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109th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                     109-737

======================================================================



 
ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS FOR THE 109TH CONGRESS

                                _______
                                

 December 27, 2006.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on 
           the State of the Union and ordered to be printed.

                                _______
                                

Mr. Buyer of Indiana, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, pursuant 
         to Clause 1(d) of the Rule XI, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                            [To accompany ]

                              Jurisdiction

    Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives 
establishes the standing committees of the House and their 
jurisdiction. Under that rule, all bills, resolutions, and 
other matters relating to the subjects within the jurisdiction 
of any standing committee shall be referred to such committee. 
Clause 1(s) of Rule X establishes the jurisdiction of the 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs as follows:

          (1) Veterans' measures generally.
          (2) Cemeteries of the United States in which veterans 
        of any war or conflict are or may be buried, whether in 
        the United States or abroad (except cemeteries 
        administered by the Secretary of the Interior).
          (3) Compensation, vocational rehabilitation, and 
        education of veterans.
          (4) Life insurance issued by the Government on 
        account of service in the Armed Forces.
          (5) Pensions of all the wars of the United States, 
        general and special.
          (6) Readjustment of servicemembers to civil life.
          (7) Servicemembers' civil relief.
          (8) Veterans' hospitals, medical care, and treatment 
        of veterans.

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs was established January 
2, 1947, as a part of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 
1946 (60 Stat. 812), and was vested with jurisdiction formerly 
exercised by the Committee on World War Veterans' Legislation, 
Invalid Pensions, and Pensions. Jurisdiction over veterans' 
cemeteries administered by the Department of Defense was 
transferred from the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs 
on October 20, 1967, by H. Res. 241, 90th Congress. The 
Committee during the 109th Congress had 28 members, and one 
vacancy, 15 in the majority and 13 in the minority.

                           VETERANS PROGRAMS


                     DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible or 
providing federal healthcare and benefits to veterans and their 
families. The Department is headed by the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs and is the second largest of the 15 cabinet 
departments. The VA operates nationwide programs for health 
care, financial assistance and burial benefits.
    The Department of Veterans Affairs was established on March 
15, 1989, succeeding the Veterans Administration, which had 
been formed in 1930, consolidating several government agencies 
that provided services to veterans. At that time, VA had 54 
hospitals and 31,600 employees, and the nation had 4.7 million 
veterans. Today VA employs more than 235,000 men and women who 
serve a large portion of the nation's 25 million veterans. 
About half of VA's male employees are themselves veterans.
    VA employees provide health care to more than 5 million 
patients in 154 medical centers, nearly 900 community-based 
outpatient clinics, and hundreds of other sites of care. 
Annually, the Department's inpatient facilities treat nearly 
600,000 patients, and its outpatient clinics register more than 
57 million visits. In addition, VA has be-come a health care 
industry leader in research, rehabilitation, use of technology 
and patient safety.
    Approximately a quarter of the nation's population is 
potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they 
are veterans, family members or survivors of veterans. The 
Department provides more than $30 billion in disability 
compensation, death compensation and pensions to 3.5 million 
people. More than 550,000 spouses, children and parents of 
deceased veterans also receive VA benefits. In addition to 
guaranteeing home loans valued at over $200 billion, VA 
supervises the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance and the 
Veterans' Group Life Insurance programs. Together, these 
programs provide some $1.1 trillion in insurance to 4.5 million 
servicemembers and veterans, plus 3 million family members.
    The Department maintains 123 national cemeteries in 39 
states and Puerto Rico. With the largest national cemetery 
expansion sincethe Civil War underway, by 2009, VA will serve 
90 percent of veterans with a national or state veterans cemetery 
within 75 miles of their homes. The Department also manages the 
Presidential Memorial Certificate program, which provides next of kin 
or loved ones with certificates signed by the President to commemorate 
honorably discharged, deceased veterans.

                     VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION

Medical Care

    Perhaps the most visible of all VA benefits and services is 
health care. From 54 hospitals in 1930, VA's health care system 
now includes 154 medical centers, with at least one in each 
state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. VA operates 
more than 1,300 sites of care, including 875 ambulatory care 
and community-based outpatient clinics, 136 nursing homes, 43 
residential rehabilitation treatment programs, 206 Veterans 
Centers and 88 comprehensive homecare programs. VA health care 
facilities provide a broad spectrum of medical, surgical and 
rehabilitative care.
    More than 5.3 million people received care in VA health 
care facilities in 2005. By the end of FY 2005, 78 percent of 
all disabled and low-income veterans had enrolled with VA for 
health care; 65 percent of them were treated by VA. In 2005, VA 
inpatient facilities treated 587,000 patients. VA's outpatient 
clinics registered nearly 57.5 million visits.
    VA manages the largest medical education and health 
professions training program in the United States. VA 
facilities are affiliated with 107 medical schools, 55 dental 
schools and more than 1,200 other schools across the country. 
Each year, about 83,000 health professionals are trained in VA 
medical centers. More than half of the physicians practicing in 
the United States had some of their professional education in 
the VA health care system.
    VA's medical system serves as a backup to the Defense 
Department during national emergencies and as a federal support 
organization during major disasters.
    During the last six years, VA has put its health care 
facilities under 21 networks, which provide more medical 
services to more veterans and family members than at any time 
during VA's long history.
    VA has experienced unprecedented growth in the medical 
system workload over the past few years. The number of patients 
treated increased by 22 percent from 4.1 million in 2001 to 
more than 5.3 million in 2005.
    To receive VA health care benefits most veterans must 
enroll. The VA health care system had 7.7 million veterans who 
were enrolled as of October 2005. When they enroll, they are 
placed in priority groups or categories that help VA manage 
health care services within budgetary constraints and ensure 
quality care for those enrolled.
    Some veterans are exempted from having to enroll. People 
who do not have to enroll include veterans with a service-
connected disability of 50 percent or more, veterans who were 
discharged from the military within one year but have not yet 
been rated for a VA disability benefit and veterans seeking 
care for only a service-connected disability.
    Veterans with service-connected disabilities receive 
priority access to care for hospitalization and outpatient 
care.
    Since 1979, VA's Readjustment Counseling Service has 
operated Vet Centers, which provide psychological counseling 
for war-related trauma, community outreach, case management and 
referral activities, plus supportive social services to 
veterans and family members. There are 206 Vet Centers.
    Since the first Vet Center opened, approximately 2 million 
veterans have been helped. Every year, the Vet Centers serve 
over 130,000 veterans and provide more than 1 million visits to 
veterans and family members.
    Vet Centers are open to any veteran who served in the 
military in a combat theater during wartime or anywhere during 
a period of armed hostilities. Vet Centers also provide trauma 
counseling to veterans who were sexually assaulted or harassed 
while on active duty, and bereavement counseling to the 
families of service members who die on active duty.
    VA provides health care and benefits to more than 100,000 
home-less veterans each year. While the proportion of veterans 
among the homeless is declining, VA actively engages veterans 
in outreach, medical care, benefits assistance and transitional 
housing. VA has made more than 307 grants for transitional 
housing, service centers and vans for outreach and 
transportation to state and local governments, tribal 
governments, non-profit community and faith-based service 
providers.
    Programs for alcoholism, drug addiction and post-traumatic 
stress disorder have been expanded in recent years, along with 
attention to environmental hazards.
    Indispensable to providing America's veterans with quality 
medical care are more than 134,000 volunteers in VA's Voluntary 
Service who donate 13 million hours each year to bring 
companionship and care to hospitalized veterans.

