Carter Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the Department of Veterans Affairs (As Prepared)
Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Fifty years ago today, the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, disbanded, and combat troops departed. The last of the acknowledged prisoners of war in Hanoi also were released.
It is fitting that we are holding a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs budget request for fiscal year 2024. More than any other federal department, the VA recognizes, supports, cares for, and lays to rest our nation’s veterans. We appreciate our Vietnam Veterans and VA’s efforts to honor their service.
Mr. Secretary, welcome and thank you for joining us today. We appreciate your leadership and the Department’s efforts to support veterans.
I have three comments about the budget request.
First, Congress has always prioritized veterans and will continue to do so. I anticipate we will fully fund veterans’ healthcare and other programs in FY24.
Second, VA’s $20.3 billion request for the Toxic Exposure Fund (TEF) is not credible. It is contrary to VA’s promises during consideration of the PACT Act. It shifts more than $14 billion from discretionary to mandatory spending. This is not okay. The administration is using veterans to increase spending not related to defense or veterans’ programs despite our serious problems with spending, inflation, and the national debt. We all want to care for veterans exposed to environmental toxins, but let’s be honest about the cost and transparent in the approach.
Third, this subcommittee continues to support an interoperable VA-DOD electronic health record system. To achieve this, VA must make the new system work for providers and veterans. This includes holding Oracle Cerner to its commitments.
Before I close, I want to commend VA’s Congressional Fellowship program. I’m honored to host fellows from the VA and want to highlight the great work of Jasmine Negron, this year’s fellow.
Like all the fellows who preceded her, she has a tremendous work ethic, a “can do” spirit, and provides valuable insights into the unique needs of veterans. In the few months she’s been here, she’s become a critical member of my team.
Mr. Secretary, thank you again for being here. I recognize Ranking Member Wasserman Schultz for her opening comments.