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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 21, 2015 1:00am-3:01am EDT

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there is a wind still blowing that is a cultural impediment that is part of one of the impediments. >> what is referred to is going dark. we refer to what can be done to address the issue. director comey: the device is encrypted, and therefore unavailable to us, even with a court order. the content of a particular device or communication stream should be collected pursuant to
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our statutory authority. increasingly we are finding ourselves unable to read what we find or unable to open a new device. that is serious. i think encryption is a good thing. i think there are tremendous societal impacts to encryption. not only lock your cars, but you should encrypt things that are important to you. we have a collision in this country getting closer and closer to a head on, which is our important interest in privacy and our important interest in public safety. the logic of universal encryption is inexorable, that our authority under the fourth amendment, and amendment i think is critical to liberty and the right oversights to obtain
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information is going to become increasingly irrelevant. as all of our lives become digital, the logic of encryption is all of our lives will be covered by encryption. terrorists and spies will be in a place that is utterly unavailable to court-ordered process. that i think should be very concerning. i think we need to have a conversation about it. how do we strike the right balance? public safety matters to everybody. there are tremendous benefits to a society. there are tremendous costs. how do we think about that? some prominent folks wrote a letter to the president that i found depressing.
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their letter contains no acknowledgment that there are societal costs to universal encryption. i recognize the challenges. all kinds of challenges, i recognize the benefits of encryption. i think fair-minded people also recognize the costs associated. i think, either these folks don't see what i see come out or they are not fair-minded. i have to continue to have the conversation. i don't think a democracy should drift to a place where suddenly law enforcement people say it is an awesome thing but they cannot access the information. we have to have a conversation long before encryption takes us to that place. technical people will say it is too hard. my reaction is too hard? too hard for the people we have in this country to figure it out?
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i am not that pessimistic. i think we ought to have a conversation. >> speaking of having a conversation. section 215 of the patriot expires in about 10 days. there is a legislative process going on right now. we don't know what the impact is going to be. i wonder if you could talk about what the conflict would be if you were to lose section 215 which is often talked about in the context of a metadata program but i understand was used by the fbi in a variety of ways. would there be any impact? >> significant impact in ways we are not talking about much. a lot of it is in the metadata database.
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should that be accessed by the nsa? that is a useful tool to the fbi. it's a conversation i care about. there are critical tools that are going to sunset on june 1 that people don't talk about. the first is section 215 is the vehicle through which the nsa database was assembled. we use it in individual cases in important circumstances. fewer than 200 times the year we go to the fisa court and get particular records that are important to a counterterrorism investigation. if we lose that authority, which i don't think is controversial that is a big problem, because we will find circumstances where we can't use a grand jury subpoena or a national security subpoena, unable to obtain information i think everyone wants to be able to obtain.
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the second one is a big problem that the roving wiretap is going to expire. we have had criminal cases since the mid-80's where a drug dealer or criminal is dropping phones repeatedly and the judge can give authority to intercept and eventual communications so we don't have to go back and start the process each time they dump a phone. they extended the authority to international terrorism and counterterrorism. that is not a controversial thing. that is going to go away on june 1 unless it is real to rise. there is one other position that matters. it is the lone wolf provision. that is if we can establish probable cause someone in this country is up to terrible no good, they have probable cause to believe they are an international terrorist of some sort, that we cannot prove what
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they are hooked up with, this would allow the judge to authorize the interception. it is important. these three are going to go away on june 1. i don't want it to get lost in the conversation about metadata. >> we talked for a minute about the threats facing the country in cyber security. you talked about nationstates. are you concerned about trends in terms of cyber security threats proliferating down to other organizations? we had destructive attacks in saudi arabia. now we had the sony attack. are you concerned about malware?
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are you seeing evidence of that? >> i am definitely concerned about it. logic tells me terrorists are going to wake up to and i have seen them wake up to the idea that as hard as we have made it to get into this country physically, so i am concerned. i saw them starting to explore critical infrastructure and things like that. the logic tells me it is coming. >> do you see an interest?
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director comey: yes. >> you mentioned the fbi is working to get flash messages out quicker. what should they consider in terms of information sharing that would be useful to them and for the government? >> we have things made up of the security folks of the biggest enterprises. we run that with dhs and something that focuses on cyber threats to large enterprises.
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we have fbi agent -- offices in every part of this country. we are every place. i have told all of my field commanders, make sure you know folks. they know their mandate is to get to know you. they have programs.
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we had a database of all the malware. our investigators created a case to see if it has been seen someplace else and connect the dots. they will input their own samples and get a result within minutes and let them start to connect the dots.
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i hope you will ask about that and see if your enterprise can participate. >> any timeline on rolling that out? >> i forget the number. we have got hundreds of companies participating. it allows the cheap information security officer -- it has to be somebody we know. we give them an online password and they can connect to it and carry the database. my vision is that should continue to grow. we have to make sure we know the people continuing to connect to it. >> given the fact that our digital lives are central, you
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have a lot of departments. if the government covers different areas of different missions, we have the department of homeland security, critical infrastructure programs, the national cyber center they run and the secret service responding to payment card data breaches of the department of defense concerned about a variety of other agencies. talk a little about how you and the fbi coordinate and the variety of programs out there. how do you deacons look? director comey: it has been a central feet over the last decades. it has gotten better the coordination. i explained to folks when i left i visualized it as a four-year-old soccer. i have five children, so i watch a lot of four-year-old soccer.
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everybody knows the ball is a cool thing, so they follow it in a big club. 10 years ago everybody knew cyber was a cool thing, so they followed it as a clump. we have come to a place where we get the importance of positioning and lanes in passing and defense and offense. it's not good enough because the adversary is playing at world cup speed, but we have gotten a lot better. among the things that have helped us get there is the task force called the national cyber investigative joint force, where 20 agencies sit together and the conflict. talk about major intrusions we are seeing. visualize it together. and figure out, who should do
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what about this? here is how i conceive of the responsibilities. here is how i hold it in my head. if i imagine the country is a neighborhood my job is to deal with people breaking into your homes and stealing your stuff and harming your families. i patrol the neighborhood, respond to 911 calls to try to catch the bad guys, to try and make the neighborhood safer. dhs is responsibility -- dhs's responsibility is to think about how to we make a safer neighborhood. how do we make the entire neighborhood a safer place? is it better lighting? better signage? better parks and patrolling? when the same places patrolling.
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the dhs has a focus similar to mine. their focus is on banks and financial institutions. they are responding to burglaries and worried about scoping out banks. we have gotten better at talking to each other and understanding we are both in the neighborhood with important things to do. we have made great progress in working together over the last few years. there is so much work to be done it makes sense to work together. dhs and fbi i think we understand better our roles. we are patrolling the neighborhood and relating what we see in a much bigger way. nsa has a responsibility for the neighborhood. nsa's responsibility is to try to figure out who is going to come on and off the island to commit the burglaries.
