Statement of Senator Richard Burr
March 18, 2010
G-50 Dirksen Office Building
VSO Legislative Presentations for the Second Session of the 111th Congress
· Good morning, Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner, and Ranking Member Buyer. Thank you for convening this joint hearing to listen to the legislative priorities of those who serve our nation’s military personnel, veterans, their families, and their survivors.
· I would also like to welcome our witnesses to the hearing this morning. I would particularly like to extend a warm greeting to my fellow North Carolinians who made the trip here this morning, most especially Vivianne Wersel, who is representing the Gold Star Wives. Vivianne, thank you for your continued commitment to the survivors of our fallen heroes. And thank you to all of you -- I appreciate all of your organization’s efforts.
· These joint legislative hearings allow us to hear about the challenges that servicemembers, veterans, their families, and their survivors face – providing invaluable insights that helps us here in Congress to make the necessary changes to improve VA benefits and services.
· As I think you would agree, we have made many improvements, but 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 close to 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· That’s why I believe we should pursue common-sense changes to this cumbersome, outdated system that will make it work better for everyone. 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 know, there is also 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.
· Also, last week, I introduced the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” resolution, S. Res. 451. It encourages designation of March 30, 2010, as a day of remembrance of those who fought bravely yet were denied the gratitude they deserved when they returned home. It is never too late to thank those who served, and my wish is that every American will give our Vietnam Veterans the recognition and appreciation that they earned while serving our country.
· I would like to thank John Rowan with the Vietnam Veterans of America for his support of this very meaningful resolution. I hope all of my colleagues will join us as we work to right this wrong and hope we will clear this resolution through the Senate soon.
· 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, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.