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Opening Statement of Hon. Marlin A. Stutzman, Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Good morning.  We are here to receive testimony on nine bills, including bills by Ranking Member Braley and me, as well as other Members.  These bills cover a variety of issues ranging from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to the VA-US Paralympics program.  As always, we ask witnesses to summarize their statements and to observe the five-minute rule.

I introduced H.R. 2301 to reduce the administrative burden on both the VA and the schools as a means to speed up processing by cutting down on the number of transactions per student due to changes in enrollment.  The bill would direct VA to pay chapter 33 tuition and fees after receiving a bill from a school reflecting all changes in enrollment during the academic period. 

The testimony I have reviewed makes it clear, that some institutions may have concerns because of cash flow and other reasons.

I would point out that veterans make up less than 10 percent of all college students for many schools.  But witnesses have pointed out other problems, some due to state laws and regulations and technical issues such as needing to update schools' IT systems and varying lengths of academic periods. 

To that end, the two major stakeholders in this process - VA and the schools - need to come together and figure out how to make this work.  The schools have a right to expect payment, but they also have an obligation to their veterans to adjust their processes. 

We cannot write a bill that will account for every variation in how schools operate.  On the VA's part, perhaps it is time for VA and the Department of Education to adopt a common payment system to make things easier on the schools.  One thing I can promise you is that this will not be the last time we meet on this issue.

I have also introduced H.R. 2302; a bill that would require VA to report the estimated costs of conferences and any other type of meeting that meet certain thresholds. 

The bill would also require VA to report the final costs of those conferences.  While I have no objection to bringing together VA staff and others at a conference, I believe a measure of transparency on the costs is important.

Finally, the VA-US Paralympics program appears to be meeting the goals set out in Public Law 110-389.  In that law, former Chairmen Buyer and Filner saw the benefit of using sports as part of rehabilitating injured servicemembers.

Initial indications confirm the program has brought hundreds of disabled veterans back to adaptive sports and we are seeing a few of them succeed even at the elite levels.  Therefore, I believe it is important to see this program continue.  My bill would extend this program through FY 2018.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on all the bills and I now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Braley.