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Hon. Jon Runyan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Good afternoon. The legislative hearing on H.R. 1025, H.R. 1826, H.R. 1898, H.R. 923, and H.R. 2349 will come to order.

I want to thank you all for attending today’s hearing.

As the first order of business, I ask unanimous consent that all Members present be allowed to sit at the dais.

Having heard none opposed, so ordered.

I realize that there was a short turnaround time for the witness invitations to this hearing due to the recent holiday.

 However, I am disappointed that the VA is again considerably late in submitting their testimony for this hearing. 

It is my understanding that the written testimony submitted does not address H.R. 2349.

I am hopeful that the VA will be able to provide us with written testimony on that bill by close of business Monday, July 11th, so that we might be able to weigh the VA’s input on that bill before next week’s mark-up meeting of this subcommittee.

Before I recognize Ranking Member McNerney and other members of the Committee, I wanted to briefly touch on H.R. 2349—which I have introduced.

H.R. 2349, the Veterans' Benefits Training Improvement Act of 2011, aims to improve benefit claims processing through focusing on individualized training and skills assessment.

The bill creates an individualized training program for all employees and managers who process or supervise the processing of disability claims.

Annually, these employees would take a test that assesses their skills relating to claims processing. 

Following this test, VA will create an individualized training program for each employee who took the test.  This individualized program will focus on the areas of the test where the employee showed the greatest deficiency or need for improvement.

This focus on individual deficiencies will avoid the redundant blanket training that many employees already endure.

There is no reason why an employee of 20 years should be taking the same training as an employee who has been in the VA for only two years.

I hope that by establishing this program we are able to encourage employees and managers alike to slow down and do the claim right the first time. Improving the number of claims sent out the door is not enough if the veteran is continually seeing mistakes being made on his claim. Quality must be improved, and the only way to improve quality is make sure that VA employees are properly trained.

While I understand that some believe this bill is very similar to the certification testing that Congress required a few years ago, it is different and needed because this bill provides the individualized metrics and required follow through with training and retesting necessary to be truly effective.

I ask all of today’s witnesses to summarize your written statement within the five minutes allotted, and without objection, each written testimony will be made part of the hearing record.

Before we begin with testimony, I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member from the great state of California for any remarks he may have.