Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks at Markup on Build Back Better Agenda
Jenni Geurink (202-819-4684)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks at the Full Committee markup on legislative proposals to comply with the reconciliation directive included in section 2002 of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, S. Con. Res. 14. as part of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda.
Full video of the Chairman’s remarks
Chairman Takano’s remarks as prepared:
Today’s markup comes at a trying time for our nation and veterans. On Saturday, we reflected on the 20th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in American history which also saw the start of a 20-year war -- the effects of which we are struggling to understand and mitigate to this day. We have all heard from veterans who are trying to process what they experienced and sacrificed for. What I can tell you is that – for those of you who served, your service mattered--to me personally, to your country, to your fellow servicemembers. I thank you for your service, and if you need support during this time we are here and we care. Please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, and press 1, or text 838255, or you can chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net/chat.
Mental health and the other costs of war are very much on my mind. Whether you agree with the way we as a nation went to war or how we ended it, we must all recognize that the cost of war does not end when military operations cease and our servicemembers leave the war zone. Our pact to America’s veterans continues long after individual conflicts as we ease the transition to civilian life, and ensure veterans can access the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.
With this sacred pact on my mind, I want to note to the other members of this Committee that I have begun discussions with the Senate on a package of mental health bills, and I know there are several bills that have been introduced in the House that have some great ideas in them. This Committee has focused its efforts on reducing veteran suicide for several sessions of Congress. I hope that the Ranking Member will collaborate with me on this package and help continue this bipartisan tradition. I have instructed my staff to move quickly on putting a draft together.
There are questions about the costs of this 20-year war that we have struggled to answer since its inception, but I hope we are at least wiser about the effects as the IOU on the promises we have made comes due. We cannot deliver on our promises to veterans if we don’t maintain the infrastructure that provides the care and services they have earned, and that is why we are here today. I can think of no better time for this institution to provide funding to ensure VA has the resources to fulfil the promise to care for our nation’s veterans than now. I am pleased that today’s markup will direct the 18 billion dollars set aside for VA in President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda to restore veterans’ faith in VA by literally rebuilding its physical infrastructure, investing in its workforce, and providing much needed updates to the support structures that serve our veterans.
We know that Americans strongly support investments that serve veterans, so I am proud to deliver on this.
Over the years chronic underfunding of VA’s capital asset portfolio has left the Department trying to deliver 21st century healthcare in buildings designed to serve veterans who fought in World Wars I and II—that’s unacceptable. The infrastructure of these buildings is failing our veterans, and the majority of Americans agree that it is time for an update.
In the last few years, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, this Committee has worked to expand resources for veterans in crisis, reduce veteran suicide, expand VA access for populations of underserved veterans, and ensure veterans receive timely and high-quality care. Today’s legislation is directly tied to those efforts.
By making a critical investment in VA, we can start rebuilding VA’s capacity in terms of brick and mortar infrastructure, human capital, and the support structures that serve our nation’s veterans. If we do not make these investments now, it will become increasingly difficult to deliver on the promises we have made to our veterans. President Biden’s Build Back Better plan gives us the framework to do that by making serious investments in VA and finally committing resources to deliver to veterans the absolute best, most modern, and inclusive care and services possible.
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