Statement of Senator Richard Burr
March 30, 2011
Good morning, Chairman Murray, Chairman Miller, and Ranking Member Filner. Thank you for convening this joint hearing to listen to the legislative agendas of those who serve our nation’s military personnel, veterans, their families, and their survivors.
I would like to welcome all of our witnesses and the members of your organizations who are here today. Your insight is critical in ensuring we are providing our veterans and their loved ones with the care and services they need and deserve.
I’d also like to thank all of your organizations for your work during the 111th Congress on a range of important issues. Together, we’ve made progress. But, as your testimony today reflects, there is more work to be done.
In addition, I would like to recognize today, March 30th, as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” To those who served in the Vietnam war: thank you. And a warm belated welcome home. You served your country well. Your sacrifices helped preserve the freedoms that we enjoy today. We remember your service and those of your fallen comrades.
And to all the rest of you, I encourage you to take a minute or two today to honor the Vietnam veterans among your friends, family, and communities.
Looking ahead, it is important that we continue to focus on meeting the critical needs of veterans and their families and, at the same time, recognize the dire fiscal challenges that our nation is facing. In the coming months and years, we will be relying on organizations like yours to provide us with candid assessments of veterans’ programs, to ensure taxpayer money is being spent wisely and effectively.
I am interested in whether the appropriate care and benefits are actually reaching these men, women, and their families in their communities and helping to improve their lives. As we have seen with the caregivers law that passed last year, Congressional intent to provide training, health care, and other support for caregivers of seriously injured veterans has been lost in the shuffle between Capitol Hill, the White House, VA and OMB.
This is simply unacceptable. As everyone on these Committees should agree, we must continue to fight to make sure the intent of Congress is followed, so the caregivers for these seriously wounded veterans, like Sara Wade, will get the support and benefits they need.
Another important issue that many of you mentioned in your testimony is the dynamic role of women in today’s military. In fact, women veterans are the fastest growing segment in the veteran population. Women are more involved than ever before in operations overseas and in the military’s missions overall, while facing unique concerns and challenges during and after their service to our country. These Committees have a responsibility to ensure that VA is prepared to provide the care and services that women veterans will need once they return to civilian life.
Lastly I want to mention VA’s growing claims backlog and outdated claims processing system. I continue to believe we should pursue common-sense changes to this cumbersome system that will make it work better for veterans and their families.
This is why I introduced a bill that will allow veterans to receive benefits up to one year prior to the date they file a fully-developed claim for disability compensation. This legislation would encourage veterans to file claims that are complete, so VA will save resources by not having to gather evidence and is then able to provide a faster decision.
This bill is just one step towards alleviating the chronic backlog of VA’s claims processing system, which, as many of you indicate in your testimony, is in need of a significant overhaul.
In the months ahead, 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, Madam Chairman. I yield back.
Table of Contents