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we need their visibility. a critical part for me is wanting to know who is going to land on the island. that is the three players who touched the neighborhood. one of the ways we accomplished more effective patrolling is sitting together. all of you who worked in the government know that it is hard to hate up close. you can think the fbi, what a bunch of jerks they are except for the guy and gal in the cubicle next to you. it is the rest of them that are a bunch of jerks but if you get enough of that, you start to blend people together. we have spent a decade blending in that way. we still have got a ways to go.
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it is the exception were 10 years ago it was the four-year-old in soccer. >> that covers the domestic side. many are coming from the international perspective and require cooperation. the fbi would be able to either apprehend criminals or take other actions. >> extraordinarily good. other nations understand the cyber threat blows away conceptions of border and that all of us are next her neighbors on the internet. what i find when i travel, i have had many visitors.
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all of those conversations are people saying, we have got to figure this out. it's not good for any of us. what they are hungry for is training equipment and information. what we are trying to do is the ploy more analysts and more cyber special agents. -- deploy more analysts and more cyber special agents. one of the things invested in was technical education. you had a lot of unemployment. people easily susceptible to criminal groups. the romanians are hungry to stamp that out. they don't want romania to be known as a source of critical -- criminal activity, so we are
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trying to give them training so they can respond to that. there are nations around the world who are not so enthusiastic about working with us to try and stop cyber criminals and the use within their borders, but they are the exception. -- and thieves within their borders, but they are the exception. this is a feature of every conversation i have with every foreign counterpart. >> is there international cooperation, or has it continued unabated? director comey: it has continued. i wear a sign that says, not the nsa. they see it as criminal activity. it is stealing innovation, identity money, threats to
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children. all of our children play online. it's about pedophiles and fraudsters and the use and stalkers and money launderers all in that space, so there is common cause. whatever friction, there is common cause. we even have productive conversations with the chinese about criminals trying to stop criminals using the connections between our countries. everybody sees it as we can agree nobody wants children harmed. >> while we are talking about misperceptions, what you hear from the private sector that frustrate you are that you would want to correct -- or that you would want to correct? what are the big understandings you hear from time to time?
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>> i don't hear a lot of misunderstandings with respect to the bureau. i often hear frustration our country is not doing enough to stop nationstate theft of international property. i hear that frustration a lot. i know it is something, that our government is focused and concerned about it and trying to move us towards a place where the norms of behavior would not encompass that sort of thing. some of the costs of shaming criminal charges as part of the effort. there is a frustration. >> the administration has taken some steps?
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are there additional actions we can take? director comey: there is an argument folks often raise. a lot of people are asking, why don't we do more offense of lee -- offensively? often i have private companies say, maybe we should go back to fight. that would actually be a crime. don't do that. there is frustration that is palpable. there isn't an easy answer to that. >> you're talking about the private sector taking action against people seeking to steal their data. that is not something you are going to recommend? quest for a variety of reasons. -- >> for a variety of reasons.
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it would potentially have all kinds of unforeseen consequences that it's hard enough for government actors to act in cyberspace in a way where you can predict knock on effects. if we had cell phones all over the place, that would be a disaster. >> let's talk about legislation. we talked about the patriot act. one thing that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is there is information sharing legislation passed by the house of representatives. it's passed by the senate intelligence committee and seems to have strong support in favor of congress coming together and sharing legislation to encourage sharing of information. any thoughts on whether we are going to see a bill? >> i don't know what the prospects are for legislation. it makes good sense to me. the offer is that level of
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comfort. i see events running over the general counsel anyway in the sense people understand the imperative for sharing information. it is less necessary than it was two years ago because people get it now. anyone who didn't get it thinks, whatever the concerns might be about how the government is going to use this, given that i will be sharing it with the fbi during a criminal investigation and given what is ahead for me to get the help the fbi offers the concerns are noted, but that being said, the legislation gives a belt to the suspenders. >> it has more of a cultural impact. addressing things is a valid
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concern you have seen? director comey: i don't want to belittle it. general counsel has legitimate questions about what is our exposure. i am just saying people's sense of the threat has changed so much in the last two years that those concerns don't dominate in the way they might have to years ago. that is what i mean by legislation is going to fix the problem. no people say i get it. this could blow up our entire company. we are going to share it with the government and get the help we need. >> there is a demand for qualified cyber professionals. you are competing with the private sector and can offer things the fbi can't in terms of salary and other things. how is the fbi doing in terms of resources?
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quest we are doing ok. it is a continual challenge. the advantage i have is the value proposition is so different. they're almost isn't really a competition. if people are interested in money, i can't help you at all. if you're interested in a life of meaning, i can help you with that. the people we are attracting are people who don't really care about the dough. in a real sense, my competitors are less people throwing buckets of dough and more the rest of the government. i don't want to talk about how i am approaching you so they don't find out. >> it is a competition. director comey: i'm not telling you, but the good news is so far one of my worries is how am i going to do but tension wise.
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-- retention wise. so far extraordinarily well. we had low turnover to begin within the fbi. for cyber talent, it is running lower than normal turnover. i think people get into the mission and say look at what is going on. look at what i can do. i am 27 years old. look at what i can do. i think that is an advantage we have. i often wonder whether we will need to revisit the way the bureau thinks about it. our normal proposition is, come work with us. you will never leave. like a roach motel. come work with us. you will get addicted to this. i wonder if at some point we don't want to get to a place where people come for us in five years and then go do something
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else but learn things and then come back to us, whether we will get better with that kind of turnover, but it's still early. the answer is, we are competing mostly with the rest of the government. so far we are doing ok. >> i have a question submitted from the audience concerning snowden, and the question is whether or not the fbi is still pursuing mr. snowden, given the possible changes by the administration. director comey: yes. it's not much of a pursuit. we know where he is i do think he should have the opportunity.
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i think he should have that opportunity. which will result in staying the way it was of the data being held by the companies which will make us more effective. my view of it is, you have to see the entire corpus of his work, before you start rendering judgment about what you think of the person. i think it is a serious criminal charges have been brought. >> finally, at these conferences talking about the cyber threats and proliferation of them. the many different actors out there. how difficult a problem it is. sometimes it can seem hopeless in terms of fighting back.
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are there good news and progress that we are making? in the daily drumbeat of revelations? stolen intellectual properties. you feel like we are making progress in a way that we're going to be able to beat back the threat? >> i think there is good news. i would not say it overwhelms the bad. i think the private enterprise is getting its act together in ways that are going to make it harder for them to have their doors kicked in and everything stolen. we are getting more effective when we as a community of nations are getting much better at taking down this serious criminal actors and sending a message that this is not a freebie.
