Joint Hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. CDT.
Opening Statement of Honorable Jon Runyan, Chairman of Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Johnson, for the opportunity to participate in today’s hearing.
As the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, I am greatly concerned by the current state of VA’s fiduciary program. I look forward to working with the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation in an effort to best serve our nation’s disabled Veterans.
Improving VA’s fiduciary program is essential, because it serves a very vulnerable segment of the Veteran population – Veterans who are no longer able to take care of themselves.
There are approximately 95,000 fiduciaries in the VA system, overseeing the accounts of approximately 120,000 Veterans. The total value of these accounts is in excess of $3.3 billion. While this amount in the aggregate is clearly significant to the VA and the American tax payers, and for that reason alone would be deserving of the VA’s highest level stewardship and oversight; so too is every individual dollar of the utmost importance to the Veteran who has earned disability benefits through his or her service and sacrifice to our country. Mismanagement and negligent oversight therefore have no place in the administration of these benefits, especially when dealing with those least able to manage their own affairs.
We are here today to hold VA accountable for its inability to properly serve these Veterans who are most in need of VA’s assistance. When VA fails to provide this assistance, many Veterans experience extreme financial hardship.
Currently, there is evidence of fiduciaries in the VA system embezzling funds; being non-responsive to Veterans’ needs; and being over-compensated for the duties performed. This is simply unacceptable.
The issues in the VA fiduciary system are further complicated by a backlog of initial fiduciary appointments. Although VA has stated that this backlog is due to its rigorous vetting process, there has also been evidence of VA’s non-compliance with its own regulations in ensuring that it appoints responsible, trustworthy fiduciaries.
It is my hope that as a result of today’s hearing, the process of fixing VA’s flawed fiduciary system can begin. I would like to note that the majority of VA’s regulations concerning fiduciary appointments are from 1975, and I would highly encourage VA to update these regulations of their own volition in an effort to provide better guidance throughout the fiduciary appointment process.
In closing, I again want to commend Chairman Johnson for calling today’s hearing to focus on this specific situation dealing with fiduciaries and look forward to working with him as the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee continues its ongoing oversight of the broader fiduciary program.