Veterans Affairs

Committee on Veterans Affairs

Phil Roe

Joint Subcommittee Field Hearing: “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Ensuring the Success of our Student Veterans”

2019/04/24

On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, and the Committee on Education & Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, will hold a joint field hearing entitled “Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Ensuring the Success of our Student Veterans.”   The subcommittees will meet at 10:30 a.m. at 8800 Grossmont College Drive, Griffin Gate, Building 60, 1st Floor, El Cajon, CA 92020. Read More

Chairman Takano: “This Is A National Crisis”

2019/04/10

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) released the statement below following several concerning reports of veteran suicides in the past week: “My sincere condolences to the family and friends of the veteran who died by suicide last night outside the Austin VA facility. This is a national crisis that we all need to address. Every new instance of veteran suicide showcases a barrier to access, but with three incidents on VA property in just five days, and six this year alone, it’s critical we do more to stop this epidemic. All Americans have a role to play in reducing veteran suicide, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is going to make this issue a top priority. Already, our Committee has hosted a bipartisan roundtable and staff level briefing to better understand the crisis. Additionally, I have called for a full committee hearing later this month, the first of many, to hear from VA about the recent tragedies and spark a larger discussion about what actions we can take together as a nation. As Americans, we are proud of the service and sacrifice our veterans have made for our country-- it’s time we match this pride with action and support to ensure our veterans get the care they earned and deserve.” ### Read More

Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Hearing on Pending Legislation

2019/04/09

On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a hearing on HR 95, HR 444, HR 1718, a discussion draft “To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements to the educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to flight training programs and certain other programs of education, and for other purposes,”, a discussion draft” Justice for Servicemembers Act,” a discussion draft “To amend the United States Housing Act of 1937 and title 38, United States Code, to expand eligibility for the HUD-VASH program, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit annual reports to the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives regarding homeless veterans, and for other purposes,” a discussion draft “Homes for Our Heroes Act of 2019,” a discussion draft “Veteran Employment and Child Care Access Act,” a discussion draft “BRAVE Act,” a discussion draft “To clarify seasoning requirements for certain refinanced mortgage loans, and for other purposes,” a discussion draft “Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William "Bill" Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act,” a discussion draft “VET OPP Act,” a discussion draft “To amend title 38, United States Code, to adjust certain limits on the guaranteed amount of a home loan under the home loan program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes,” a discussion draft “To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements to the Edith Nourse Rogers STEM Scholarship program of the Department of Veterans Affairs,” a discussion draft “To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand eligibility for the Marine Gunnery Sergeant John David Fry Scholarship to children and spouses of certain members of the reserve components of the Armed Forces who die from service-connected disabilities, and for other purposes,” a discussion draft “To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the ability of veterans to receive in-state tuition using educational assistance administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.” The subcommittee will meet at 10:00 a.m. in room 1334 of the Longworth House Office Building.   Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here     Read More

Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before FY 2020 Budget Hearing