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there is a long parade of cases. i do not think the criminal actors no longer see this as easy. i think that is a piece of good news. it is still early days. the private sector is investing in it. we are getting better at talking to each other. the other side of the oceans. i see early day of change behavior. >> d.c. improvement in cyber deterrence? -- do you see improvement in cyber deterrence? quick oh -- >> honeymoons or vacations around the world. that sends a chill through the criminal world. because they shock the world but we are shrinking it back. we are human, but holy cow are
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we dogged. it is never going to go away. we will find you eventually. you will travel someplace. people say you indicted these five actors, but they are in china. sure. it is a small world. everybody wants to go visit their children or see disney world, or get a foreign education. as the world gets smaller, opportunities to -- increase. >> with that, i think we can bring it to a close. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
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visit ncicap.org] >> coming up on c-span, a hearing on priorities for veterans care. then president obama speaks to close card graduates about the link between climate change and national security here later john mccain and lindsey graham on the fall of ramadi to isis. on the next washington journal colonel adam smith will discuss the fight against isis, and the select committee investigating the benghazi attack. the more about the fight against isis with republican mike grams of south dakota. he will talk about his legislative agenda as a freshman senator. you can join the conversation with your calls and comments on facebook and twitter.
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coming up thursday, a confirmation hearing for the assistant secretary of homeland security for the tsa. vice admirable peter neff injured has been nominated to lead the initiation. he see's live starting at 10 a.m. eastern, on c-span3. >> for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. being never so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. gentleman in england now a bed shall think themselves accursed that they were not here. >> one drop of blood drawn from that country's bosom should grieve the more than streams of foreign gore. >> director of the folder six.
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library talks about shakespeare and how politicians use the quotes from the playwright and speeches. >> sometimes you have to go with the music of the words. the poetic images and sounds of the rhymes. also the way in which senator byrd did, you are able to linger over a phrase. i think he is using the rhythms of the language, which is something sister did brilliantly. so he can take english and put it into high gear and slow down. that is something that shakespeare let you do if you are a politician. >> sunday on c-span's q&a. >> good night here at good night. parting is such sweet sorrow. >> house speaker john boehner to to the house floor to express his anger at the situation at the a health facilities. he blamed demonstration for the lack of firing for those
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involved in the scandal that led to the resignation of the a secretary shinseki last may. here's a look. speaker boehner: my colleagues next week marks the one year anniversary since general eric shinseki resigned as the secretary of the veterans affairs department. at the time, the president promised reform. he said, and i quote, the number one priority is making sure the problems get fixed. but instead, at the v.a., we're seeing more of the same. last year congress gave the v.a. secretary new authority to fire employees. but while some 110 v.a. facilities kept secret lists to hide wait times, just one person has been fired. one. what the hell happened to the rest of them? some got to retire with their
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benefits, some got transfers some got paid leave, some got a slap on the wrist. all of them went on collecting checks from the taxpayers. if only the veterans administration did half as good a job of taking care of the bureaucrats as they do our veterans, we'd be in a lot better shape. in fact, congress also gave the v.a. more than $16 billion to improve care and to shorten waiting times. and yet the number of patients facing long waits is about the same. the number of patients waiting more than 90 days has doubled. on this day, the v.a. can't even build a hospital. just about every project ends up years behind schedule and hundreds of millions, if not billions, over cost. and just last week, the public learned that the v.a. is spending $6 billion a year illegally. an internal report exposed
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of overspending on conferences, improper gifts, inappropriate purchases and promotional items. again, if only v.a. bureaucrats did as good a job of taking care of our veterans as they do themselves. the author of the report at the v.a. and i quote doors are swung wide open for fraud waste, and abuse and these actions may potentially result in serious harm or death to america's veterans. that's our own expert saying this. this isn't the run of the mill incompetence. it's arrogance and it's arrogance that allow ours veterans to be lied to, ignored, and frankly left to die. my colleagues, it's almost memorial day. that's when we slow down and reflect on the debt of gratitude that we owe to our heroes.
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and i commend chairman miller and all of the members of the veterans affairs committee for striving every day to fulfill this obligation. congress will continue to pass legislation to hold the v.a. accountable, but only the administration can change the culture from within. the president owes the american people a real, long-term plan to fix the v.a. not a promise, not a pledge not rearranging the chairs on a deck. a real plan to clean up this mess. and i'll keep coming back to this podium until the admin >> wednesday they held a joint hearing to hear from there is organizations on what they believe is the most pressing issues for veterans. including suicide prevention and budgetary issues. this is just over two hours.
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representative miller: ranking member blumenthal. there will be an opportunity for remarks. hearing no objections, so ordered. our witnesses will include the paralyzed veterans of america, colonel robert norton, patrick little, commander of the
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military the witnesses here today and the organizations they represent serve a necessary and admirable role to ensure men and women of our armed forces have the care, benefits, and opportunities they deserve when they come home. i'm thankful for the dedication and the noble service of each of the organizations represented here today and their representatives have worn the uniform themselves. a returning war fighter deserves the best. i'm honored in my position as chairman of the house committee to work alongside these groups to make sure that is exactly what they get. i would like to personally welcome everyone who is made the trip here. raise your hand if you are from the sunshine state. feels like home out there. yesterday was like the panhandle of florida. much different today.
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glad to have you here with us. i want to welcome the members of each of the organizations auxiliary. a thank you for their work behind the scenes. let benefits of our veterans, their families. -- that benefits our veterans, their families. each organization today has its own legislative priorities but if everyone has a common goal to ensure that the president and future veterans of this great nation are in fact afforded the best care for the selfless service that they provided. over the past year we have uncovered severe problems within the department of veterans affairs that have required tremendous efforts from dso's like yours to improve access to care and to dismantle the disease culture in the department that has allowed certain employees to escape much-needed accountability.
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there is a great deal of work that needs to be done. i introduced legislation that would improve accountability. hr 473 would make three important changes and give the secretary the authority to reduce employment retirement pay if they are convicted of a felony related to their work performance, ensuring they are not being rewarded for their misdeeds. similarly the performance evaluation program are subject to reforms to prevent bad acts from being covered up by the undeserved high reviews. this bill would prevent employs from being on initiative leave -- being on administrative leave.
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for more than a 14 day time. placing an employee on open-ended paid vacation as reward for bad behavior instead of removing them. next, hr 571, the veterans affairs retaliation prevention act would improve the process for whistleblowers within the department to report waste fraud, and abuse, to correct problems at the lowest level in the agency possible. perhaps more importantly it would expand accountability of supervisors who would seek to retaliate against employees who report wrongdoing. also require the v.a. to undertake more training procedures to ensure employees are well aware of their rights and methods to report wrongdoing, and supervisors know there are serious consequences. it is a massive substantial support focus on whistleblower protection. i introduced hr 94.
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-- introduced hr 1994. it would give the secretary the ability to remove any employee in a similar process that found -- that was found in a choice act signed into law last summer. also built into this bill are protections to ensure this process is not apply to whistleblowers, an extension of nonmedical employee probationary periods and requirement that gao conduct a study of the a time, -- study of v.a. time, space and resources devoted to labor union activities. i encourage those of you today if you have not already research this legislation, please do so.