Research

    In 2005, estimated funding for VA research is $390 million. 
An-other $341 million from VA's medical care account will 
support re-search efforts. Funding from non-VA sources, such as 
the National Institutes of Health, other government agencies 
and pharmaceutical companies, will contribute another $819 
million to VA research. VA currently supports approximately 
3,800 researchers at 115 VA medical centers, and its Career 
Development program provides young scientists and opportunity 
to develop skills as clinician-researchers.
    While providing high quality health care to the nation's 
veterans, VA also conducts an array of research on some of the 
most difficult challenges facing medical science today. VA has 
become a world leader in such research areas as aging, women's 
health, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental 
health issues. VA research has improved medical care for 
veterans and the nation.
    VA researchers played key roles in developing the cardiac 
pace-maker, the CT scan, radioimmunoassay and improvements in 
artificial limbs. The first liver transplant in the world was 
performed by a VA surgeon-researcher. VA clinical trials 
established the effectiveness of new treatments for 
tuberculosis, schizophrenia and high blood pressure. The 
``Seattle Foot'' developed in VA allows people with amputations 
to run and jump. VA contributions to medical knowledge have won 
VA scientists many awards, including the Nobel Prize and the 
Lasker Award.
    Nearly 83 percent of VA researchers are practicing 
physicians. Because of their dual roles, VA research often 
immediately benefits patients. Functional electrical 
stimulation, a technology using con-trolled electrical currents 
to activate paralyzed muscles, is being developed at VA 
clinical facilities and laboratories throughout the country. 
Through this technology, paraplegic patients have been able to 
grasp objects, stand and even walk short distances.
    Special VA ``centers of excellence'' throughout the nation 
conduct research in rehabilitation, health services and medical 
conditions, including AIDS, alcoholism, schizophrenia, stroke 
and Parkinson's disease. Multi-center clinical trials 
investigate the best therapy for various diseases. Current 
projects include testing aspirin therapy for heart patients, 
surgical treatment to reduce the risk of stroke and treatment 
options for prostate cancer.
    VA investigators continue to make major contributions to 
the understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and Agent 
Orange exposure, both research areas resulting from the Vietnam 
War. VA has conducted a number of Gulf War-related research 
projects and has two environmental hazards research centers 
focusing on the possible health effects of environmental 
exposures among Gulf War veterans.

                    VETERANS BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION

Compensation and Pension

    Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to 
veterans who are disabled by injury or disease incurred or 
aggravated during active military service. Veterans with low 
incomes who are permanently and totally disabled may be 
eligible for monetary support throughVA's pension program. In 
FY 2005, VA provided $30.8 billion in disability compensation, death 
compensation and pension to 3.5 million people. About 3 million 
veterans received disability compensation or pensions from VA. Also 
receiving VA benefits were 558,490 spouses, children and parents of 
deceased veterans. Among them are 159,448 survivors of Vietnam-era 
veterans and 256,572 survivors of World War II veterans.

Education and Training

    Since 1944, when the first GI Bill began, more than 21.3 
million veterans, service members and family members have 
received $72.8 billion in GI Bill benefits for education and 
training. The number of GI Bill recipients includes 7.8 million 
veterans from World War II, 2.4 million from the Korean War and 
8.2 million post-Korean and Vietnam era veterans, plus active 
duty personnel. Since the dependent's program was enacted in 
1956, VA also has assisted in the education of more than 
700,000 dependents of veterans whose deaths or total 
disabilities were service-connected. Since the Vietnam-era, 
there have been approximately 2.3 million veterans, service 
members, reservists and National Guardsmen who have 
participated in the Veterans' Educational Assistance Program, 
established in 1977, and the Montgomery GI Bill, established in 
1985.
    In 2005, VA helped pay for the education or training of 
336,347 veterans and active-duty personnel, 87,589 reservists 
and National Guardsmen and 74,360 survivors.

Home Loan Assistance

    From 1944, when VA began helping veterans purchase homes 
under the original GI Bill, through May 2006, more than 18 
million VA home loan guarantees have been issued, with a total 
value of $892 billion. VA began FY 2006 with 2.3 million active 
home loans, reflecting amortized loans totaling $202.1 billion.
    In FY 2005, VA guaranteed 165,854 loans valued at $25 
billion. VA's programs for specially adapted housing helped 
about 587 disabled veterans with grants totaling more than $26 
million last year.

