Good morning. The legislative hearing on H.R. 811, H.R. 1407, H.R. 1441, H.R. 1484, H.R. 1627, H.R. 1647, and H. Con. Res. 12 will come to order. I want to thank you all for your attendance at this hearing at such an early hour. With two other hearings of the Veterans Committee today we had to do some un-orthodox scheduling.
While the scheduling of this hearing was not optimal, it was also not utterly unreasonable. To my understanding most of the witnesses were able to submit their testimony on time despite the rigid time line. I therefore am very disappointed with the lateness of VA's testimony. It is understandable that it can be difficult to get testimony through the clearance process; but it is wholly unacceptable to receive testimony 15 and 1/2 hours before the hearing. Members and staff must be given time to do our jobs and properly prepare for your testimony.
Before I recognize Ranking Member McNerney and other members of the Committee I wanted to just briefly touch on three bills on today's agenda that I have introduced.
H.R. 1407, the Veterans Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2011 provides a cost of living increase to veterans' disability compensation rates and other benefits. This increase is tied to the cost of living adjustment for social security benefits.
H.R. 1441 codifies regulations and policies that bar reservations for burial or interment at Arlington National Cemetery, made on or after January 1, 1962.
Like many people I was shocked to learn about recent allegations that veterans had been given unofficial reservations by the former management at Arlington National Cemetery.
I applaud the decision of the new management team, headed by Ms. Condon, to not honor these unofficial reservations. This bill makes the policy crystal clear by putting it into law.
My final bill is H.R. 1647 the Veteran Choice in Filing Act. This bill directs VA to establish a pilot program that would allow veterans who live in the jurisdiction of five underperforming regional offices to choose which regional office they would like to have their claim adjudicated.
While I understand that many stakeholders here today have some questions in regard to the logistics of the bill, I am sure we can all agree that it is inequitable for veterans in one part of the country to have more accurate and timely decisions than a veteran in another part of the country.
My bill is meant to start the discussion on addressing this inequity and I look forward to hearing suggestions from our stakeholders here today on how we can work together to ensure all veterans claims are timely and accurate. We will continue to discuss this issue at a hearing we are having on underperforming regional offices on June 2nd.
I would ask all of today's witnesses to summarize your written statement within five minutes and without objection, each written testimony will be made part of the hearing record.
Before we begin with testimony, I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member from the great state of California for any remarks he may have.