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we would welcome your support of these crucial pieces of legislation. i look forward to hearing from each of you today, and the groups that you represent. i now yield five minutes to the senator from georgia, my good friend mr. isaacson. senator isaacson: i want to do laughs because i was late. i apologize. i will follow-up briefly on what chairman miller said. we are delighted to have you today. we appreciate what they do for the veterans. we have a lot of challenges but the chairman of the house and i have committed that we are not just caretakers of the status quo but instigators of improvement. we think v.a. health care is important. we want veterans health care to work. we want veterans to have the best health care they can get. what happened in denver should never happen again. every time you overspend on one
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hospital you underspend on another. men and women invested their lives. we appreciate your presenting the veterans today and look for it your testimony. >> i yield to the ranking member, miss rice. senator rice: i want to thank all of the witnesses for coming today. i would like to echo everything that chairman isaacson and chairman miller said. i will hold my remarks and reserve the balance of my time. senator miller: mr. blumenthal for five minutes. senator blumenthal: thank you to you, chairman miller and chairman isaacson for your leadership on this committee. most especially for your support of the suicide prevention bill. i want to thank everyone of the panel who are here today for your support and your leadership on this critical measure that
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was led by senator mccain and myself with the help of representative walsh and others on the house side. just as an example of the fact that we can get things done . we can help veterans. we can make a difference. i knew you are making a difference as leaders of your organization. as we focus on health care, we should never lose sight of the other challenges before us. veterans homelessness, veterans underemployment, and veterans needs for skills training and education, and jobs. some of the scams that prey on veterans both around military bases and elsewhere. that exploit g.i. bills. all of these challenges we will face on this committee and broaden our attention from
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strictly health care related. senator isaacson is right that the debacle in denver should never happen again but in some sense it has happened again because of cost overruns. the need for reform is not only in denver but more broadly on v.a. construction programs. very likely taking away that responsibility or having them overseen and supervised by the corps of engineers. let me finish on this note in terms of the health care challenges ahead, we need to face the fact that the health effects of toxic exposures in this war, these wars, and others can impact not only servicemen and women who are exposed to the
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waste dumps, and nerve agents, and other battlefields exposures, but also to their children and grandchildren, the toxic exposure research act that i introduced earlier this year with senator moran will provide for a national center at a v.a. medical center to engage in critical research on this issue, and also if not more important mandate government disclosure. the declassification of documents that need not be classified. but will provide critical information to men and women who risk their lives for this country, and deserve to know what the exposures have been on the battlefield to possibly toxic substances, impacting the
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-- impacting not only their health but the health of their families, and their children and grandchildren. thank you for your leadership. thank you for giving me this opportunity. senator miller: thank you. if all members will hold their opening statements. i will begin by apologizing. i'm going to have to leave. i need to meet with the speaker. and the secretary. we will try to work towards some resolution of what is going on at the hospital in aurora, colorado. i think we have all stated and can all agree they should never have occurred. we are trying to find a pathway forward. we are looking for people who were help us. if we have to drag the department kicking and screaming through this process we will do that. i'm not afraid of them.
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i think our veterans not only in colorado but the united states of america deserve nothing less than appropriate expenditure of federal dollars with proper oversight and management. with that, mr. kovach is recognized. mr. kovach: i appreciate the opportunity to testify today. pva is a concern of the funding levels in this appropriations bill that passed the house of representatives. the funding levels outlined in this critical bill suggest that congress is not committed to addressing the internal capacity problems the v.a. faces. first and foremost, the spinal
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cord injury and disease service line. moreover it reflects an attitude that suggests the bav.a. how to do more with less. take care of veterans on the chief was never part of the deal when our country mortgage its future on the lives of the few who came forward to protect it. if congress is serious about fixing the problems with timely access to high-quality care, it needs to get serious about the funding levels that would provide for the v.a. pva's dismayed congress has continued to allow the inequity of the comprehensive family care giver law to stand. the v.a. only provides comprehensive benefits to caregivers of service-connected veterans injured after 9/11. no reasonable just the location
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-- no reasonable justification can be provided as to why veterans injured prior to 9/11 should be excluded from the caregiver program. no single group of veterans understand the necessity of caregiver support better than pva members. there are men and women who fought for our country in earlier times who rely on caregivers yet their service and sacrifice has been devalued by time induced amnesia. imagine being a veteran who incurred a catastrophic injury facing saddam hussein during the first gulf war. tell that veteran and his family caregiver that they are not eligible for the caregiver program because congress has chosen not to pay for it. while we are grateful for the benefits provided to post 9/11 caregivers we believe all veteran caregivers deserve the support. it is a part of the cost of serving service members into harm's way. don't force caregivers to pay
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your entire debt. pva is concerned of the construction problems that plagued the v.a. we are disappointed that the appropriations bill slashes funding for major construction for $580 million. there are valid concerns about construction projects such as denver, orlando and new orleans, all other construction projects and the veterans whose access to health care rely on their completion are being punished by the congressional decision. we call on congress to restore the dollars that you have stripped from the construction request. none of these failures is more egregious than the problems in denver. the problem with the denver v.a. construction program for years in the making. many staff members remain at
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v.a. bear responsibility for the problems that have plagued the project to the tune of $1.7 billion. this is a case right for accountability measures being considered. in the end, these committees need to consider what is best serving veterans in denver colorado, and surrounding states, and not what better serves their interests. -- or 1000 miles to long beach to receive treatment for kidney dysfunction, respiratory failures and other conditions which are time is of the essence. for our members, that choice by a mile would be denver. we are encouraged by the v.a. memo on denver outlined a way forward and hope that committees will address this request with urgency and seriousness it
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deserves before reaching the authorization cap. we urge congress to give senator mcdonald the opportunity to fix this problem, which he has inherited from his predecessors. i would like you thank you again for the opportunity to testify today and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. >> thank you. >> mr. chairman, on behalf of a quarter million members, we appreciate this opportunity to share our legislative concerns and comments on issues important to all veterans. guided by our core principles of patriots and volunteers, we seek to enhance the benefits of all men and women who served or have served honorably and selflessly
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in our armed forces. through leadership, advocacy and service. the leading advocate of veterans rights as well as one of the four authors of the independent budget, one of the claimant -- one of the preeminent voices of american veterans on capitol hill. while military action continued to decline in afghanistan, there has been an increase in emergency emerging threats from around the globe. even as we look ahead to future threats, we must not forget the legacy of unmatched damage to the physical and mental well-being of those who served in the most recent conflicts. it is both your responsibility and hours to make sure veterans receive any and all appropriate
