Washington D.C. -- Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today attended a hearing of the Committee on the President’s proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Excerpts from Senator Burr’s opening statement can be found below.
“In a time of record high debt and deficits, my priority is not only to ensure that veterans of every generation receive the care and benefits they need and deserve but also to analyze every area of the budget to ensure we maximize all options to spend the taxpayer’s money wisely.
“In examining the VA budget request, one observation I have is the growth over the last 2 years in the budget of the staff offices in your D.C central office.
“This large boost in spending led me to take a closer look…here is what I found: a two-year staffing increase of 7% for the Office of the Secretary; a two-year staffing increase of 34% for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs; and a two-year staffing increase of 44% for the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs.
“Other examples of spending we may want to take a closer look at include: VA continuing to operate and publish a law review that has articles and book reviews and the hiring of a speech writer for an Assistant Secretary.
“How are these funding increases essential to our nation’s veterans? Do these additional staff directly benefit the veteran who uses the VA system?
“Another item I found very interesting is the $1 billion contingency fund in the Medical Services account, which would essentially provide a buffer in case poor economic conditions drive up demand for VA services. This caught my eye because of the first lines of the President’s Budget Message: ‘America is emerging from the worst recession in generations. In 2010, an economy that had been shrinking began to grow again.’ What I find interesting is the seemingly difference of opinion on the strength of the economy between the President and VA.
“Although I appreciate that VA is now focusing on IT improvements and other initiatives -- rather than simply adding more staff -- new ideas and good intentions are not enough. We must make sure VA has the tools and resources it needs to succeed in these efforts. More importantly, we must make sure there is a realistic, comprehensive plan to get the backlog under control, so veterans and their families will not face delays or frustrations in accessing their VA benefits.
“In the end, we need to ask ourselves if spending money on bureaucrats, speech writers, and publishing book reviews are consistent with being good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. We should ask ourselves if we are fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise: ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’”
To read Senator Burr’s full statement, please click here.