ood morning! I want to thank everyone for being here today to discuss your organizations legislative priorities and share your views on how the Department of Veterans' Affairs can better serve veterans. I would also like to thank you and your organizations for your service and hard work over the years in support of our country and veterans.
Also, I would like to welcome and acknowledge everyone who traveled from outside Washington, DC to be here. I particularly want to recognize the California delegations and especially your members from my district in California. Let me also commend all of your hard working staff here in Washington, DC. You should be proud of the continued professionalism and advocacy that they share with this Committee and the expertise they bring in producing the Independent Budget every year.
This Committee continues to depend on the Independent Budget for direction on funding the VA programs so we can meet the needs of veterans. We should continue to ask the VA tough questions on their programs and outcomes, and be able to have an honest discussion on any gaps or shortfalls to understand the true need. At the end of the day, we must provide veterans the benefits they have rightfully earned.
As we are all aware the military will begin to downsize and reduce its numbers. There will be more veterans coming home that will need physical healthcare and mental healthcare. We should continue to work on ideas to improve medical services for veterans and solve our backlog of pending claims. There is a lot of hard work that needs to be done and we are open to all ideas that improve the VA.
The President announced the budget request for VA for fiscal year 2013 and the Advance Appropriations request for 2014. In discretionary funding, VA requested a 4.5 percent increase, and a 16.2 percent increase in mandatory funding, for an overall budget increase of 10.5 percent in fiscal year 2013.
I will continue to support of the President and Secretary Shinseki's efforts to transform the VA into a 21st Century agency. I remain committed to work with my colleagues to ensure that we get the correct funding and policies that we need.
I want you to know that our Committee remains steadfast in our determination that VA is excluded from any potential funding cuts designed to help balance the budget. We WILL NOT balance the budget on the backs of veterans. Our veterans stood up to protect and defend our nation and we will stand up to provide for our veterans and their families when they come home by ensuring they have the healthcare and benefits they have earned.
This will be an interesting discussion and I look forward to hearing your priorities and ideas.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back.