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health care and other benefits in a timely, competent compassionate and efficient manner. our top priorities in these stations are federal government reform, toxic wound, veteran discrimination. federal government reform, the accountability, including extended advanced appropriations to remain discretionary and mandatory. we fully support the following legislation. hr 575, stop wasteful bonuses in the department of veterans affairs. the act of 2015. hr 658, v.a. regional office accountability act. hr 571, veterans affairs rehabilitation prevention act. hr 502, veterans health
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administration management improvement act. hr 473. increasing the department of veterans affairs accountability to veterans act of 2015. dod including auditing the pentagon and fiscal matters, including getting better control of the national debt spending. amvets supports hr 119, budget and accounting transparency act, thrift act of 2015. hr 522, commission on accountability and review of federal agencies act. toxic wounds. this is an issue for amvets this
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year since we are chairing the national toxic wound tax force -- task force. we plan to take every opportunity to advocate for all veterans suffering from the effects of forms of toxic wounds. toxic exposure. amvets supports hr 7069. -- hr 1769. hr 35, low-dose radiation research act, hr 969, the bluewater navy vietnam veterans act, hr 994, the radiation exposure compensation act, amendments 2015, continued
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funding for the cdr illness research program at last year's level of $20 million. we also support legislation to restore the oversight components and research advisory committee on gulf war veterans illness. >> thank you. colonel norton, you are recognized. colonel norton: thank you. thank you to the ranking members and members of the committee. it has been a distinct honor for me to testify on behalf of our 390,000 members for 18 years. my statement includes recommendations on specific bills under the jurisdiction. the leadership and support of
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the committees and congress for our nation's veterans has been very gratifying to us, especially over the last 13 years of war. we thank you for all of our nation's military. i will begin with the challenges veterans face in accessing v.a. care. v.a. has outsourced care for years but the process remains cumbersome for veterans, providers, and the v.a. last year, prior to the choice card program enactment, v.a. spend $5 billion on purchase care. last week's hearings brought into focus the challenges of integrating purchase care into an overall plan for delivering care to all of our nation's veterans. we liken it to a wobbly three layered cake, the first layer is local purchase care contracts
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previously can layer is the pc three contracts that have primary care and sing -- icing added on to the specialty care contract. the third layer is the rural veterans and those stuck on waiting lists. the v.a. is competing against itself because of the lack of coordination between local purchase care contracts and the choice program network. this results in poor customer service to our nation's veterans. outsourced care for veterans as a complement to direct care is here to stay in some form. the question is how to best plan for it for the future? we regard this question as an opportunity to engage the with the care established in the choice act to map out a long-term strategy for v.a. care in the 21st century. we agree with our service organization partners that the
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commission should have one year, not just 180 days to do its work. we urge the v.a. to continue to build internal capacity in three areas. hiring and training providers, fixing the scheduling system and reengineering clinical space along the lines of leading civilian health care entities. women veterans are the fastest growing cohort entering the v.a. system and the v.a. must step up its game by becoming more responsive to their needs. our state of points out that american society at large is struggling to recruit and train sufficient numbers of mental health providers. the v.a. has a critical role to play in this. 70% of our nations physicians. that training needs to include training on the unique cultural environment of military service. in the benefits area we are pleased to see a steady decline in the backlog of initial claims and we endorse bipartisan legislation sponsored by
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senators heller and casey aimed at improvements of the claim system. it is also time to reengineer the appealed claims process. those claims take upwards of three years to resolve. turning to the g.i. bill, we were pleased to see the military compensation and retirement modernization and doris a long-held position to sunset the montgomery g.i. bill and in favor of the post-9/11 g.i. bill. we asked the committees to recon -- to re-codify the reserve montgomery bill into title 38 from title x or it has languished for the last 15 years.
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we also ask that you modified the price scholarships of that surviving spouses who lost military spouse early on in iraq or afghanistan will have sufficient time to complete their education under the new benefit. we support extending caregiver services to severely disabled veterans of all conflict eras and we thank senators murray and collins, and other members for the bipartisan legislation. i met alexis courtney and her caregiver husband jason at one of the press conferences on a bill to extend caregiver services. alexis suffered a severe traumatic brain injury while serving in the coast guard. because she was injured in 1999, she is ineligible for caregiver s act services and support. there is no policy reason to exclude alexis and jason from caregiver act benefits and we urge the committee support on this issue. as a vietnam veteran i want to offer support for blue water navy legislation, veterans who served on navy vessels off the coast of vietnam were exposed to agent orange according to many
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confirmed studies, and deserve the same benefits for that exposure as their comrades who served boots on the ground. we support bipartisan legislation to honor veterans career reservists have not been called that under federal active duty orders. i want to conclude by saying that we work closely with all of the groups here at the table and many others, to advance the needs of veterans across the country. i thank you for the opportunity to present our recommendation to the committee and look forward to your questions. thank you. >> thank you. mr. little, you are recognized. mr. little: good morning. as a national commander of the military order of the purple heart, it is an honor and privilege to appear before this
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body representing members of our organization. as my testimony will be entered on the record i would like to hit a few of the highlights of my remarks. the military order of the purple heart is unique among veterans service organizations, and that our membership is comprised only of veterans wounded in combat by enemies of the united states. not just in the battlefield or a -- or abroad, but now even at home as the global war on terrorism has brought the to our own shores. for the wounds they suffered, each member would receive a purple heart medal. since created in 19 32, the -- since created in 1932, the military order of the purple heart has been the original wounded warrior organization. to our national service program, which consists of 87 service officers and 41 print support personnel, we proudly serve all veterans of all wars at no cost
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by providing tangible benefits to those veterans and their families who require assistance. in the past 18 months, our service officers have assisted veterans and their families in filing 22,563 claims which resulted in monetary awards. at the same time, 1335 of our members donated $142,000 as the -- as v.a. volunteers, which the v.a. evaluated $3.8 million including $500,000 in cash donations. in addition to funding the national service office is, and other programs of the military order of the purple heart, our service organization helps
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finance research and assistance to tackle the unseen wounds and things like ptsd, traumatic brain injury, suicide, and sexual abuse. through grants and outreach programs, we lend support to other organizations. as well as make small contributions to veterans facing exceptional difficult financial challenges. before i discuss the current concerns and priorities, i would be remiss if i did not acknowledge the good work of the previous congress for passing legislation that has made such a positive impact on the lives of veterans and their families. on behalf of the military and the purple heart, i would like to think the previous congress for passing legislation that was good and made a positive impact on the lives of veterans and their families, particularly the veterans access choice and accountability act of 2014. the advanced funding for additional nba -- additional v.a. accounts is also appreciated.