Insurance

    VA operates one of the largest life insurance programs in 
the world. VA directly administers six life insurance programs. 
In addition, VA supervises the Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance and the Veterans' Group Life Insurance programs. 
These programs provide $1.1 trillion in insurance coverage to 
4.5 million veterans, active-duty members, reservists and 
Guardsmen, plus 3 million spouses and children.
    The Traumatic Injury Protection program under 
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance provides coverage for 
losses incurred due to traumatic injuries. Benefit amounts 
range from $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the loss. This 
program covers 2.4 million members.
    In 2005, the VA life insurance programs returned $462 
million in dividends to 1.5 million veterans holding some of 
these VA life insurance policies, and paid an additional $2.1 
billion in death claims and other disbursements.

Vocational Rehabilitation

    VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program 
provides services to enable veterans with service-connected 
disabilities to achieve maximum independence in daily living, 
and, to the maximum extent feasible, to obtain and maintain 
employment. During FYs 1998 through 2005, 69,806 program 
participants achieved rehabilitation by obtaining and 
maintaining suitable employment. Additionally, during that same 
period, 12,656 participants achieved rehabilitation through 
maximum independence in daily living.

                    NATIONAL CEMETERY ADMINISTRATION

VA's National Cemeteries

    In 1973, the Army transferred 82 national cemeteries to VA, 
which now manages them through its National Cemetery 
Administration. Currently, VA maintains 123 national cemeteries 
in 39 states and Puerto Rico.
    In 2005, VA national cemeteries conducted 93,246 
interments. That number is likely to increase to 109,000 in 
2008. In 2005, VA provided 363,901 headstones or markers for 
veterans' graves. Since taking over the veterans cemetery 
program in 1973, VA has provided more than 9.2 million 
headstones and markers.
    Between 1999 and 2005, VA opened seven new national 
cemeteries: the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery 
near Albany, N.Y.; the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near 
Chicago; the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery; the Ohio 
Western Reserve National Cemetery near Cleveland; the Fort Sill 
National Cemetery near Oklahoma City; the National Cemetery of 
the Alleghenies near Pittsburgh and the Great Lakes National 
Cemetery near Detroit. This year, VA plans to open two more 
national cemeteries near Atlanta and Sacramento, Calif., and a 
third one next year in Palm Beach County, Fla. Future plans 
include six new national cemeteries near Philadelphia; 
Jacksonville, Fla.; Sarasota, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; 
Greenville/Columbia, S.C.; and Bakersfield, Calif. By 2009, 
these nine cemeteries will help VA serve 90 percent of veterans 
with a national cemetery or state veterans cemetery within 75 
miles of their homes.
    VA administers the Presidential Memorial Certificate 
program, which provides gold embossed certificates signed by 
the president to commemorate honorably discharged, deceased 
veterans. They are sent to the veteran's next of kin and loved 
ones. VA provided 487,809 certificates in 2005.
    VA also administers the State Cemetery Grants Program, 
which encourages development of state veterans cemeteries. VA 
provides up to 100 percent of the funds to develop, expand or 
improve veterans cemeteries operated and maintained by the 
states. More than $258 million has been awarded for 63 
operational veterans cemeteries in 34 states and Guam. Five 
state cemeteries are under construction. In 2005, state 
cemeteries that received VA grants buried 20,882 eligible 
veterans and family members.

                          Department of Labor


                   VETERANS' EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

    The Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) of the 
Department of Labor provides employment and training services 
to eligible veterans through a non-competitive Jobs for 
Veterans State Grants Program. Under this grant program, funds 
are allocated to State Workforce Agencies in direct proportion 
to the number of veterans seeking employment within their 
state.

                  American Battle Monuments Commission

    The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), created by 
an Act of Congress in 1923, is a Federal agency responsible for 
the construction and permanent maintenance of military 
cemeteries and memorials on foreign soil, as well as certain 
memorials in the United States. Its principal functions are to 
commemorate, through the erection and maintenance of suitable 
memorial shrines, the sacrifices and achievements of the 
American armed forces where they have served since April 6, 
1917; to design, construct, operate, and maintain permanent 
American military burial grounds and memorials in foreign 
countries; to control the design and construction on foreign 
soil of U.S. military monuments and markers by other U.S. 
citizens and organizations, both public and private; and to 
encourage U.S. government agencies and private individuals and 
organizations to maintain adequately the monuments and markers 
erected by them on foreign soils. ABMC also provides 
information and assistance, on request, to relatives and 
friends of the war dead interred or commemorated at its 
facilities.
    In performance of its functions, ABMC administers, operates 
and maintains 24 permanent American military cemetery memorials 
and 22 monuments, memorials, markers and separate chapels in 
fourteen foreign countries, the Commonwealth of the Northern 
Mariana Islands, Gibraltar, and three memorials in the United 
States. When directed by Congress, ABMC develops and erects 
national military monuments in the United States, such as the 
Korean War Veterans Memorial and most recently, the World War 
II National Memorial.

                      Arlington National Cemetery

    Arlington Mansion and 200 acres of ground immediately 
surrounding it were designated as a military cemetery on June 
15, 1864, by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. With more than 
200,000 people buried, Arlington National Cemetery has the 
second largest number of people buried of any national cemetery 
in the United States. Arlington National Cemetery is 
administered by the Department of the Army.
    Veterans from all the Nation's wars and conflicts are 
buried in the cemetery, from the American Revolution through 
Operation Iraqi Freedom. The cemetery conducts approximately 
6,452 burials each year. In addition to in-ground burial, the 
cemetery has a large columbarium for cremated remains. Seven 
courts are currently in use, each with 5,000 niches. Arlington 
is the site of many non-funeral ceremonies, and approximately 
3,700 such ceremonies are conducted each year. Arlington is 
expected to continue to provide burials through the year 2060 
with its recently approved capital investment plan.

