Chairwoman Wasserman Shultz Statement at the FY 2023 Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Hearing

2022-04-06 10:36

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the FY 2023 Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Hearing:

Today I am pleased to welcome back the Honorable Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

We are glad to have you here with us today to discuss the Department’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2023 and how we can best serve our nation’s veterans.

Let me start by saying how encouraged I was to see that this budget continues investments in some of the areas this subcommittee has been extremely interested in, such as medical research, mental health, and women’s health.

I’m also pleased to see that VA is requesting more funding to support veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service by increasing research, evaluating available data, and allocating more resources to address increasing veteran claims for health conditions resulting from toxic exposures.

At the same time, VA is undertaking a number of significant Department-wide initiatives to help improve the delivery of care, such as significant investments in VA physical infrastructure to build and maintain modern facilities and the continued implementation of a new electronic health record system.

It is incumbent upon us to make sure that our appropriations to the Department and our oversight activities address these efforts in a thoughtful, reasonable way.

While VA’s budget request includes large increases across the Department, certainly the most significant piece of this request is the skyrocketing cost of veterans’ medical care.

We all agree on the importance of providing care for our veterans, but this ever-increasing number is crowding out other programs that benefit veterans, both at VA and across the Federal government.

So, I look forward to discussing how we can account for this funding in order to give VA the tools to continue to provide world-class medical care to our veteran population.

This is, without question, a critical time for the Department, as we continue to recover from the pandemic and address the backlogs of veteran claims, services, and medical care that have built up over the past two years. 

The additional funding that Congress provided last year in the American Rescue Plan Act enabled VA to respond to the pandemic and its ripple effects.

For example, VA was able to process a historic number of claims using American Rescue Plan funding. And I’m proud to say that in Fiscal Year 2022, Congress provided a record amount of funding for VA to help ensure the prompt processing of veteran claims and to continue reducing the claims backlog. That investment will help VA continue its progress, and we hope to see similarly impressive results.

There are a number of areas where I am eager to discuss how the funding requested in this budget will help VA provide quality, efficient, timely health care and benefits to veterans and their families. I look forward to hearing from the Secretary about the Department’s priorities. 

117th Congress