(Washington, D.C.) – This morning, Chairman Charlie Dent (PA-15) welcomed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald to present his Fiscal Year 2017 budget request and justification for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee is responsible for providing funding to the VA and overseeing the VA’s implementation of those funds throughout the year.

“It is imperative for us to keep our promise to provide our nation’s veterans and their dependents with high quality health care and benefits.  Recent failures and scandals at the VA have highlighted that it is time for a serious conversation about whether the VA’s role should predominantly be as a coordinator of care rather than a provider of care.  The current model of trying to have it both ways is unsustainable in the long-term, and we owe it to our men and women in uniform to ensure that the best care options remain available for future generations,” noted in Chairman Dent in response to the VA’s request for a $3.6 billion increase.

The Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill enacted last year provided the VA with an unprecedented amount of funding that was $6.4 billion (9.8%) over FY15 discretionary levels.  The subcommittee’s efforts have made it possible for over 7 million veterans to be treated by the Veterans Health Agency (VHA); over 5 million to receive benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for disability compensation, education, and vocational rehabilitation; and over 100,000 veterans and their family members to be interred in VA national cemeteries this year.

Topics raised in the hearing included the VA’s funding priorities for the coming fiscal year; efforts to improve accountability and efficiency within the VA; ways to address the disability claims backlog; enhancements in information technology to improve veteran services - including the progress of establishing an interoperable electronic health records system with the Department of Defense; and the VA Choice program.

Chairman Dent concluded by thanking the VA and its employees for their dedication to serving our nation’s veterans. “Our veterans both in Pennsylvania and across the country deserve the best, and I commend the VA for continuing to work to fulfill the mission of ‘caring for those who shall have borne the battle, and for their families and their survivors.’  I’m confident that the partnership between Congress and all who serve within the VA will ensure that those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf receive the highest level of service and care.”

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NOTE:  The hearing can be viewed in its entirety at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNJanEDPG8g