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Opening Statement of Hon. Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Health

Good morning. I want to thank you all for joining us today as we continue our oversight of the Federal Recovery Coordination Program (FRCP).

Last May, the Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the significant challenges the FRCP program faces in areas as fundamental as identifying potential enrollees, reviewing enrollment decisions, determining staffing needs, defining and managing caseloads, and making placement decisions. 

At that hearing it became patently clear that rather than having a single, joint program to advocate on behalf of wounded warriors and ensure a comprehensive and seamless rehabilitation, recovery, and transition, we have two separate, overlapping programs – the Recovery Coordination Program (RCP) operated within the Department of Defense (DOD) and the FRCP operated within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Needless to say, this has created unnecessary and unacceptable confusion about the roles and responsibilities of each program and has added yet another burdensome bureaucratic maze for our wounded warriors and their families to navigate at a time when recovery and reintegration should be their only focus.

So concerned was I about the pervasive issues with the operation of these two programs, that immediately following the hearing, I sent a letter jointly with Ranking Member Michaud to the co-chairs of the VA/DOD Wounded, Ill, and Injured Senior Oversight Committee (SOC), with oversight authority over the FRCP.

In that letter, we requested a detailed plan and a timeline for how VA and DOD jointly would implement the recommendations contained in the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which identified significant shortcomings of the FRCP.  Further, we asked for an analysis on how the FRCP and RCP could be integrated under a single umbrella to reduce redundancy and ensure the seamless transition of our wounded warriors.

A response was requested by June 20. More than two months past the deadline and following the notice of this additional hearing, we finally received a response to our letter.

Unfortunately, it did not include the detail or timeline we requested and expected.

With regard to an analysis of and potential options for integrating the FRCP and the RCP, we were told that the SOC is “…currently considering several options…to maximize resources in care coordination …and preparing for final recommendations…”

These programs are not new and the time for considering and recommending has long past.

As Chairwoman, it has been my privilege this year to spend time with our honored heroes who have returned from battle bearing the wounds of war and the families who stand by their side through it all.  I have traveled to Brooke Army Medical Center, the Center for the Intrepid in Bethesda, and VA medical facilities across our great country.

It is clear to me that the FRCP is failing to meet its mission.

It also clear to me that these families cannot wait any longer. They can no longer be party to bureaucratic in-fighting and turf battles. They can no longer be told that they have several “single points of contact.”

When answers are needed, we cannot take three months to respond to a letter. When answers are needed, we cannot keep considering our options.

Today, I want answers.

I now recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Michaud for any remarks he may have.