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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. I thank the chairman for yielding the time.

Madam Chair, I rise in support of this bill. Earlier this week, we celebrated Memorial Day--a day to commemorate those warfighters who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our great Nation. I can think of no better bill to take up this week in honor of those heroes.

We know the risks our troops take to fight for our freedom, and it's the duty of Congress to care for them accordingly.

This bipartisan legislation ensures that our troops and veterans have the vital resources they need and deserve to fight successfully, have a sufficient quality of life, and stay healthy. This bill is funded at the same level as last year, $71.7 billion in discretionary funding for construction efforts here and abroad, and for veterans health, job training, and disability and education benefits programs.

Included in this total is $1.65 billion for military family housing, ensuring quality housing for more than 1.2 million military families. Also included is funding for the improvements of existing military medical facilities and the continued construction of new ones to ensure rapid and quality care for our wounded troops.

As a result of savings from the planned drawdowns in construction and declining BRAC costs, as well as rescissions of excess prior-year funds and
other efficiencies, we were able to increase spending on veterans health discretionary funding by more than $2 billion while holding the line on overall spending.

But these increases were not without stringent oversight. We know there are areas where the VA can improve, so we've required them to report on construction expenditures and savings, and restricted them from taking certain spending actions without telling the Congress first. This bill continues to implement our committee-wide--indeed, House-wide--mission to smart, sustainable spending without negatively impacting our warfighters or vets.

You'll see that this bill was written very deliberately to most effectively provide for our troops and our veterans with the most careful and streamlined use of taxpayer dollars.

I want to commend Chairman Culberson and the ranking member, Mr. Bishop, for their dedication and mutual respect as they crafted this legislation. There's not a subcommittee in our full committee that has the kind of cooperative spirit that this subcommittee has. Their staff and the members have worked hard and well to ensure that we bring a great piece of bipartisan legislation before the body today.

Last but not least, I also want to thank one former member of the subcommittee staff specifically for his tireless service, Tim Peterson, as he embarks on his retirement after more than 30 years of Federal service. Tim was most recently the clerk of this subcommittee, and as a member of the appropriations staff, has worked on veterans issue, among others, for almost 20 years. He also served on the Defense Subcommittee for 6 years. Before joining the committee staff in 1989, Tim was a budget analyst in the Office of the Navy Comptroller. Staff and members of the committee alike all agree that he was one of our best--knowledgeable, accurate, always professional.

He was a very calming presence. No matter what was thrown his way, he always rose above the fray and the hardships in order to get things done. His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed, and I thank him for his years of service.

One thing I want to mention in closing, the chairman mentioned language in the bill which I'm very grateful for dealing with the sharing of medical records between the DOD and the Veterans Department. A few years ago, 2 or 3 years ago, I learned of a young soldier in my district who was hit by an IED in Iraq and was blinded in one eye and had some vision in the other eye. And when he was discharged, went to the veterans hospital because he was losing the vision of the other eye. They were unable to help him because they didn't know what the military hospital had done when they operated in his forehead around his eyes, and they couldn't get the records out of DOD at the veterans hospital to help him with his problem. The result was he lost his remaining eyesight.

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Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. He lost the vision of the second eye simply because the veterans hospital could not get access to the military hospital after he was injured, I assume, from the hospital in Germany. That is unforgivable, that two Federal Agencies both dealing with military and veterans, can't share records. And so the language in the bill, which I am very grateful to the chairman and the ranking member for including, hopefully will force these two Departments to mesh these medical records so that we can save lives and save veterans and soldiers from untold misery.

As we remember those who lost their lives in battle, Madam Chair, we are reminded that we can provide our Nation's troops, our veterans, our military families, with the programs and services they have earned as a result of their service and sacrifice. So I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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