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Opening Statement of Honorable Bill Flores, Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Good morning.  I want to begin by welcoming each of our new Members especially our Ranking Member, Mr. Takano, to the Committee. I also want to publically thank Mr. Takano for agreeing to become an original co-sponsor of legislation I have introduced that will mandate the contents of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).

I realize everyone introduced themselves at the full committee organizational meeting but I think it would be good to do that again.  With that said, I now recognize the distinguished Ranking Member.

My thanks to each of the Members and I am looking forward to a productive and bipartisan 113th Congress.

We are here today to review development and implementation of the computer system used to process Post-9/11 GI Bill claims and so a little history is in order.  In the run up to passage of the new program, VA stated unequivocally that the system used for decades to process Montgomery GI Bill claims would not be able to handle the more complex Post-9/11 program.  So, Congress authorized $100 million to develop a new system, what is now called the Long Term Solution, or LTS.

Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill became law, this subcommittee has held at least 7 hearings on the program including the new LTS.  Until recently, our understanding was that the system is being developed to handle all Post-9/11 claims beginning with an original claim through supplemental claims.

We now understand that the major development effort has focused on automating supplemental claims with comprise the bulk of the interactions between VA and the students and schools.  I think in terms of a strategy, and I applaud VA for that decision which, this strategy has resulted in over 40% of supplemental claims being processed without human intervention.  But like most things it also had negative results, because that decision left original claims relatively unautomated.  As a result, an original claim still takes about 45 minutes to process, a time little changed from 2009.

In short, we are supportive of VA’s efforts related to the LTS and our focus today is looking forward towards the future and finish full development of the LTS.  Without making the system and its information more accessible to veterans and schools, it is not complete.  I would add to that the ability to provide a robust analysis function to enable VA and Congress to make better-informed decisions on education and training benefits in the future.  

VA has now spent about $286 million dollars on the LTS and without adding such functions, it would be like buying a new luxury car without air conditioning, heated seats, and a satellite radio.  As our witness from NAVPA says in her testimony, “LTS must continue to evolve so it is able to process more complex claims and changes.”

With that, I recognize the Ranking Member for his opening remarks.