                      Legislation Enacted Into Law

                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-80


      Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Enhancement Act of 2005


                        (H.R. 3200, AS AMENDED)

    Title: An Act to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
enhance the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program, and 
for other purposes.
    H.R. 3200, as amended:
    1. Effective August 31, 2005, repealed section 1012 of 
Public Law 109-13, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations 
Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 
2005, which expired on September 30, 2005. Section 1012 of the 
Supplemental made changes to the Servicemembers' and Veterans' 
Group Life Insurance programs (SGLI and VGLI, respectively) 
operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs;
    2. Increases from $250,000 to $400,000 the automatic 
maximum in coverage under the Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI) 
programs;
    3. Requires the service Secretary concerned to notify in 
writing the member's spouse or, if the member is unmarried, the 
next of kin, if the member elects not to enroll in SGLI or 
elects an amount less than the maximum amount. When an 
unmarried member marries, the service Secretary concerned is 
required to notify the servicemembers' spouse as to whether the 
member is insured under SGLI, or insured at an amount less than 
the maximum;
    4. Requires the service Secretary concerned to notify in 
writing the spouse of a servicemember when someone other than 
the spouse or child is designated as the policy beneficiary. 
When an unmarried servicemember marries, the Secretary 
concerned must notify the spouse if the servicemember 
designates someone other than the spouse or child as the policy 
beneficiary;
    5. Increases the increments of SGLI coverage a 
servicemember may elect from $10,000 to $50,000; and
    6. Permits a servicemember to decline participation in the 
Traumatic Injury Protection program provided by section 1032 of 
Public Law 109-13, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations 
Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 
2005. If a servicemember who has declined traumatic injury 
protection coverage wishes to enroll at a later date, the 
servicemember can elect coverage upon written application, 
proof of good health, and compliance with such other terms as 
the Secretary may require.
    Effective Date: August 31, 2005
    Cost: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 
implementing this bill would cost $95 million in 2006, and $199 
mil-lion over the 2006-2010 period, assuming appropriation of 
the necessary amounts. Enacting H.R. 3200 had no direct affect 
on spending or revenues.
    Legislative History:
    July 11, 2005: H.R. 3200 referred to the Subcommittee on 
            Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
    July 13, 2005: Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and 
            Memorial Affairs held a markup session. Ordered 
            reported favorably by voice vote.
    July 14, 2005: Full Committee held markup session. Ordered 
            reported favorably by unanimous voice vote.
    July 20, 2005: Placed on the Union Calendar, Calendar No. 
            111.
    July 26, 2005: On motion to suspend the rules and pass the 
            bill agreed to by the yeas and nays: 428-0 (Roll 
            No. 420).
    July 27, 2005: Referred to the Senate Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    September 27, 2005: Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
            discharged by Unanimous Consent. Passed Senate with 
            an amendment by Unanimous Consent.
    September 28, 2005: House agreed to Senate amendment under 
            Suspension of the Rules by a unanimous voice vote.
    September 30, 2005: Signed by the President. (Public Law 
            109-80)
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-111


      Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2005


                               (S. 1234)

    Title: Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act 
of 2005
    A bill to increase, effective as of December 1, 2005, the 
rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected 
disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity 
compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans.
    S. 1234:
    Increased, as of December 1, 2005, the rates of veterans' 
disability compensation, additional compensation for 
dependents, the clothing allowance for certain disabled 
veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for 
surviving spouses and children.
    Legislative History:
    June 14, 2005: Introductory remarks on measure.
    June 14, 2005: Read twice and referred to the Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    June 23, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings 
            held.
    July 28, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs Markup. 
            Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.
    September 21, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. 
            Reported by Senator Craig without amendment. With 
            written report No. 109-138.
    September 21, 2005: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar 
            under General Orders. Calendar No. 217.
    November 16, 2005: Measure laid before Senate by unanimous 
            consent.
    November 16, 2005: Passed Senate with an amendment by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    November 16, 2005: Received in the House.
    November 16, 2005: Mr. Buyer asked unanimous consent to 
            take from the Speaker's table and consider. 
            Considered by unanimous consent. On passage Passed 
            without objection. Motion to reconsider laid on the 
            table Agreed to without objection.
    November 16, 2005: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    November 16, 2005: Cleared for White House.
    November 17, 2005: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    November 18, 2005: Presented to President.
    November 22, 2005: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 
            109-111)
    Note: H.R. 1220 was the companion bill introduced in the 
House.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-206


   An Act to designate the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient 
 clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin as the ``John H. Bradley Department of 
                 Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.''


                              (H.R. 1691)

    Title: To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs 
outpatient clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, as the ``John H. 
Bradley Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.''
    H.R. 1691:
    Designates the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient 
clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, as the ``John H. Bradley 
Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.''
    Legislative History:
    April 19, 2005: Referred to the House Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    April 25, 2005: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.
    October 12, 2005: Subcommittee on Health Discharged.
    October 20, 2005: Committee Consideration and Mark-up 
            Session Held.
    October 20, 2005: Ordered to be Reported by Unanimous Con-
            sent.
    November 2, 2005: Mr. Buyer moved to suspend the rules and 
            pass the bill.
    November 2, 2005: Considered under suspension of the rules.
    November 2, 2005: At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and 
            Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the 
            provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair 
            announced that further proceedings on the motion 
            would be postponed.
    November 2, 2005: Considered as unfinished business.
    November 2, 2005: On motion to suspend the rules and pass 
            the bill Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 
            required): 407--0 (Roll No. 561)
    November 2, 2005: Motion to reconsider laid on the table 
            Agreed to without objection.
    November 4, 2005: Received in the Senate and Read twice and 
            referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
    March 13, 2006: Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
            discharged by Unanimous Consent.
    March 13, 2006: Passed Senate without amendment by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    March 13, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    March 14, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the House.
    March 17, 2006: Presented to President.
    March 23, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 109-
            206)
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-228


                Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act


                              (H.R. 5037)

    Title: Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act
    H.R. 5037:
    Prohibits a demonstration within 500 feet of a cemetery 
under the control of the National Cemetery Administration or 
Arlington National Cemetery, beginning 60 minutes before and 
ending 60 minutes after a funeral, memorial service or 
ceremony, unless it has been approved by the cemetery 
superintendent or the director of the property on which the 
cemetery is located; and defines the term ``demonstration'' to 
include any picketing or similar conduct; any oration, speech, 
use of sound amplification equipment or device, or similar 
conduct before an assembled group of people that is not part of 
a funeral or memorial service or ceremony; the display of any 
placard, banner, flag, or similar device, unless the display is 
part of a funeral or memorial service or ceremony; and the 
distribution of any handbill, pamphlet, leaflet, or other 
written or printed matter other than a program distributed as 
part of a funeral or memorial service or ceremony.
    Provides fines up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for not 
more than one year for violation of the prohibition on 
demonstrations. Expresses the sense of Congress that each State 
should enact legislation to restrict demonstrations near any 
military funeral.
    Legislative History:
    March 29, 2006: Referred to the Committee on Veterans' 
            Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on the 
            Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently 
            determined by the Speaker, in each case for 
            consideration of such provisions as fall within the 
            jurisdiction of the committee concerned.
    March 29, 2006: Referred to House Committee on Veterans' 
            Affairs.
    April 5, 2006: Referred to the Subcommittee on Disability 
            Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
    April 6, 2006: Subcommittee Hearings Held.
    April 24, 2006: Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and 
            Memorial Affairs Discharged.
    March 29, 2006: Referred to House Committee on the 
            Judiciary.
    May 1, 2006: Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, 
            Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
    May 9, 2006: Mr. Buyer moved to suspend the rules and pass 
            the bill. Considered under suspension of the rules. 
            At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were 
            demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of 
            clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further 
            proceedings on the motion would be postponed. 
            Considered as unfinished business. On motion to 
            suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by 
            the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 408--3 (Roll No. 
            129).
    May 10, 2006: Received in the Senate, read twice.
    May 24, 2006: Measure laid before Senate by unanimous 
            consent. Passed Senate with an amendment by 
            Unanimous Consent. Message on Senate action sent to 
            the House.
    May 24, 2006: Mr. Buyer moved that the House suspend the 
            rules and agree to the Senate amendment. On motion 
            that the House suspend the rules and agree to the 
            Senate amendment Agreed to by voice vote.
    May 24, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    May 25, 2006: Presented to President.
    May 29, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 109-228)
    Note: S. 2779 was the companion bill introduced in the 
Senate.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-231


   To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 
 Muskogee, Oklahoma as the ``Jack C. Montgomery Department of Veterans 
                       Affairs Medical Center.''


                              (H.R. 3829)

    Title: An Act to designate the Department of Veterans 
Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, as the ``Jack C. 
Montgomery Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.''
    H.R. 3829:
    Renamed the VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma as the 
``Jack C. Montgomery Department of Veterans Affairs Medical 
Center''. Jack C. Montgomery was born in and remained a life-
long resident of Oklahoma. He served as a First Lieutenant in 
the United States Army's 45th Infantry Division during World 
War II. For his service with the 45th Infantry Division during 
1944, Mr. Montgomery received the Medal of Honor for 
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and 
beyond the call of duty.
    Legislative History:
    September 20, 2005: Referred to the House Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    September 26, 2005: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health.
    May 4, 2006: Subcommittee on Health Discharged.
    May 9, 2006: Mr. Buyer moved to suspend the rules and pass 
            the bill. Considered under suspension of the rules. 
            At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were 
            demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of 
            clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further 
            proceedings on the motion would be postponed. 
            Considered as unfinished business. On motion to 
            suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by 
            the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 407--0 (Roll No. 
            130)
    May 10, 2006: Received in the Senate and Read twice and 
            referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
    May 26, 2006: Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
            discharged by Unanimous Consent.
    May 26, 2006: Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous 
            Consent.
    May 26, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the House.
    May 26, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    June 8, 2006: Presented to President.
    June 15, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 109-
            231)
    Note: S. 1731 was the companion bill introduced in the 
Senate.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-233


   Veterans' Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006


                               (S. 1235)

    Title: Veterans' Housing Opportunity and Benefits 
Improvement Act of 2006
    S. 1235:

                        TITLE I--HOUSING MATTERS

    Authorizes a 5-year pilot program to provide adaptive 
housing assistance, not to exceed $14,000, to disabled veterans 
residing temporarily in housing owned by a family member. 
Offsets to pay for the pilot would come from an increase of 5 
basis points in the funding fee for second and subsequent use 
of the VA home loan guarantee (with no money down) through 
September 30, 2007.
    Provides VA the flexibility to prescribe an appropriate 
annual rate adjustment cap for VA hybrid ARM loans with an 
initial rate of interest fixed for 5 or more years.
    Makes permanent the pilot program allowing the Secretary to 
make direct home loans to Native American Indians.
    Reinstates the Secretary's authority to provide adaptive 
housing assistance to certain members of the armed forces who 
would otherwise qualify but have not yet separated from 
service.

                      TITLE II--EMPLOYMENT MATTERS

    Requires the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' 
Employment and Training to furnish information to employers 
regarding training and skills of veterans and disabled 
veterans, and the advantages of hiring veterans and disabled 
veterans.
    Changes the title of the ``Advisory Committee on Veterans 
Employment and Training'' to ``Advisory Committee on Veterans 
Employment, Training, and Employer Outreach.''
    Modifies the membership of the Advisory Committee to 
reflect the expanded emphasis on outreach to employers, and 
expand the duties of the Advisory Committee to assist the 
Assistant Secretary in carrying out outreach activities to 
employers.
    Reauthorizes the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program 
for FYs 2007 through 2009, and retain the maximum authorization 
of $50 million per year.

