Skip to Content

Press Releases

Chairman Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Oversight Hearing to Support Surviving Family Members of Fallen Servicemembers

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the today’s oversight hearing on supporting America’s surviving military community:


Good morning.


The Committee will come to order.


I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing.


We are here today to discuss whether V.A. is doing enough to support our survivor community. 


This topic is personal for me as I know it is for all of you.


I know that my beautiful wife’s biggest fear when I was on active-duty was that one day I’d go to work and not come home.


I understand the price that our surviving military family community has paid.


It’s a debt that my old friend Dr. Phil Roe used to say could never fully be repaid.


Which is why I want to thank each of you for having the courage to join us here today.


Just one percent of Americans raise their right hand and serve in the military.


Which means that less than one percent of American families will endure the pain that comes with the loss of their servicemember or veteran loved one.

We must ensure that our survivor community has access to the support, benefits, and healthcare that their servicemember or veteran has earned.




Whether it’s a training accident, combat deployment, mental health struggles, or a disability as a result of the veteran’s military service, it is the spouse and children who bear the brunt of these life-altering events.


When a veteran is disabled because of their service, it is their spouses and children who support them. 


And when a veteran is totally disabled because of their service, it is their family members who typically serve as their primary caregivers.


Military and veteran spouses often put their careers on hold to care for their loved one who bears the scars of service. 


And when their veteran loved one passes away, surviving families often depend on V.A. pension or compensation to make ends meet.


It is in that fog of grief that survivors need to know that V.A. has their back.


On January 5th, the Secretary stated that “every day” V.A. will serve veterans’ families, caregivers, and survivors “every bit as well” as the veterans who have served the nation. 


I don’t doubt the Secretary’s word.


However, in multiple conversations with committee staff, V.A. employees described survivors’ issues as less of a priority for the Department than veterans’ issues more broadly.


Even the suggestion that that could be the case is unsettling.


 Too often we hear that survivors are unaware of the benefits available to them, or how to apply. 


The information on V.A.’s website can be out of date for certain education benefits for survivors, but not for other benefits. 


We must ensure that V.A. is treating all education benefits equally. 


And let’s say a surviving spouse or child does file a claim after wading through the confusing forms and conflicting information. 


Then, V.A. often takes years to process their claim, whether it be for compensation, pension, or education benefits.


Even a surviving child’s simplest claim for D.I.C. benefits can take months to process.


Further, in the CHAMPVA program, we have heard of outdated paper claim filing processes, payment delays, and denials of healthcare services without explanation.


And we’ve heard of V.A. Vet Centers turning away survivors seeking bereavement services and mental health support. 


These issues have real-life consequences for the families of those who have served.


In 2008, Congress established V.A.’s Office of Survivors Assistance to serve as a “principal advisor” to the Secretary on all policies and programs affecting the veteran survivor community.


But under the Biden administration, this office was moved out of the Secretary’s office.


And banished to the Veterans Benefits Administration, within the Pension and Fiduciary service.


But the Pension and Fiduciary service doesn’t even cover all survivors’ benefits.


Further, it has been easier for many survivors to receive D.I.C. under the PACT Act.


I trust that three full-time employees within the Office of Survivors Assistance aren’t able to handle the influx of questions and casework associated with these new authorities.


Further, the Office of Survivors Assistance no longer even meets regularly with the V.A. Secretary’s office. 


This is unacceptable to me, and I look forward to hearing Mr. Jacobs’ response to my questions on it today.


Furthermore, for this hearing, I specifically invited Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher to be V.A.’s lead witness.


Deputy Secretary Brasher should have been capable of answering to V.A.’s what I as see as shortcomings in helping survivors.


She could also directly answer why the Office of Survivors’ Assistance has been drastically deprioritized and some would say simply ignored by the Office of the Secretary.


I am pleased that Undersecretary Jacobs is here but in the future, I hope V.A. would send the witnesses that we request and substitute their judgement, for mine.


I am proud to cosponsor Representative Ciscomani’s bill, the Prioritizing Veterans’ Survivors Act. 


This bill would rightfully return the Office of Survivors Assistance back to the Office of the Secretary. 


This would ensure that all survivors programs and policies always have a seat at the table, an advocate on their side at V.A.


Finally, before I turn to Ranking Member Takano for his opening remarks, I would like us to take a moment of silence in remembrance of Kim Ruocco, who tragically passed away on January 21st. 


Kim was the surviving spouse of Marine Corps veteran John Ruocco.


And as Vice President for Suicide Prevention and Postvention at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Kim was a dedicated advocate for the entire surviving community.


Kim’s passing is a great loss to us and to the entire military and veteran family community. 


Thank you.


I now recognize Ranking Member Takano for his opening comments.
Back to top