of Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Health
Good afternoon. This hearing will come to order.
Thank you all for being with us today as we meet to discuss seven legislative proposals concerning the care and services provided to our nation’s veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The seven bills on our agenda this afternoon are: H.R. 1460, to provide for the automatic enrollment of veterans returning from combat zones into the VA medical system; H.R. 3016, to direct the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly operate the Federal Recovery Coordination Program; H.R. 3245, the Efficient Services for Veterans Act; H.R. 3279, to clarify that caregivers for veterans with serious illnesses are eligible for assistance and support services provided by VA; H.R. 3337, the Open Burn Pit Registry Act; H.R. 3723, the Enhanced Veteran Healthcare Experience Act of 2011; and H.R. 4079, the Safe Housing for Homeless Veterans Act.
Together, these bills touch on a full range of issues affecting our veterans and their families. The proposals we will discuss include measures to address fire and building safety code enforcement for homeless veterans participating in VA grant and per diem programs; streamline the eligibility determination for veterans seeking readjustment counseling services at Vet Centers; establish a registry for OEF/OIF veterans who may been exposed to toxic chemicals caused by open burn pits; and allow veterans greater access to the health care they earned and deserve by reforming VA’s fee basis care program and providing for the automatic enrollment of returning combat veterans into the VA healthcare system.
Additionally, we will discuss two bills - H.R. 3016 and H.R. 3279 – that seek to improve programs that support to some of our most severely wounded warriors, the Federal Recovery Coordination Program and the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program respectively. These programs in particular are very familiar to this Subcommittee, which has held a total of four oversight hearings last year to examine them in depth.
Our discussion today will provide us the opportunity to thoroughly examine each of these proposals with their sponsors, the Department, and our partners in the veteran service organizations to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be improved.
I thank my colleagues for sponsoring the bills on our agenda this morning and for their leadership. I also appreciate our witnesses from the veterans’ service organizations and VA for taking the time to join us today and for working so hard day in and day out in support of our nation’s heroes. I am looking forward to a very frank and productive discussion.