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Chairman Bost Speaks on His Bill to Make Necessary Fixes to Toxic Exposure Fund

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 today’s legislative hearing on his bill, the Toxic Exposure Fund Improvement Act - legislation to provide transparent funding to deliver benefits to toxic-exposed veterans under the PACT Act:


Good morning.


The Committee will come to order.


Today we will consider the Toxic Exposure Fund Improvement Act.


Before we get to that, I want to address the business meeting that we scheduled and then cancelled.


Last week, the Committee staff met to hold another transcribed interview of a witness in the sexual harassment investigation.


Without warning, two minutes prior to the interview, the minority declared they would not participate in the interview, and V.A. quickly followed suit.


I was prepared to hold another subpoena vote to compel V.A. to participate.


V.A. assures us they will cooperate with transcribed interviews regardless of minority attendance.


That is consistent with House rules.


Therefore, I decided a business meeting to consider another subpoena isn’t necessary today.


I hope there will not be any more obstruction of the Committee’s oversight.


But if there is, I won’t hesitate to call another subpoena vote.


Now, back to the matter at hand.


This bill is an attempt to fix the unintended consequences of the creation of the Toxic Exposure Fund, that have handcuffed this Committee from moving legislation forward.


Some of the mechanics are complicated, but the goal is very simple.


We need a Toxic Exposure Fund that pays for the healthcare expansion and the costs to deliver benefits under the PACT Act.


However, TEF was never intended to cover V.A. healthcare or benefits not related to toxic exposure or that existed before the PACT Act.


There is no reason the Fund has to meddle with the Budget Act and create problems for other pieces of veterans’ legislation.


I want to address the bad-faith political attacks and scary rumors right now.


This bill would absolutely not abolish, cut, or undermine the Toxic Exposure Fund.


In fact, the bill is even more generous than what V.A. says they will need to deliver PACT care and benefits to veterans and their families.


My bill would continue the dollar amounts that Congress already appropriated to the Fund for fiscal year 2024 and 2025.


And the bill would allow almost $4 billion more than V.A. has requested for 2026.


After that, the amount available increases by 8 percent every year.


This rate of increase is larger than V.A.’s own healthcare inflation numbers.


Beyond 2033, the bill requires V.A. to propose the next 10 years of funding, and that would receive special consideration in Congress.


It would also give V.A. more flexibility to carry dollars over from year to year in the Fund.


And it would finally solve the wonky, inside-the-Beltway problem that has stopped a lot of good, bipartisan legislation from moving through this Committee.


Right now, any bill that we try to advance relating to healthcare, research, V.A. administrative operations, or I.T. has a mandatory cost.


As many of you know, this Committee only has one major offset to pay for our legislation to get it passed out of the House.


Once that offset is used up, and unless stakeholders want to identify new offsets, our ability to pass bills is limited for the rest of the year.


We have been working for months to finalize the Senator Elizabeth Dole veterans’ package, and this issue has made doing that much more difficult.


The Toxic Exposure Fund Improvement Act is my proposal to solve this problem – without impacting the PACT Act authorities.


We have been discussing how unfortunate the situation is since the fall of 2022.


It’s time to stop playing Monday morning quarterback.


We all have to get off the sidelines and do something about it.


I have said this before, and I will say it again: If anyone else has a proposal, I welcome it.


Let’s work together. Let’s compromise. Let’s be bipartisan.


Without a doubt, this is a bipartisan problem.


But if we don’t fix it, the Congressional Budget Office has assured us that it will continue to plague the next chairman and future Committee members when they try to legislate.


That’s a disservice to every single veteran, caregiver, and survivor.


The PACT Act was a historic achievement, but it would be a tragedy if it was the last major law this Committee is able to produce.


We are responsible for authorizing all V.A. programs and services for all veterans so that they can get the care and benefits they have earned.


In order to carry out that responsibility, we need to get these handcuffs off.


I want to welcome our witnesses, and I hope to have a productive conversation about how best to accomplish that.


Ranking Member Takano, I now recognize you for your opening statement.
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