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i would like to thank the congress for patching a chart 203 -- hr 203. we all agreed something must be done immediately to ensure that those who are willing to risk their lives for this great nation i given both the mental and physical health care needed upon the return from the battlefield. the purple heart order believes whatever physical problems facing nation, it should not have any bearing on the level of health care or other benefits provided to those as a result of honorable military service. as i mentioned before, the military of the purple heart legislative priorities for 2015 is spelled out in detail. i would like to take a few minutes to highlight a few. va claims is something everyone has struggled with for years. there has been some progress but more remains to be done. they report as of january 2015 the backlog of claims older than 125 days is over 200,000. that is good when compared to
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600,000 in 2013. while we have some improvement there are still veterans who have fighting the system for years to receive benefits they earned. the v.a. needs to continue to be transparent and work with congress to make this move forward. tbi is a signature injury of modern combat, and makes up 20% of the wounded in iraq and afghanistan. we have heard that some cases are being diagnosed as pts. we recommend the v.a. screens all iraq and afghanistan veterans for tbi and provide those who screened positive with the latest treatment. mr. chairman, i would be remiss if i did not use this opportunity to raise an issue of serious concern to the military of the purple heart. during the armed services committee in 2016 national
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defense authorization act, a commitment was an amendment to award a purple heart medal to victims of the 1995 oklahoma city bombing. we are dismayed by and opposed this amendment. while the military of the purple heart is sympathetic to the losses of the oklahoma city bombing, especially those who are serving at the time in the armed forces, it cannot support or condone for the act of pure domestic violence. the attack on oklahoma city federal building was carried out by timothy mcveigh and terry nichols in retaliation for perceived federal government mishandling of the 1993 siege of ruby ridge. it was time to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the season in -- ended the siege in waco
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texas. this concludes my testimony. i will be pleased to answer any questions. thank you. >> thank you mr. little. >> good morning everyone. good morning senator. dr. owen is right. i want to focus on two things. first, 901 hr 1769, the exposure research act of 2015. we want to thank the senators for introducing this important legislation. and the senators and representatives who have and will cosponsor. we are disappointed that hr 1769 was withdrawn for tomorrow's markup section. we understand there is concerned the bill has not been scored yet. it is our estimate that the course might be as high as 20-25 -- $20 million to $25 million
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based on appropriations for the gulf war resource center. we would be happy to discuss this with staff or members. and we urge the committee leadership to expedite this review. what is disconcerting however, is the disinformation campaign that emanates from various staff at the v.a. this is typical of the reaction vietnam veterans have received from the first day we raised the specter of orange. delay and deny until they die. unfortunately your efforts have succeeded. all too many vietnam veterans have passed away without confirming what it was that killed them until it was too late. we have 75,000 members. this month veteran, 200 members passed away. this is not uncommon. one example vet, 62, heart attack. 77, part of that. 70, lung cancer. 69, ischemic heart disease. that, 69 parkinson's -- vet
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69, parkinson's. 67, bring cancer. 66, als. another, jerome o'donovan, type two diabetes, liver and renal failure. he was a marine officer in vietnam, and was a former republican minority leader of the new york city council. in their testimony at the subcommittee hearing, the v.a. says this bill would duplicate research efforts in other federal agencies. while other entities may study particular illnesses, nobody has studied us or our offspring, and not in conjunction with military service. was it in there trying to focus on causation while studies focus on the degree of association not causation. v.a. cost estimates are a lot.
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it sounds like a lot until you realize that the v.a. has allocated between 660 and $700 million per year for research and has never done a study on the effects of agent orange. 50 years and no studies. this should not be up to the whims of the v.a. researchers and university counterparts. interestingly, one study is the national vietnam veterans likely to total study completed last year and has yet to be publicly released. why? by the way, the gulf war resource center is an example of how the v.a. bureaucrats have eliminated those who care and hijacked valuable resources in order to ensure nothing is wrong stance continues, despite the fact that 48% of gulf war veterans are listed as disabled. the other thing we want to touch on is the appeals process. in order to lower the backlog on claims, the review officers in
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regional offices have been taken off regular work, and as a result the appeals process has broken down. this has been compounded by the staff at various parts being told they are not have contact with the vso's. thus eliminating any chance to get things done at the regional level. this is exacerbated by the failure of the regional officers to -- complete the required paperwork, leaving veterans in limbo. our appeals staff has seen a distinct drop in claims because of these actions. in puerto rico, our staff found some appeals languishing for as long as seven years. seven years. this is seven years where a place was moved to appeal but was never formally certified. it's not common in a regional offices or the board of veterans appeals.
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that case does not exist until somebody certifies it. this is criminal in my opinion. this intolerable situation must be rectified. we win 70% of clients we service at the appeals level. this is my 10th year. in 10 years, we have been doing the same thing every year. we win 70%. 50% remand, 25% direct readings. that is unbelievable. there is no other business in the world that would lose 70% at a time and stay in business. 70% of the time. and we are not alone. and we are not alone. the other folks at this table run around the same numbers.
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the lowest is about 55% to 60% and it goes up from there. all of that means is a veteran has to wait many years to get what is due them. and to many find all kinds of issues with poverty and everything else. the whole system needs to be blown up, quite frankly. congress needs to take a serious look at this issue. thank you. >> thank you for your testimony. you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you chairman isaacson chairman row, ranking member brown, members of the panel. one of the issues i would like to bring up on behalf of blinded veterans and the blind veterans association and our president, is senate bill 171 and has -- and house resolution to 88 -- resolution 288. what those bills asking for our transportation for the catastrophically disabled veterans to one of the many v rehab centers we havea. there are 13 blind rehab centers
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and 26 spinal cord injury the celebrities. -- spinal cord injury facilities. the way the law is written, the secretary will only grant members who are connected to catastrophically disabled. most of our members in the blind veterans association, their blindness is due to age-related illness. but they do not qualify for travel to these blind rehab centers. rehab centers right now have 70% bed occupancy. that is because we cannot get veterans to the blind rehab centers. there is no cure for blindness. we had rehab. -- we have read havehab.
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and we need to get these blind and had her eyes -- blind and paralyzed veterans to facilities so they can once again be active members of the community. approximately, i think three quarters of the beds are only filled. right now, it costs on average for a veteran to be housed in a state veterans home, between $70,000 to $90,000 a year per veteran. a one-time round-trip plane ticket is $500-$800 to one of these facilities. i'm not a mathematician, but i think spending $500 to $800 one time is better than spending $70,000 to $90,000 a year per event to house them in a state veterans home. they say if you get a man a fish, you can feed him for a day and if you train him to face, he -- if you train him to fish, he
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can eat for a lifetime. that is what this bill is doing. we want these individuals to get rehab training necessary so they can continue to be part of the community, and better themselves. another issue that we are looking at is 508 compliance. 1973, the ada law was enacted stating the federal government all information technology will be accessible to those individuals with disabilities. since 1973, the department of veterans affairs still is not at all compliant with the 508 laws. meaning, blind veterans and paralyzed veterans who utilize screen readers, dragon, and other computer technology cannot access the v.a. websites. our service officers at the v.a. are also blind veterans. when they file claims for our blind veterans, they cannot complete the claims because they are not 508 compliant.
