RANKING MEMBER RICHARD BURR
March 8, 2011
Good morning, Chairman Miller, Chairman Murray, and Ranking Member Filner. Thank you for convening this joint hearing to listen to the legislative priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
Welcome to all of the VFW members who have traveled to be here today. Your advocacy and hard work goes a long way towards making the lives of all veterans easier. Thank you for your service.
I also want to extend a special welcome to the North Carolinians who have made the trip today. Thank you for being here.
Commander Eubank, welcome to you and your leadership team. Your lifelong commitment to veterans is evident by your selection as National Commander. I appreciate your participation in this important annual hearing. Today, we will hear your thoughts on how we can improve the lives of veterans, their families, and their survivors.
Hearing from VFW provides the Committees an opportunity to gain perspective from a distinctive group of men and women. Your members have all been on foreign soil and many have seen combat. Many have experienced the burden of being separated from family and friends for extended periods of time and often under the most difficult circumstances. Your insight is critical in ensuring we are providing our veterans with the care and services they need and deserve.
That must be our priority for all generations of veterans. But, moving forward, I think it’s also important that we all recognize the fiscal challenges that our nation is facing. Over the coming months and years, we will be relying on you and other veterans’ service organizations to provide us with your assessments of our veterans’ programs, so we can make sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely and effectively. I am particularly interested in whether the appropriate care and benefits are actually reaching these men, women, and their families in their communities.
In your written testimony, Commander, you make an interesting comparison regarding VA providing world class health care to millions of veterans, while the Veterans Benefits Administration has not evolved to this standard. This continues to be a concern for me as well. We must find better, quicker ways to for our veterans receive the benefits they earned through their brave service in the Armed Forces.
That is why, last week, 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 you indicate in your testimony, is in need of significant overhaul.
I would like to quickly note one other item before we proceed. In your testimony, Commander, you rightly identify that VA should make the new caregiver program for our severely-injured veterans a high priority.
I know that I am not the only member of these Committees who agrees with you. I am personally incensed by VA’s failure to implement this program in a timely manner. While VA has offered a plan forward – more than three months after the deadline –VA still has not provided us with a date by which we can expect the caregivers to access this much needed program. Worse, the current plan could exclude many veterans and their families who Congress meant to help.
This is regrettable, and I can assure you that we will continue to push VA to follow through on its responsibility to the severely-wounded veterans this program is intended to serve.
Thank you, again, to all of you for being here today and thank you for your service.
I thank the Chair and yield back.
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