Good morning. Usually when we hold our DAMA Subcommittee hearings, we are sitting in Washington. Today, I am honored and happy to be here with all of you at Ocean County College in my home District.
While we are far away from our normal hearing room on the Hill and the CSPAN cameras, this is still an official Congressional oversight hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and hearing rules of hearing conduct apply. Therefore, I would respectfully everyone be courteous to our witnesses and remain silent until the hearing is formally adjourned.
In Chairing the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, I have had the opportunity to work on the complicated issues surrounding the Veterans Benefits system, including the Compensation and Pension process.
Through this experience, I have had the pleasure of working alongside my good friend, the Honorable Timothy Walz, who represents Minnesota's First Congressional District. I am happy to introduce him to you today and welcome him to Toms River.
New Jersey has the 18th largest veteran population in the U.S and over 60,000 veterans call the Third District of New Jersey home. As many of you know, our District is home to the largest disabled veterans' population in New Jersey --all of whom have sacrificed greatly for our country.
We are also fortunate to be home to the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. This installation is critical and related to veterans' affairs.
As we wind down two overseas conflicts, our military population will soon begin the process of transition to our veteran population.
This transition will inevitably add additional stress to a process we are here today to discuss: examining the VA compensation and pension exam system.
By bringing together all parties here today, from local veterans here in New Jersey to the VA itself, our objective is to make the process more efficient and, ultimately, to serve the needs of our veterans as best we can.
As I'm sure all of you are aware, C&P examinations are a major cause of delay in the VA claims adjudication process. My office has been tracking a host of problems dealing with this issue in this district and around the country.
So we are here today to examine this problem, not from afar in Washington DC, but right here in Ocean County where so many vets call home and who are affected by these delays.
Currently, veterans in the southern counties in NJ receive C&P examinations through the Wilmington, Delaware or Philadelphia VAMCs. All examinations at the Wilmington VAMC are conducted by VA staff.
As best as we have been able to discern, VA relies too much on C&P examinations. Often times there is sufficient medical evidence in the claims file alone to rate a disability based on VA and private treatment records.
By unburdening VA with its current over emphasis on C&P exams, the process could become more efficient. Also greater access to exams could materialize. Based on these observations, I believe we can solutions moving forward.
Before jumping ahead to what I believe are some solid solutions to these problems, I'd like to welcome our witnesses here today who will be speaking in detail on ways to improve the system.
It is my hope that through our mutual efforts, we can make the difference needed to increase access to C&P exams, unburden the claims process, and make your lives easier.
Again, I am delighted to be with you today and I will now yield to the gentleman from Minnesota, and my good friend, the Honorable Tim Walz.