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the v.a. wants to eliminate the filing claims with a paper trail. i think that is wonderful and more speedy, but guess what? that hinders the blind veteran population because we cannot utilize the computer technology and the online forms the v.a. is pushing. thank you. also the kiosks throughout the v.a. they are a great tool. once again, they are not finally -- they are not 508 compliant or blind veterans cannot utilize them. we would like for the house and senate to look at the v.a. and pressured them to become finally compliant. lastly, the public law 111 163
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was passed in 2010, which stated the secretary of veterans affairs was to provide scholarships for individuals who want to get into blind rehab. since 2010, not one scholarship has been given. and it has never been advertised either. it is granted $5 million per year. where is that $5 million per year going for the past five years? we have lost one third of our blind rehab -- lists at the centers over the last decade and we are planning on losing another third 15 date -- third this decade. we would like to convince the panel to tell the set -- the secretary to see that the money has been appropriated is actually still there and being utilized for this. that is my statement. thank you very much. i will answer any questions at the end. thank you. >> thank you.
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mr. rieckhoff: on behalf of veterans of america, thank you for the opportunity to share our priorities. this time last year i can do for you to sound an alarm about the issue of suicide. the response was called to draft, introduce, and has suicide prevention for american suicide. this bipartisan effort to get it passed with historic. it showed america what congress can achieve when we are united. the road was long, but together we got it done. we sincerely thank you for your support. but the fight is far from over and the stakes have never been higher.
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2015 will be the most important year ever for iraq and afghanistan veterans. the v.a. scandal left us betrayed. unemployment is high and suicides continue. our country seems to could -- forget we are still at war. in washington we see in congress divided. with election looming, it will only get worse. veterans can be the one thing that unites you. and all americans. we need you to put politics aside, listen to the community and get to work. the 2015 iab has extensive recommendations have a blueprint for how you, the white house the president, governors, mayors and all americans can support iab veterans. our plan is led by four priorities. we look forward to working with you to pass a clay hunt style comprehensive piece of legislation. number one, continuing to combat suicide. the save act was just the first step. we lose our brothers and sisters every day. of all generations. now that the a needs to swiftly impertinent -- swiftly implement the save act. the save act 2.0 focused on access, supply and quality.
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number two, invest in the success of women veterans. it is time to get focused. female service members make up the fastest-growing segment of the veterans. there are 35% of our leaders. research department recently conducted a survey of almostfocus groups. female veterans were just being recognized is a challenge. receiving letters addressed to mr. or having to correct medical charts where they are listed as male. we found that half of the v.a. staff treats women veterans with respect. that shows how far we need to go. progress has been made, but the
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v.a. and the nation is far behind in serving our women warriors. finally, reform for today's veterans. after outrageous scandal, the problems became clear to the world. much of it was preventable if we finally listen. they must given authority and space to succeed while being held accountable. the president must be involved. additionally, funding must be protected from political posturing. it is no secret challenges exist. almost daily reports surfaced
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outlining problems. he must deal with the problems aggressively. since secretary mcdonald has been on the job, the v.a. has improved. there is still a long way to go. they remain a key partner, but it's not enough. defend troops and support survivors at the v.a.. we all knew this would be a long road, and bob mcdonald is the right man for the job. you must give him the funding to finally improve the a after all. the g.i. bill has sent over one
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million veterans to college. we continue to get tweets by the day of people taking advantage of it. congress must finally close loopholes. you must strengthen regulations to help veterans choose the best and help them graduate. you must also continue to support the families of the fallen, focus on unemployment, innovate health care, support those exposed to toxin exposure, and and veterans homelessness. it's a long list, but our veterans deserve it. after a decade of war we have waited long enough. our veterans are not a charity. they are an investment. it's time to stand as one and to
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get to work. thank you again. i look forward to working with each of you in the critical year ahead. >> we now recognize the highest ranking member, the sergeant major. >> thank you for what you do. i am the president of the noncommissioned officers meeting . i appreciate this opportunity. we would like to thank you. i am here to urge you to commit to the armed forces. each of you visit our hospitals.
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you see the commitment of our service members to this nation. i think we should have no less commitment to taking care of them. being at the end of the road, most of the priorities have been outlined. i would like to talk in general terms with you. i would like to say, thank you for your continued commitment what you are doing on all the bills and everything else because you need to know that everybody at this table monitors those every day. we applaud your success and support on that. we know there are many things left to be done, and we appreciate moving forward with you. some would say they should paint
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federal workers with the same brush. we should have all the same pay and all the same things everyone should suggest, but i disagree with that. there is a piece of black granite down there with 58,000 256 names on it. i think that is a different commitment than the average federal worker, if you know what i am saying. in five days, many of you will be at the cemetery to see the ultimate commitment. i don't think we should do anything less for them. it's kind of a risk reward scenario. we need to know which to apply. the report even though it doesn't directly affect you it
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is going to have a trickle down effect. a lot of things that happen are going to come to you sooner or later. we had no enlisted guys on there. we do have guys who can read and write. we even have some who can do numbers. i am a little concerned because it deals with compensation. it actually kind of suggests the military compensation and pay and benefits are broken. i disagree with that. i'm not saying we couldn't make it better than what we have. i think there are a lot of things that have happened. between 1950 and 1990 nine, we had 30% of our veterans on disability.
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the last 14 years that has raised. unbelievable. the number is eight point five. that has gone up to over 19%. we interviewed a kernel and the colonel said he could not do all those things. i was done at headquarters yesterday. sergeant member -- sergeant
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major makes about $25,000 a year. while they are contributing benefits, that's not going to reach. at some point in time it's going to come to you. sometimes when we rush into those decisions, i know a lot of them that have taken early outs, and they regret it. it seemed like a good deal on the front end. as we move forward, all these changes, maybe we need to slow down and see if it is really good for our veterans and what long-term effect it is going to have down the road. i want to thank you for your
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continued success. we stand by to answer questions you might have. >> i will yield to questions. i have a young man shadowing me. if you would stand up, i know you are here somewhere. in the back. if there are any tennesseans
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here. i want to start by saying it's been a privilege. we have gone up 74% were the other part has stayed level. how we are spending the money is driving me crazy. it's a most impossible to make a politician speechless. it has been promised for years. from the time the construction began until now, that is over budget.
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i could not agree with you more. it's an arbitrary date. we could be spending that money on health care, on custodial care. those things are very expensive. all of those things that we bundled or whatever, the veteran's choice card, of the first $500 million spent on that 60% was administration. it is only $11,000 per scheduled visit. that is ridiculous. i looked at my own medical group. i started thinking, there are 11 of us in the practice.
