Good morning, thank you Commander-in-Chief Eubank for coming in from Eugene, Oregon. We look forward to hearing your legislative priorities for 2011.
I also want to thank your National Legislative Committee Chairman, Warren Tellgren, for being here along with your Washington staff members, Robert Wallace and Raymond Kelly.
I want to extend a warm greeting to your members from California, in particular Denis F. Wells the California Department Commander and James R. Rowoldt the Department Adjutant. Thank you for your continuing service to our country, our veterans and their families.
Also, to all the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States thank you for all your hard work and for taking the time to come see us in Washington, DC.
I want to thank all of you for your hard work on the Independent Budget. As your DC staff knows, I have been using it as a guide for many years.
We have been fighting for years to get veterans the funding they need for the benefits they have earned.
I am proud to say that in the past 4 years we have exceeded the President's budget and the Independent Budget. We have increased the VA budget by $21.4 billion over the past 4 years. The $1.8 billion proposed for FY 2012 would increase the budget to $23.2 billion or more than 70% of the 2006 level.
The budget that we have is a good starting point but we need the VA to be honest and straightforward with us on what they say is needed. As I have stated before to VA, request what you need but need what you request. We have made many gains in veteran care and we should not give them up.
The VFW has been a strong partner and a champion in securing funds for veterans and getting veterans better benefits. I hope you will continue to join me in ensuring that we continue to provide VA with a good budget in a timely basis.
The VA needs to know what funds they will have to plan well because unpredictable funding leads to unpredictable care and service. My colleagues and I remain committed to proper funding, physical and mental healthcare, improving the backlog, veterans' transition, education, and employment.
I agree that we need strong oversight and we should be good stewards of the American tax dollar but we also have an obligation to meet the needs of all of our veterans.
In cutting money or programs, we should be very careful that no veteran is left behind because of a lack of funding. I agree that we need a good balanced budget but the budget should not be balanced on the backs of veterans and their families.
Commander Eubank, I look forward to your testimony on all of the legislative priorities for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.