2019/04/03

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the full committee oversight hearing entitled “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020.” Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"48","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]]   Good Afternoon. I call this hearing to order. First I would like to welcome Secretary Wilkie, and our Veteran Service Organizations: The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to this hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request. This budget reflects the Administration’s priorities, many of which we can all agree upon. The fact that we can agree on so much is a bright spot in the function of this chamber and our government. However, in some cases, we continue to see the same proposals from this Administration that we will never support—proposals like taking disability benefits from veterans by rounding down the cost-of-living adjustment—to pay for other veterans’ programs.  VA’s budget does not contain the proposed cuts to its programs and benefits that we see in other parts of the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget request. Yet, we cannot forget that cuts to important safety net programs like SNAP benefits, Medicare, and Medicaid, and the agencies responsible for providing them have serious impacts on the lives of veterans and their families who depend on those benefits, and place a greater strain on VA’s resources when they are not available to veterans in need. Although VA’s budget reflects an overall increase of 9.5 percent over fiscal year 2019 appropriated levels, I remain concerned about whether this budget reflects appropriate levels of funding to implement the VA MISSION Act, address VA’s Information Technology needs, provide the blue water navy veterans exposed to Agent Orange disability and healthcare benefits, make student veterans affected by the most recent for-profit school closings whole, and address veteran suicide—including an alarming trend of veterans committing suicide on VA campuses. We are all aware of the significant challenges at VA. Our task today is to ascertain whether this budget request goes far enough to address these challenges, and whether funding has been prioritized to best support the needs of veterans. For example, with passage of the MISSION Act, implementation of the law and providing coordinated community care has been a focus of the Department. However, funding for this program and the prioritization of this program must not be done at the expense of addressing VA’s significant workforce and infrastructure needs. Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s cost projections, we do not know if this budget request goes far enough to cover the projected cost of this program—an estimated $47 billion over 5 years—without pulling resources from other VA programs.  The hasty roll out of IT systems and programs like medical surgical prime vendor without involving the clinicians and users of these systems or having the leadership and governance in place has led to disruptions in services, and we are afraid problems with the delivery of care and benefits to veterans may continue without the appropriate leadership commitment, expertise, and resources. Most recently we witnessed this with a disruption to student veterans’ GI Bill housing stipend benefits.  VA includes a hefty increase of $426 million to prevent veteran suicide. Yet, last year, VA spent only $57,000 on suicide prevention outreach to veterans. It took oversight from the Inspector General and this Committee to get VA back on track. The budget request includes an additional $15 million for suicide prevention outreach, and if VA receives this funding, I intend to closely monitor spending of these funds to ensure every last cent is spent to get the word out to veterans in crisis. If we are to be successful in preventing 20 veterans from taking their lives each day, veterans must have easy access to VA mental health care, and they must know that VA is ready and immediately available to help when veterans need it most.  VA must be prepared to provide disability benefits and healthcare to the blue water navy veterans who have been waiting over 40 years for their benefits. It must invest in its workforce—including recruitment of providers to fill the 48,985 vacancies in the Department—and address severe morale issues at some facilities. VA contracting has now been added to the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List, and the Veterans Health Administration has remained on the list since 2015. These challenges play out each day at the D.C. VA Medical Center—practically footsteps from the White House. The D.C. VA was in the news again last night because of low morale, severe understaffing, and a dysfunctional medical supply chain. Meanwhile, the clinicians and front line staff at that hospital make due with limited resources and support to provide high-quality and timely care to veterans. We want to know which funds in the budget are requested to address these challenges.     Student veterans who have been robbed of their GI Bill benefits and time by predatory for-profit schools must be made whole. The recent closings at Argosy campuses have left thousands of veterans in limbo. Congress was forced to step in two years ago to restore benefits to veterans affected by for-profit schools closing like ITT Tech and Corinthian, and we may have to do it again—but the Department has a role in preventing these schools from taking advantage of veterans in the first place. We need to know how VA’s budget addresses this problem. Finally, we need to understand the Administration’s rationale for the proposed $17 million cut to VA research, and 45 percent cut to VA’s construction budget which is contrary to what our veteran service organizations recommend. I have invited them here today so that they can weigh in on what they believe to be the appropriate funding levels and priorities for VA. These challenges I are not insurmountable. As I said in our last hearing, we are here to work with VA as a partner to ensure VA can meet these challenges now and in the future. To do that, we need transparency from VA so we can have an open and honest dialogue about the resource needs of the Department. Today we are here to conduct oversight so that Congress, veterans, and the American people understand our investment in VA, and ensure the funds we provide are used to support the needs of veterans.   I now recognize Ranking Member Roe for 5 minutes for any opening remarks he may have.     ###   Read More

Full Committee Oversight Hearing: “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020”

2019/04/03

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs full committee will hold an oversight hearing entitled “ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020.” The committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. in room 1334 of the Longworth House Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here   Witness List Panel 1   The Honorable Robert Wilkie Secretary U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Accompanied by:   Dr. Paul Lawrence Under Secretary for Benefits U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Dr. Richard Stone Executive in Charge, VHA U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Mr. Jon Rychalski Assistant Secretary of Management/CFO U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Panel 2   Ms. Joy Ilem National Legislative Director Disabled American Veterans   Ms. Heather Ansley Associate Executive Director of Government Relations Paralyzed Veterans of America   Mr. Patrick Murray Associate Director of the National Legislative Service Veterans of Foreign Wars   Larry L. Lohmann, Esq. Senior Legislative Associate, Legislative Division The American Legion Read More