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what can we do in the v.a.? as long as i am allowed to stay on the committee, i am going to keep a laser focus on the money wasted. when you waste money moving an official, how in the world can you look in the mirror in the morning and not throw up when that happens? what should we do in congress? we all know they are limited. >> swear everybody in who comes before you. >> we are doing that now.
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i would have never thought in my lifetime anybody would come up in front of a congressional committee and deliberately mislead us. maybe i am naive. the truth always needs to be told in front of these commitments. we are doing that. >> the other thing, if you look at the budgets, administrative overhead is ridiculous. you need to get the v.a. to break down the staff, which they don't do very well at all. i think you get a much clearer idea of what is going on. >> the v.a. has had the capacity to allow them to go on. they make it so hard for a veteran to get outside the
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system. that is mind-boggling to me. let the veteran do that. you are spot on. i want to help you make sure we can get those veterans. you are absolutely right. it's correct. it's much easier to do what you are talking about doing it institutionalized the veterans. you are recognized for five minutes. >> as a former staff sergeant we know the in ceo's run the military. -- ncos run the military. in particular, the focus on secretary mcdonald. a lot of the problems of the
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v.a. are not to his making. we are trying to work through the difficulty and get v.a. back into the health care business. i want to talk about alexis for just a second. alexis was injured for serving in the coast guard. because she was injured before 9/11 there were no caregivers. is that correct? >> that is correct. if she had been injured after 9/11, what would her care be? like she and her husband would be eligible for training and support. that is a whole range of
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benefits only available for severely disabled veterans and their caregivers. >> i think paralysis was the signature of the conflict, all of which took place before 9/11. >> the caregivers are also aging. i know my wife speaks three languages and has two college degrees, and she put her career on hold to care for me. when i pass away she gets no benefits. she has never paid into social security. she has never paid into a 401(k). all of my benefits pass. there needs to be something for our caregivers. i am thinking of the ones who are 75 years old and caring for veterans of the vietnam war. they need a break.
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you can imagine a 65-year-old woman trying to get a man into the bed or transferring him into the shower. it's hard work. they need support. >> her testimony allows us to focus on that issue. i don't know that we can do it overnight, but that's something we need to focus on. it's a telling line of demarcation leaving out a lot of veterans and their caregivers. it's really not right. we need to talk about what we can do. do you think putting him under oath will get us the truth? if we put them in jail for violating the truth -- >> that would really help. in a past life i was an investigator in the new york city council. when they started doing it we had a lot of testimony coming out of people, especially when we talked about sending somebody to jail.
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>> we know that accountability in the v.a. is something we try to focus on. we need to be accountable for the information that casts a light that may not be the best light. i think everybody needs to be held accountable. both those responsible as well as those dropping information in the media, they ought to be held accountable for the truth and the testimony. it's about time we found out where the root cause of the problems are and root them out. in my opinion, 90% of the employees at the v a are great. they are doing a good job. the 90% is being hurt by the 10% or less they want to protect or just want to have missed you this activities. -- mischievous activities.
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your testimony was helpful. >> i would suggest the difference in the employees is the difference between those providing health care who are the ones we meet where the rubber meets the road were doing a hell of a job. they get themselves into all kinds of trouble. >> as my pastor says, amen. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. brown, you are recognized for five minutes. >> i want to thank you for your service. i was a little late because i went to the women's memorial.
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i would like to see that we have a female veteran service representative here with us. i feel i needed to make that statement, particularly after i just left the women's memorial. let me just say we can blame the v.a. for a lot of things, but is our responsibility on the 24th of this money is -- this month is scheduled to shut down. i am going on the 29th. it will be an interesting time, because it will be shut down. it is going to cost $20 billion
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to shut it down. and $2 million a month to protect it. to me it is a waste of taxpayer dollars. the problem didn't start overnight. it didn't start with this administration. it has had several different administrations and different congresses. we need to come up with a solution and not waste taxpayer dollars and not disenfranchise those veterans. i represent florida. i am happy to say we are going to open up the veterans cemetery in florida, and on the 29th -- on the 26th, we are going to open up the va hospital in orlando, florida, that i have
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been working on for over 25 years. i want your comments about what is getting ready to happen in denver. the congress not being able to work together to get the problem solve. it is unacceptable in my opinion. -- solved. do you want to say something? i yield my time. >> i wouldn't take the lovely ladies time. >> three of these men said good things about women's health care. they did a good job. i appreciate everything representative brown said. the reason jeff miller is not here, he is in the house working
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on the denver situation. my last call was with senator mcdonald working on the situation. we don't want the money to go to waste, but we also talked about accountability. it is time if we are going to bury the hatchet that we plan for the future and do it right. we are trying to make sure everyone comes together with the right road forward. nobody is going to waste taxpayer dollars, but we have to make sure the way it happened in the past stops. that is what we are trying to do. i appreciate you drawing attention to that. >> i do have a question. it pertains to the bill. i have gone to several of the programs. we have several in my area, but they are not available to veterans all over the country.
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what are some of the recommendations? christ first, we prioritize women veterans. 20% of our membership is female. we are looking forward to working with you on making that a priority. america needs to understand they are being wounded and serving on the front line. we hope you can get in a room and work this out. we will continue to do so. >> what happens when failure is not an option.
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>> we hope we can move forward. we look forward to working with you, but we hope this is the beginning but not the end. >> my sister-in-law is blind. they do have that equipment. >> we did meet in the hallway. the equipment is there. the problem is getting the veterans to the blind rehab centers.
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>> you are saying the secretary doesn't have the authority to do it? >> the way the law is written, it says the secretary will grant travel to the service connected veteran. that is what we want. we want that word removed and catastrophically blind and paralyzed be added. >> we will work on that. i went to one of those centers. they were doing an excellent job. i visited some of the prison centers that train the dogs that work with them. there are a lot of supportive partnerships going on. i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you. mr. kaufman, you are recognized for five minutes.
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>> thank you. are there any folks from colorado? please raise your hand. >> they are working on the hospital. >> i want to thank the ranking member. for their help and leadership in trying to get this hospital done, which is in my district. i think it seems to be emerging as if somehow this is a rocky mountain issue or a colorado issue, and it's really not. the men and women we utilize in the hospital didn't serve the region. they serve this nation, and they serve in uniform and made tremendous sacrifices on behalf of all of our freedom. this needs to be recognized as a
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national issue and not a local thing. that is very important going forward. let me ask you this question. we have an incredible spinal injury center. what is your view about allowing veterans to have access to the facility should they choose to for treatment? >> we support choice. we believe that should be the hospital. i have plenty of friends there. i know what they have got. it is not as good as the v.a. >> is it the patient's decision or the v.a.'s decision? >> i think it is up to the patient to make the decision. i guarantee if you ask them, they are going to want to go to the v.a. >> one issue i am concerned about the transition from active
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duty military into civilian life. i had an easy time going from illicit army into civilian life. i want to be in business management. i was so frustrated. i put down that i was involved in acquisition of real

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