Statement of Senator Richard Burr
March 4, 2010
345 Cannon House Office Building
VSO Legislative Presentations for the Second Session of the 111th Congress
· Good morning, Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner, and Acting Ranking Member Stearns, who will be taking the helm for our colleague Congressman Buyer for the first part of this hearing. I want to thank my colleagues for convening this joint hearing. I also want to extend a warm welcome to all of our witnesses this morning.
· I would be remiss if I did not also extend a warm greeting to my fellow North Carolinians who are with us today, including Ronald Dewayne Richardson and Terence Smith, who are representing the Virginia-Mid-Atlantic Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America. I would also like to send a special good morning welcome to Ted and Sarah Wade, who are with us as well. I truly value your dedication to helping veterans and their families, and appreciate your participation in this important hearing.
· I am pleased to be here to listen to the legislative priorities for the many groups joining us today. Your organizations represent the men and women of our military who have made significant sacrifices in service to this nation. Your testimony today is invaluable as we continue our work to improve the benefits and services for those who have worn the uniform and for their families.
· As your testimony reflects, there is much work to be done. For one, the VA claims process is too long and complex and frustrates many veterans and their families, in North Carolina and across the nation.
· So far, the primary solution has been to significantly increase VA’s claims processing staff – which has been more than doubled in the past 10 years. But this has not solved the problems and, in fact, they are projected to get even worse.
· By the end of fiscal year 2011, the backlog is expected to nearly double and delays are expected to increase by another 30 days. And productivity is expected to be less than 80 claims per employee, a decline from around 100 claims per employee just a few years ago. I think this shows the pressing need to try a new approach.
· That’s why I believe we should pursue common-sense changes to this cumbersome, outdated system that will make it work better for veterans and their families. I am fully committed to this goal, and look forward to hearing any ideas from our witnesses on how this can be accomplished.
· As many of you will discuss today, there also is an urgent need to provide more assistance to family caregivers – those who have stepped up in a time of need for our wounded warriors. That is why I joined Chairman Akaka in cosponsoring S. 1963, which will provide training, monthly stipends, health care, and other support for family caregivers of seriously injured veterans. This is a step in the right direction to better the lives of those who have sacrificed so much, and I hope it will soon become law.
· In the months ahead, we will continue to work on these and other important issues facing our nation’s veterans and those who care for them. 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, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.