Full Committee Oversight Hearing: “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care”

2019/04/02

On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs full committee will hold an oversight hearing entitled “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care.” The committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. in room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here Panel 1 Dr. Richard Stone Executive in Charge, VHA U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Mr. James Gfrerer Assistant Secretary for Office of Information and Technology/Chief Information Officer U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs   Dr. Melissa Glynn Assistant Secretary for Enterprise Integration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Read More

Subcommittee on Technology Modernization: “Mapping the Challenges and Progress of the Office of Information and Technology”

2019/04/02

On Tuesday, April 2, 2019, the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization will hold an oversight hearing entitled “Mapping the Challenges and Progress of the Office of Information and Technology.” The subcommittee will meet at 10:15 a.m. in room 1302 of the Longworth House Office Building. Watch the meeting here Meeting documents can be found here   Witness List Panel 1 Ms. Carol Harris Director for Information Technology Acquisition Management U.S. Government Accountability Office Mr. Brent Arronte Deputy Assistant Inspector General Office of Audits and Evaluations, Office of Inspector General U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Accompanied by Mr. Michael Bowman Director Information Technology and Security Audits Division, Office of Audits and Evaluations Office of Inspector General U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Read More

Chairman Takano Delivers Opening Remarks before Hearing Assessing Key IT Solution Implementation

2019/04/02

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) delivered opening remarks before the full committee oversight hearing entitled “MISSION Critical: Assessing the Technology to Support Community Care.” Below is a link to the video of the Chairman’s opening statement and his remarks as prepared:   [[{"fid":"49","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"full","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"style":"height: 351px; width: 500px;","class":"media-element file-full","data-delta":"1"}}]]   Good afternoon. I call this hearing to order. Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is gathered to assess the implementation status of the Community Care requirements under the MISSION Act, including the technology that will support the program.  The impetus for this hearing is a report prepared by the U.S. Digital Service at the request of Dr. Melissa Glynn, of the Office of Enterprise Integration.  Before we discuss the report, I want to establish a few items for the record. First, I had hoped that the U.S. Digital Service would be here today to discuss both the work it is doing at VA in general, and specifically its work on this report.  I want to be clear that I believe USDS is doing good work at VA, and in other federal agencies.  USDS is filled with very talented individuals who have heard the call of public service and are attempting to help fix very challenging technology problems.  Although the Administrator of USDS was invited, it appears that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had a role in Mr. Cutts, or his staff , not being here today.  I’m disappointed in this result, and I urge OMB to reconsider whether its bureaucratic internal processes are actually serving the government and the taxpayer well.  If Congress is prevented from conducting legitimate oversight because of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles then it is a real problem.  I hope we will have an opportunity to hear from USDS at a future hearing and to learn more about the work the digital services team is doing at VA. Second, I understand that there are sensitivities involved in USDS’s role in advising agencies on technology.  We want agency staff to speak freely to USDS and for USDS to be able to provide unvarnished advice because we want agencies to succeed at their technology projects.  We want agencies to have the room to fix known problems before it endangers an entire program.  The Committee understands that this report was not meant for the public, but it is now in the open. And as the Committee responsible for overseeing the implementation of one of the most significant pieces of veterans legislation, we are compelled to ask questions about it.  That is what brings us here today. Third, I want to be clear that this is a fact-finding hearing.  We have invited VA leadership here in order to exchange information and to have a robust discussion about that state of implementation.  I want you to understand, Dr. Stone, Dr. Glynn, and Mr. Gfrerer, that I want to have an open and honest conversation, and IF there are things that the Committee needs to know about – such as resources, implementation timelines, or the real state of the technology – this is the time to share that information.  We want transparency. Veterans expect and deserve transparency. This is because when we talk about technology at VA we are talking about more than technology.  Information systems at VA support the very backbone of the mission of VA.  These are systems that directly impact veterans’ lives, their health, and their ability to access the benefits they have earned. The MISSION Act is a big mandate and we need to get it right.  If the technology experts say that VA should cease development on the Decision Support Tool and for VA to rethink its approach to implementation we want to understand those recommendations and what VA is doing about them.  If a veteran-centric vision is not guiding this implementation then we need to figure out what needs to change. Our veterans deserve nothing less. I thank the witnesses for being here and I look forward to their testimony.   ### Read More

