April 11, 2024

Ranking Member Takano's Opening Remarks at FY 2025 and 2026 Budget Request Hearing

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Libby Carlson -- 771-216-2280

Washington, DC – House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the beginning of today’s Full Committee oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2025 and 2026 budget request:

“Today, we welcome Secretary McDonough and Veterans Service Organization representatives of the Independent Budget to discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025. Budgets reflect our priorities— that is true in how we spend our money and our time.? 

This year’s request from the President of $369.3 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs— is a 10 percent increase over fiscal year 2024. It is no secret that the VA’s budget has grown significantly since the start of the Global War on Terror, but this is a feature, not a bug.  President Biden’s Budget for FY 2025 illustrates a key pillar of his Unity Agenda to support veterans.  

This year’s requested increase reflects the President upholding promises made to those who have served since 9/11 and is a step in the right direction to care for our aging Vietnam veterans. 

During the last year, the PACT Act has expanded VA healthcare and benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxins and other hazards. VA approved more than 862,000 PACT-related claims, and more than 400,000 veterans have newly enrolled in VA healthcare. Last year, VA also permanently housed over 45,000 homeless veterans, provided suicide prevention emergency care for over 50,000 veterans thanks to the COMPACT Act, expanded services for veterans at risk of suicide, delivered an all-time yearly record number of healthcare appointments, and so much more. This is just the start of what we can accomplish with a well-funded VA. 

However, we know that Republicans have a different vision for VA. Their chosen presidential candidate’s plan, as laid out in his Project 2025 proposal, will mean the end of VA as we know it. It means a spoils system that doles out contracts to corporate interests, and it means the privatization of VA healthcare. 

When VA does well, it does really well. VA outperforms the private healthcare sector in terms of quality and patient satisfaction, but my Republican colleagues continually push a narrative of supposed failure that is not based in reality. And it is not based on the reality of many veterans. 

Just recently, a Vietnam veteran who receives his care at VA let me know how much he values it, and in response to congressional efforts to erode that direct care, the veteran told me, ‘Don’t let them mess it up!’

Just recently, a Vietnam veteran who receives his care at VA let me know how much he values it, and in response to congressional efforts to erode that direct care, the veteran told me, ‘Don’t let them mess it up!’

As such, I am alarmed to observe the growth in the community care budget since the Trump Administration implemented new access standards in 2019. VA’s healthcare budget is out of balance. Rather than directing billions of dollars to the community, we must provide VA with the necessary resources and staffing to ensure that direct care is robust, modern, and meeting veterans where they are. We need to continue to do more to house our homeless veterans and continue to provide VA the ability to hire more staff to meet the demands of more veterans using VA healthcare and benefits. 

Community care is more expensive than direct care. If we were truly concerned about cost and fiscal responsibility, we would invest more in direct care, as it is less expensive and most effective for veterans. 

This is my 12th year in Congress. In my first year, we dealt with the Phoenix wait time scandal. I was part of the negotiations on the Veterans Choice Act. As part of that, we saw that Phoenix, like many other places in this country, struggled with a shortage of healthcare providers—both at VA and in the community.  

In the Choice Act, I championed a provision that increased the number of medical residency slots at VA by 1,500 positions. This is helping to increase the supply of physicians—both at VA and in the community. This is why investing in VA is so important. 

I know that ramping up VA’s internal capacity is not simple. It will take time to bring veterans back from the community and into VA care, but it is something we must do. 

As I am sure we will hear today, Republicans continue to be mouthpieces for extreme ideologies that amplify messaging that VA care should be privatized. And that is the direction we are headed in if we do not take the time, provide the funding, or proceed with thoughtfulness to rebalance direct care and community care. 

I look forward to hearing from Secretary McDonough and our VSO partners today, and I yield back.”