Welcome to today’s hearing. Our legislative agenda reflects the work and commitment of Members on both sides of the aisle, all of whom are looking for solutions in the areas of veterans’ health and benefits. Before we begin, I want to speak briefly about some of the progress the Committee has made since our legislative hearings in April.
Earlier this year, I sponsored the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. This measure would provide timely and predictable funding for the veterans health care system. I’m delighted to note that the President will sign this legislation into law tomorrow. I’m grateful to all who worked on this, including the Committee’s Ranking Member, and the Veterans Service Organizations, who made this a top priority.
Other vital legislation reported out of this Committee is progressing to final passage, as well. The Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009 was unanimously approved by the Senate just two weeks ago and we are beginning to work with the House on final benefits legislation. This bill would enhance a number of benefits for veterans and their families, including compensation, housing, employment, education, burial, and insurance benefits.
Despite these successes, we, as a Committee, have not been able to achieve full support for two large health measures. The Veterans Health Care Authorization Act of 2009 has been held up by one member of the Senate. This is very unfortunate, as that means vital changes to help women veterans and VA health workers are being delayed.
Likewise, a single member is holding up the Caregiver and Veterans Health Services Act of 2009. This important legislation provides long overdue assistance to the caregivers of the most seriously injured veterans, including health care, counseling, support and a living stipend. We are working on agreement to bring the bill to the full Senate. Caring for wounded veterans is a cost of war, and should be treated as such.
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