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Sen. John Boozman

Senator John Boozman

Thank you Chairman Miller.  Good morning, Chairman Sanders and Ranking Member Michaud.  Thank you for convening this joint hearing to allow us to hear the legislative priorities from a number of organizations that represent our nation’s military personnel, veterans, survivors and dependents.

I would like to welcome all of our witnesses and the members of your organizations who have traveled here today.  I would like to take just a moment to recognize any veterans from Arkansas that are here today and thank you for your service.  I am glad to be here as these hearings allow us the opportunity to gain insight into how we can better provide veterans and their family members with the care and benefits they have earned and, more importantly, deserve.

As we proceed with today’s hearing there are three specific issues that I look forward to working with you all on. First, several of your organizations have advocated for action on the issue of in-state tuition for veterans attempting to use their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefit. As you may know, I introduced S. 257, the G.I. Bill Tuition Fairness Act of 2013.  Our Servicemembers face a unique challenge of establishing residency that often follows them when transitioning back to civilian life. By requiring G.I. Bill eligible schools to charge in-state rates, we can remove a potential barrier to higher education for recently separated veterans.

Another issue that I believe is of great importance is to ensure separating servicemembers receive accurate and timely information on education and benefits from VA as part of the TAP program. The Departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs should be commended for revamping TAP for the first time in 20 years. I look forward to hearing from you on what is still lacking in the program, and whether a requirement that instruction on educational assistance entitlements and educational financing should be made a mandatory part of TAP.

Finally, I believe it is time that we pass legislation that provides for advanced appropriations for all accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Senator Begich and I have been leading the fight on this effort in the Senate, and I appreciate his leadership, as well as the strong support of the VSO community regarding this priority.  Millions of veterans rely on VA for their healthcare, pensions, and numerous other benefits that they earned while serving our country. Having advanced appropriations for all VA accounts, we will ensure continuity of services for our veterans and give the Department the ability to accurately plan ahead to meet the needs of veterans who rely on VA services.

In the coming months, we will continue to work on these and other important issues facing our nation’s veterans and their loved ones.  I remain committed to working with your organizations and my colleagues in the Senate and the House to improve the lives of veterans, their families, and their survivors.

Thank you again, Mister Chairman.  I yield back.