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Hon. Jeff Miller, Ranking Republican Member, Subcommittee on Health

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I appreciate having this important hearing to look at the performance of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in meeting the existing long-term care needs of our disabled and aging veterans and assess the Department’s strategy for addressing long-term care challenges in the future.

The number of enrolled veterans most in need of long-term care services, those 85 years and older, will dramatically increase by the year 2012, growing from 337,000 to 741,000 veterans, a 120% increase.  In addition to a large elderly veteran population, VA is facing a new demographic of veterans who are limited in their capacity to care for themselves due to multi-trauma injuries incurred during the Global War on Terror.  It is vital that the generational differences of these young veterans be taken into consideration and that VA provides age-appropriate services in the right setting. 

In 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 the Government Accountability Office analyzed various aspects of VA’s long-term care programs at both the House and Senate Committees’ direction.  It is of great concern that in these GAO reviews, we continue to find that access to a complete continuum of VA long-term care services remains markedly variable from network to network.

VA’s lack of a reliable long-term care planning model not only led to a glaring gap in the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) plan, but was also a major factor in the budget formulation problems this Committee uncovered in 2005.  For more than five years, VA has been promising to adopt a strategic plan for long-term care, but has failed to establish one.  Last year, in Public Law 109-461, Congress showed its resolve by requiring VA to publish a strategic plan for the provision of long-term care not later than 180 days after enactment of the law.  Let me put VA on notice that the date is near and we expect VA to submit that plan in mid-June, on time, with no excuses.

I want to also remind all of us that the way VA delivers long-term care very deeply affects each individual veteran patient and their families.  Important to enhancing a veteran patient’s quality of life is ensuring that care is provided in the least restrictive setting and that the personal dignity and emotional well-being of the patient is the top priority.  In this regard, I am a strong advocate for supporting new and innovative programs to meet these needs.

I look forward to the testimony our witnesses will provide today to assist us in confronting the unresolved issues related to meeting the long-term care needs of all our veterans and improving the management and direction of VA’s long-term care mission. 

Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.