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Opening Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Filner, for calling this legislative hearing today.  It is important to discuss the legislation that is before this committee.

The bills before us today are HR169, by my neighbor from Florida, Mr. Stearns.  This would emphasize veterans’ employment on the VA website.  Considering the amount of information available on so many issues, it is important to include this information where our veterans can access it best.

H.R. 1941, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 is introduced by my good friend Sanford Bishop.  Thank you, Mr. Bishop, for explaining your legislation to the committee. This legislation would provide rehabilitation and vocational benefits to severely wounded members of the armed forces.  I am pleased to be cosponsor of the legislation and look forward to voting for this bill in the full house.

The third bill is where I have some concerns.  I commend the Chairman for bringing a bill to allow veterans to receive retraining assistance.  However, with unemployment of veterans at an all time high, and those coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not having jobs, I don’t understand the reasoning of limiting the age of eligibility to those between 35 and 60.

I also don’t understand the funding mechanism for the program.  In this time of budget tightening, and a refusal to discuss tax increases for any issue, this bill taxes veterans with higher interest rates to pay for more government programs.  This legislation doubles the interest rates veterans for housing loans.  Yes the rates have not gone into effect yet, but they are law right now, and I am sure in these tough economic times our veterans can use the estimated $1.6 billion dollars this change in law will cost them.

The Veterans Home Loan Program is one of the homeowner programs that works in this country.  The foreclosure rate is much lower than anything in the private sector and I don’t think changing this program will do anyone any good.

I don’t need an explanation of this provision, Mr. Chairman.  I can recognize hypocrisy when I see it.  You are trying to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.

I cannot support this legislation as it is currently written.  I hope that by the time we mark up this bill in subcommittee and then full committee, the provision is fixed.

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