Thank you, Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Michaud, for holding this important full Veterans Affairs Committee legislative hearing today. HR 806, the Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act, was the very first bill that I introduced as a new member of the 113th Congress. I'm grateful that the full committee is considering this important legislation.
As ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health, I believe it's, as we all do, I believe it's vitally important to ensure adequate funding for veterans' healthcare programs. I am sure the committee knows in 2006, 2007, and 2008 the prior administration's budget request for VA healthcare was not sufficient to meet the needs of our veterans. The funding shortfall, in those years, forced Congress to provide supplemental appropriations to ensure the VA would have sufficient funds to continue to provide basic healthcare services to our nation's veterans.
In 2009, Congress passed the Veteran's Healthcare Budget Reform and Transparency Act which provided for advanced appropriations for veteran health administrations programs. It also ensured the accuracy of the administration's advanced budget request. Congress also included a requirement for the GAO to review the accuracy of the administration's advanced budget projections. Pursuant to this law, the GAO issued reports revealing the 2011 and 2012 advanced appropriations requests for veteran's healthcare. It's my understanding that the 2013 report will soon be issued.
The GAO report has helped Congress and this committee to evaluate the accuracy of the administration's budget projections. It also ensures the VA is functioning based off of accurate information, and most importantly this GAO review has provided Congress with third-party, neutral assurance that the VA would not run out of money for veteran's healthcare.
Unfortunately, this GAO reporting requirement is scheduled to sunset at the end of calendar year. While the GAO reviews have largely confirmed that the current administration is budgeting sufficient sums for veteran's healthcare, I am concerned that without this review, future budget projections could be inaccurate and risk our ability to adequately meet the health needs of our men and women veterans.
We owe it to our current and future veterans to ensure the VA never again runs low on resources to provide healthcare to our veterans. They risked their lives to serve our country; our job is to ensure that we take care of them at home. Allowing this GAO review to sunset, puts veterans' healthcare in jeopardy. We cannot take that risk.
With the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, we will soon see a huge increase in the number of veterans accessing VA healthcare. Now is not the time to eliminate the GAO review.
That is why in February, I introduced HR 806 which makes permanent the requirement for GAO to review the accuracy of advanced appropriation requests for veterans healthcare. Passage of my bill will help Congress continue to evaluate the accuracy of the budgeting process and most importantly ensure our nation's veterans receive vital healthcare services.
I am profoundly grateful for the service and sacrifices made by all of our nation's veterans and their families. As members of this committee, it is our duty to ensure veterans always receive the benefits they need in a timely and efficient manner.
Again I would like to thank the Chair and the Ranking Member and the members of this committee for considering this important legislation. I'd also like to thank all of the veteran service organizations here today, who fight every day on behalf of our nation's veterans. I look forward to discussing this legislation further and happy to answer any questions and I yield back.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wzwNtL5jzQ.