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Chairman Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Hearing to Discuss Services for Veterans Living with Spinal Cord Injury

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 Full Committee’s oversight hearing to explore methods to improve the delivery of care and services to the catastrophically disabled veteran community living with spinal cord injuries and disorders:


Good morning.


The Committee will come to order.


I want to welcome all the witnesses to our hearing.


Today we will discuss the care and benefits available to veterans living with spinal cord injuries and disorders.


We have not had a hearing on this issue during my time on this committee and oversight in this area is long overdue.


Before we dive into this hearing, I have to say that I am very disappointed to see that V.A. did not send a witness from its Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder (or S.C.I.D.) System.


V.A. should have prioritized having someone from the office that is tasked with helping these veterans available.


Veterans and taxpayers are watching, and this is now the third hearing this year where VA has declined to send our requested witnesses.


I am frankly sick of them substituting their judgement for ours.


It is the responsibility of this committee to make sure V.A. takes care of all veterans.


V.A. has long been recognized for its unique ability to provide top notch S.C.I.D. care.


V.A. has 25 S.C.I.D. centers across the country, each specifically designed to meet the diverse needs of veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders.


One of these centers is in Hines, Illinois, which is about three hours from the top of my district.


That is a long drive for an appointment.


I want to ensure V.A. is meeting veterans where they are with the healthcare they have earned.


It’s that simple.


We have heard stories from veterans about missing doctor’s appointments due to late or inadequate transportation with no coordination from V.A.


These missed appointments have contributed to a $4 billion cost to the Department.


We have also heard concerns about staffing shortages that have prevented S.C.I.D centers from operating at full capacity, as well as issues with patient safety practices in V.A. facilities.


Some of V.A.’s shortfalls in this area are addressed in H.R. 8371, the Elizabeth Dole Act, including home care, long term care, and access to S.C.I.D. systems of care.


It is incredibly important that we pass this important legislation to ensure V.A. can meet the need for all veterans.


I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will put politics aside and support this lifesaving bill.


Today we will also examine V.A.’s failure to ensure all disability exams are conducted in properly equipped facilities.


A recent V.A. Inspector General report showed that a large number of contract exam facilities did not comply with federal disability law.


In this day and age, that’s unacceptable.


Let me be perfectly clear – this is not a mere suggestion for the Department.


V.A. must ensure that the veterans they serve have access to an accessible and safe exam facility.


Without that, veterans are being restricted from the benefits they have earned.


We know that the disability claims process itself is difficult to navigate.


Veterans SHOULD NOT also face physical barriers to getting an exam.


Access to benefits, including V.A.’s specially adaptive housing grant program, are also crucial.


Yet we understand that the application and wait times for this program can present challenges for veterans and their families that need help.


Veterans are required to receive three estimates before they can get approval, and it can be difficult to find builders to do the work. 


The advantage of keeping disabled veterans in their homes not only saves money, but also gives veterans’ and their families peace of mind.



Congress has recently invested in this program.


V.A. must make the rubber meet the road so severely disabled veterans continue to have access to the benefit they have earned.


I am eager to hear from V.A. today about how they plan to fix these years-long problems.


We will also learn from the expert witnesses who will speak about what more we can do to improve access to care and services for the catastrophically disabled veteran community.


I also want to welcome the many members of Paralyzed Veterans of America who are attending the hearing today.


Thank you all for making the trip to D.C. and I appreciate that you are spending some time here with us this morning.


I now recognize Ranking Member Takano for his opening comments.
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