Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank Secretary Shinseki for appearing before us this morning to testify as to the resource requirements of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the upcoming fiscal year, and the VA's recommendation for an advance appropriation for medical care for fiscal year 2013.
I would also like to thank the representatives of the veterans service organizations who annually co-author the Independent Budget, and The American Legion, for presenting us with their views as to the needed funding levels for veterans' programs.
Although I have a number of concerns regarding the funding levels you propose, and questions regarding some of the assumptions and estimates that underlie your request, if you, Secretary Shinseki, tell me that this is what you need to get the job done in the coming fiscal year, then I will offer you my support and I will fight to get you the funding levels you say you need.
I do, however, have concerns about your request for a "contingency fund" and questions as to whether your "operational improvements" will actually generate the cost savings you estimate, but I will work with my colleagues to ensure that you have the bottom-line dollars that you need to care for our veterans in the coming fiscal year.
I look forward to hearing from our veterans' groups as to how they generated their recommendations, and to hear from them their experiences, and the experiences of their fellow veterans, who are on the receiving end of the programs we fund. What is the need out there and is the need being met?
Every year I refer to the Independent Budget as "my bible" when it comes to helping us decide what funding levels to recommend to the Budget Committee -- this year is no different. Budgets speak louder than words as to what our priorities are as a country. Caring for our veterans is a national priority.
I am hopeful that all of us, working together, will be able to provide the VA with the funding it needs, and that the VA will be a faithful steward of the taxpayer dollars it receives. I firmly believe that you should request what you need, and that you need every dollar that you request.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my time.