Takano, Tester Take VA to Task over Proposed Access Standards

2019/03/25

Washington D.C. – Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Congressman Mark Takano and Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Senator Jon Tester today led a group of 55 members of Congress to voice their concerns about the VA’s proposed VA MISSION Act access standards that could trigger a massive shift of care from VA facilities to the private sector. In a letter to the VA, the Members share their disappointments that the VA’s proposed access standards don’t live up to the goal of the VA MISSION Act to get rid of the arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach to veterans’ access to community care. The Members are urging the Department not to hollow out the VA’s capacity to serve veterans by bypassing VA care for nearly-automatic eligibility for community care. They also criticize the VA’s unacceptable lack of transparency in developing access standards that would hold community providers to lower standards than VA doctors. The Members note that the VA does not know how many veterans will be affected by the proposed access standards and is unable to provide accurate data about how much it will cost taxpayers. “Given our concerns, we would urge the Agency to re-evaluate the number and type of access standards the Secretary is designating under the VA MISSION Act,” the Members wrote. “We also strongly recommend the VA review its estimates of the budgetary impact of these standards. Finally, we believe that the Department should remain the primary coordinator of care for all veterans, instead of setting up a system where it’s possible that a subset of veterans will never see a VA doctor.” The Members also note the absence of information on how veterans will be educated on their new health care options. Additional signees include Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), Raul Grijalva D-Ariz.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), David Trone (D-Md.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Gregorio Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam), David Scott (D-Ga.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Terri Sewell (D-Ala.). Their letter can be read in full HERE.   ### Read More

Chairman Takano Demands Answers Given Concerns VA’s IT Solutions Could Disrupt Healthcare for 75,000 Veterans Each Day

2019/03/18

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (CA-41) issued the following statement regarding the serious concerns raised about VA’s IT solutions in the latest Pro Publica story: “The recent U.S. Digital Service (USDS) report on implementation of technology systems to support the Community Care components of the MISSION Act is incredibly alarming. By suggesting that VA’s planned IT solutions are inadequate, and that VA has not given itself enough time to develop a workable system, this report raises real concerns that implementation may be delayed and could even disrupt healthcare for 75,000 veterans every day. “USDS raises credible concerns that Community Care should have a veteran-centric approach, but despite these critiques, VA appears to be ignoring the problem or at least is unwilling to revisit its approach. Nowhere is this clearer than VA’s intention to formally request a funding transfer to implement the very IT solutions USDS raises concerns about. “VA’s history of failed IT systems shows that it cannot move forward with this IT implementation without addressing these root problems. The Committee will hold a hearing to demand answers from VA about the status of system development and will scrutinize the funding transfer request in light of these troubling findings.” ### Read More

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Contact Information

335 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-3527
Fax 202-225-5486
veterans.house.gov


Membership

JodeyArrington

TEXAS' 19th DISTRICT

JimBanks

INDIANA's 3rd DISTRICT

JackBergman

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

GusBilirakis

FLORIDA's 12th DISTRICT

MikeBost

ILLINOIS' 12th DISTRICT

NealDunn

FLORIDA's 2nd DISTRICT

BillFlores

TEXAS' 17th DISTRICT

ClayHiggins

LOUISIANA's 3rd DISTRICT

BrianMast

FLORIDA's 18th DISTRICT

AmataRadewagen

AMERICAN SAMOA

PhilRoe

TENNESSEE's 1st DISTRICT