              TITLE III--LIFE AND HEALTH INSURANCE MATTERS

    Extends free post-separation SGLI coverage for totally 
disabled veterans from 1 to 2 years through September 30, 2011. 
On October 1, 2011, free post-separation coverage would be 
reduced to 18 months. After that, the veteran can convert to 
either Veterans' Group Life Insurance or a commercial policy.
    Amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to limit premium 
increases on reinstated health insurance coverage of 
servicemembers who are released from active duty.
    Amends the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment 
Rights Act to preserve employer-sponsored health plan 
reinstatement rights for certain Reserve component members who 
acquire TRICARE eligibility prior to entering active duty.

                        TITLE IV--OTHER MATTERS

    Codifies a 2005 VA regulation adding heart disease and 
strokes to the list of diseases presumed to be service-
connected for former prisoners of war who were interred for at 
least 30 days.
    Requires VA to prepare, biennially, an outreach plan 
governing 2 years beginning on October 1, 2007. VA would also 
be required to report biennially on the execution of the plan 
beginning on October 1, 2008.
    Extends the equitable relief reporting requirement through 
December 31, 2009.

                          TITLE V--TECHNICALS

    Makes technical and clarifying amendments to the Traumatic 
Injury Protection plan to more clearly specify the 
responsibilities of the different service branches, and 
conforms the wording to match title 38 drafting.
    Eliminate the terms ``helpless'' throughout compensation 
and DIC chapters of title 38 when referring to a significantly 
disabled veteran.
    Legislative History:
    June 14, 2005: Introductory remarks on measure.
    June 14, 2005: Read twice and referred to the Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    June 23, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings 
            held.
    July 28, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Ordered to 
            be reported with an amendment in the nature of a 
            substitute favorably (As approved by the Committee, 
            the substitute amendment incorporated related 
            provisions of S. 1235, as introduced, S. 552, S. 
            917, S. 151, S. 1259, S. 1271, and S. 423).
    September 21, 2005: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. 
            Reported by Senator Craig with an amendment in the 
            nature of a substitute and an amendment to the 
            title. With written report No. 109-139.
    September 21, 2005: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar 
            under General Orders. Calendar No. 218.
    September 28, 2005: Passed Senate with an amendment and an 
            amendment to the Title by Unanimous Consent.
    September 29, 2005: Received in the House.
    September 29, 2005: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    September 29, 2005: Referred to the House Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    May 22, 2006: Mr. Miller (FL) moved to suspend the rules 
            and pass the bill, as amended. Considered under 
            suspension of the rules. At the conclusion of 
            debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and 
            ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, 
            rule XX, the Chair announced that further 
            proceedings on the motion would be postponed. 
            Considered as unfinished business. On motion to 
            suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended 
            Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 
            372--0 (Roll No. 177). The title of the measure was 
            amended. Agreed to without objection.
    May 23, 2006: Message on House action received in Senate 
            and at desk: House amendments to Senate bill.
    May 23, 2006: Senate agreed to House amendments by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    May 25, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    June 7, 2006: Presented to President.
    June 15, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 109-
            233)
    Note: H.R. 3665 was the companion bill introduced in the 
House.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-361


      Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2006


                               (S. 2562)

    Title: Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act 
of 2006
    S. 2562, as amended:
    Provides effective December 1, 2006, a cost-of-living 
adjustment to the rates of disability compensation for veterans 
with service-connected disabilities and to the rates of 
dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain 
service-connected disabled veterans. The percentage amount is 
equal to the increase for benefits provided under the Social 
Security Act, which is calculated based upon changes in the 
Consumer Price Index.
    Legislative History:
    April 4, 2006: Introductory remarks on measure.
    April 6, 2006: Read twice and referred to the Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    June 8, 2006: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Hearings 
            held.
    June 22, 2006: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Ordered to 
            be reported without amendment favorably.
    July 27, 2006: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Reported by 
            Senator Craig without amendment. With written 
            report No. 109-296.
    July 27, 2006: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under 
            General Orders. Calendar No. 539.
    September 21, 2006: Measure laid before Senate by unanimous 
            consent.
    September 21, 2006: Passed Senate with an amendment by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    September 22, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    September 25, 2006: Received in the House.
    September 25, 2006: Held at the desk.
    September 30, 2006: Mr. Buyer asked unanimous consent 
totake from the Speaker's table and consider. Considered by unanimous 
consent. On passage Passed without objection. Motion to reconsider laid 
on the table Agreed to without objection.
    September 30, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    October 5, 2006: Presented to President.
    October 16, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 109-
            361)
    Note: H.R. 4843 was the companion bill introduced in the 
House.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-414


   To designate the outpatient clinic of the Department of Veterans 
    Affairs located in Farmington, Missouri, as the ``Robert Silvey 
          Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.''


                               (S. 4073)

    Title: To designate the outpatient clinic of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs located in Farmington, Missouri, as the 
``Robert Silvey Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient 
Clinic.''
    S. 4073:
    Renames the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient 
clinic in Farmington, Missouri as the ``Robert Silvey 
Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.''
    Legislative History:
    November 16, 2006: Introduced in the Senate, read twice, 
            considered, read the third time, and passed without 
            amendment by Unanimous Consent.
    November 17, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    December 5, 2006: Received in the House.
    December 5, 2006: Referred to the House Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    December 6, 2006: Mr. Brown (SC) moved to suspend the rules 
            and pass the bill.
    December 6, 2006: Considered under suspension of the rules. 
            On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill 
            Agreed to by voice vote.
    December 6, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    December 11, 2006: Presented to President.
    December 18, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 
            109-414)
    Note: H.R. 5994 was the companion bill introduced in the 
House.
                                ------                                


                           Public Law 109-___


 Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006


                               (S. 3421)

    Title: Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information 
Technology Act of 2006
    S. 3421, as amended:

               TITLE I--VETERANS' ATTORNEY REPRESENTATION

    Sec. 101. Allows veterans dissatisfied with a decision of 
Department of Veterans Affairs to retain and pay an agent or 
attorney for representation. Sets forth additional grounds for 
suspending or excluding agents and attorneys from 
representation of veterans. Requires the VA Secretary to 
promulgate regulations for implementing the provisions.

