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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. FARR. Madam Chair, this past weekend, we remembered the patriotic sacrifice of those that have lost their lives in service to our country, and, today we renew our commitment to keep our promise to the nation's more than 2 million troops and reservists, their families, 22.2 million veterans, and 35.5 million family members of living veterans or survivors of deceased veterans.

This committee has a strong history of working in a bipartisan way to produce a bill that supports our active duty servicemembers, our veterans and their families, and this bill is no exception.

I commend the Chairman and Ranking Member for their hard work in ensuring that this bill is another significant step in fulfilling the promise our country made to leave no veteran behind.

For example, the Office of the Inspector General recently filed a report that identified weaknesses in the VA's mental health care system. With the mental health needs of our returning servicemembers increasing, it is vital that the VA get this right.

The bill before us today provides resources to implement the recommendations of the OIG to provide timely access to mental health care services. We have an obligation to take care of our veterans' physical AND mental health, and I am glad this bill recognizes that critical fact.

Additionally, I am pleased to see that this bill again emphasizes the needs of our veterans in rural areas. The National Cemetery Administration has stated that 10% of all veterans will not have access to a burial option in a national, State or tribal cemetery within 75 miles of their home.

While the strategy to extend services to some rural veterans outlined in the 2013 budget request is a good first step, it fails to address a long term strategy to fix this problem. This bill instructs the VA to correct this oversight and, on behalf of Central Coast veterans, I look forward to the Secretary's report on the VA's long term strategy to address the burial needs to rural veterans.

I would note that while this bill is $13.2 billion above last year's enact level, it is also $259 million less than the President's request. While I am glad to see this bill has been protected from Ryan budget cuts, I strongly believe this Congress needs to get back to the balanced approach we agreed to in the bipartisan Budget Control Act.

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