                        TITLE II--HEALTH MATTERS

    Sec. 201. Authorizes the VA to hire marriage and family 
therapists and licensed mental health counselors. Requires the 
VA to provide Congress with a report on marriage and family 
therapy workload for the treatment of post-traumatic stress 
disorder.
    Sec. 202. Provides authority for the VA to increase pay for 
the position of the Chief Nursing Officer not to exceed the 
maximum rate established for the Senior Executive Service.
    Sec. 203. Requires VA to ensure that each VA Community 
Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) has the capacity to provide 
mental health services. Requires VA's National Center on Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to collaborate with DOD to 
enhance training and treatment of PTSD and promote pre- and 
post-deployment resilience of veterans, and authorizes $2 
million to be appropriated for carrying out the collaborative 
PTSD requirements. Requires VA to review PTSD clinical 
guidelines to enable clinicians to better distinguish between 
PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
    Sec. 204. Consistent with privacy laws, authorizes VA to 
release needed information for organ donation. Requires VA to 
prescribe regulations within 180 days of enactment.
    Sec. 205. Increases the number of Vet Centers capable of 
providing health services and counseling through tele-health 
linkages with VA medical facilities.
    Sec. 206. Directs the VA Secretary to publish a strategic 
plan for long-term care of veterans.
    Sec. 207. Requires VA to establish Blind Rehabilitation 
Outpatient Specialists at not fewer than 35 additional VA 
facilities within 30 months after the date of enactment. 
Authorizes $3.5 million for FY 2007 through FY 2012 for new 
positions.
    Sec. 208. Extends through 2008 a report requirement 
concerning VA's compliance requirements to maintain capacity to 
provide for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs 
of disabled veterans. Extends authorization for the biennial 
report of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans through 
2008.
    Sec. 209. Permanently authorizes, subject to 
appropriations, at least six VA Parkinson's Disease Research 
Education and Clinical Centers (PADRECCs) and at least two 
Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence.
    Sec. 210. Repeals the four-year terms of office for the 
Under Secretary for Health and Under Secretary for Benefits 
positions.
    Sec. 211. Expands authorities for State veterans' homes. 
Requires the VA Secretary to reimburse State veterans' homes 
for the cost of care of a veteran with a 70 percent or greater 
service-connected condition and would require that medications 
be provided, at no cost, to veterans with a 50 percent or 
greater service-connected disability. Authorizes a VA pilot 
program to deem a total of 100 beds in non-VA facilities to be 
eligible for State veterans' home per diem payments.
    Sec. 212. Establishes a VA Office of Rural Health Care. 
Requires the Director of the Office of Rural Health care to 
develop a plan to improve the access and quality of care for 
enrolled veterans, including measures for meeting the long-term 
care and mental health needs of veterans. The plan must be 
provided to Congress by September 30, 2007. Requires VA to 
submit a report to Congress by March 30, 2007, on identifying 
each CBOC identified in CARES that has been opened and the 
CBOCs and access point that would be opened in FY 2007 or FY 
2008.
    Sec. 213. Requires VA to conduct an extensive outreach 
program to veterans who reside in rural communities and who 
served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Sec. 214. Authorizes a two-year pilot program to improve VA 
assistance provided to caregivers, particularly in home-based 
settings, and authorizes $5 million for each FY to carrying out 
the pilot program.
    Sec. 215. Requires not less than 100 additional outreach 
staff for Vet Centers.
    Sec. 216. Authorizes Vet Centers to provide bereavement 
counseling to all immediate family members of a member of the 
Armed Forces who dies in the course of their military service.
    Sec. 217. Authorizes for FY 2007, $180 million for the 
provision of readjustment counseling and related mental health 
services through Vet Centers.

                      TITLE III--EDUCATION MATTERS

    Sec. 301. Expands eligibility for Survivors' and 
Dependents' Educational Assistance program to dependents of 
severely disabled service-members who have not yet been 
discharged from military service.
    Sec. 302. Restores lost entitlement for survivors and 
dependents of veterans who discontinue a program of education 
because of being ordered to full-time National Guard duty.
    Sec. 303. Exempts Federal, state or local government 
institutions from the rule that requires a non-accredited 
education program to have a pro rata refund policy for unused 
tuition.
    Sec. 304. Extends work-study programs for veteran students 
at State approving agencies, State veterans cemeteries and 
national cemeteries, and State homes until June 30, 2007.
    Sec. 305. Requires VA and DoD to submit separate reports to 
Congress on the Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance 
program.
    Sec. 306. Requires the Secretary of the VA to report to 
Congress on ways to streamline the administrative processes and 
procedures of veterans' education benefits.
    Sec. 307. Technical amendments relating to education laws.

            TITLE IV--NATIONAL CEMETERY AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS

    Sec. 401. Authorizes VA to provide Government memorial 
head-stones or markers and memorial inscriptions for deceased 
dependent children of veterans whose remains are unavailable 
for burial.
    Sec. 402. Authorizes VA to furnish Government markers for 
marked graves of veterans at private cemeteries until December 
31, 2007.
    Sec. 403. Authorizes the VA to make grants to Indian tribal 
organizations for establishing, expanding or improving 
veterans' cemeteries on trust lands.
    Sec. 404. Provides for the removal of remains of Russell 
Wayne Wagner from Arlington National Cemetery.

              TITLE V--HOUSING AND SMALL BUSINESS MATTERS

    Sec. 501. Extends VA's authority to guarantee loans for 
veterans and survivors to purchase stock or membership in a 
residential cooperative housing units.
    Sec. 502. Improves VA's goals for participation by small 
business-es owned and controlled by veterans in procurement 
contracts.
    Sec. 503. Improves contracting priority for veteran owned 
small businesses contracting with the VA.

                      TITLE VI--EMPLOYMENT MATTERS

    Sec. 601. Requires training of new disabled veterans' 
outreach program specialists and local veterans' employment 
representatives by the National Veterans' Training Institute.
    Sec. 602. Clarifies rules for part-time employment for 
disabled veterans' outreach program specialists and local 
veterans' employment representatives.
    Sec. 603. Authorizes the Assistant Secretary of Veterans 
Employment and Training Service to permit incentive awards for 
employment service offices as well as individual employees.
    Sec. 604. Authorizes a demonstration project on 
credentialing and licensure of veterans.
    Sec. 605. Requires the Department of Labor to issue 
regulations for priority of service of veterans and dependents 
in job placement programs.

                TITLE VII--HOMELESS VETERANS ASSISTANCE

    Sec. 701. Reaffirms the national goal of to end 
homelessness among veterans.
    Sec. 702. Provides a sense of Congress on the response of 
the Federal Government to the needs of homeless veterans.
    Sec. 703. Permanently authorized VA homeless grant and per 
diem program. Authorizes $130 million in appropriations for the 
program for FY 2007 and each year thereafter.
    Sec. 704. Extends authorization for VA to provide treatment 
and rehabilitation for seriously mentally ill and homeless 
veterans through December 31, 2011. Extends authorization 
through December 31, 2011, for VA to provide comprehensive, 
coordinated and intensive services for homeless veterans at a 
minimum of 20 sites.
    Sec. 705. Extends authority through December 31, 2011, for 
VA to enter into agreements with nonprofit organizations to 
utilize properties in VA's inventory to shelter homeless 
veterans and their families.
    Sec. 706. Authorizes apportions of $7 million for FY 2007 
through FY 2011 for VA's grant program for homeless veterans 
with special needs (e.g., women, frail elderly, terminally ill, 
or chronically mentally ill).
    Sec. 707. Extends authorization of appropriations of $1 
million for FY 2007 through FY 2012 for grants to provide 
technical assistance to homeless veteran service providers.
    Sec. 708. Requires the annual VA report on assistance to 
home-less veterans to include information on VA's efforts to 
coordinate with other federal agencies the delivery of housing 
and services to homeless veterans.
    Sec. 709. Extends the authorization for the VA Advisory 
Commit-tee on Homeless Veterans through December 31, 2006. 
Requires the Executive Director of the Interagency Council on 
Homelessness, the Under Secretary for Health and the Under 
Secretary for Benefits to be ex officio members of the advisory 
committee.
    Sec. 710. Authorizes appropriations for additional rental 
assistance vouchers for veterans.

                    TITLE VIII--CONSTRUCTION MATTERS

    Sec. 801. Authorizes $300 million for the restoration, new 
construction or replacement of the New Orleans, Louisiana, VA 
medical center. Authorize $310 million for the restoration of 
the VA medical center in Biloxi, Mississippi and consolidation 
of services performed at the VA medical center in Gulfport, 
Mississippi. Authorize $98 million for the replacement of the 
Denver, Colorado, VA medical center.
    Sec. 802. Extends authorization for certain major medical 
facility construction projects previously authorized in 
connection with Capital Asset Realignment Initiative. These 
projects are listed as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Location                    Purpose                Cost
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anchorage, AK.................  outpatient clinic and        $75,270,000
                                 regional office.
Cleveland/Brecksville, OH.....  clinical/                    102,300,000
                                 administrative
                                 consolidation.
Des Moines, IA................  extended care                 25,000,000
                                 building.
Durham, NC....................  renovation of patient          9,100,000
                                 wards.
Gainesville, FL...............  correct patient               85,200,000
                                 privacy deficiencies.
Indianapolis, IN..............  floor wards                   27,400,000
                                 modernization.
Las Vegas, NV.................  new medical center           406,000,000
                                 facility.
Lee County, FL................  ambulatory diagnostic         65,100,000
                                 support center.
Long Beach, CA................  seismic corrections..        107,845,000
Los Angeles, CA...............  seismic corrections..         79,900,000
Orlando, FL...................  new medical center           377,700,000
                                 facility.
Pittsburgh, PA................  consolidation of             189,205,000
                                 campuses.
San Antonio, TX...............  ward upgrades and             19,100,000
                                 expansion.
Syracuse, NY..................  new spinal cord               77,700,000
                                 injury center.
Tampa, FL.....................  upgrade electrical            49,000,000
                                 distribution systems.
Tampa, FL.....................  expand spinal cord             7,100,000
                                 injury center.
Temple, TX....................  blind rehab/                  56,000,000
                                 psychiatric
                                 renovation.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Sec. 803. Authorizes FY 2007 major medical facility 
projects. These projects are listed as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Location                    Purpose                Cost
------------------------------------------------------------------------
American Lake, WA.............  seismic corrections,         $38,220,000
                                 nursing home.
Columbia, MO..................  operating suite               25,830,000
                                 replacement.
Fayetteville, AR..............  new clinical addition         56,163,000
Milwaukee, WI.................  new spinal cord               32,500,000
                                 injury center.
St. Louis, MO.................  medical facility              69,053,000
                                 improvements and
                                 cemetery expansion.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Sec. 804. Authorizes $36.8 million for advancing planning 
and design for a co-located and joint use medical facility in 
Charleston, South Carolina.
    Sec. 805. Authorizes major medical facility leases for FY 
2006.
          (1) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Baltimore, Maryland, in the amount of $10,908,000.
          (2) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Evansville, Indiana, in the amount of $8,989,000.
          (3) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Smith County, Texas, in the amount of $5,093,000.
    Sec. 806. Authorizes major medical facility leases for FY 
2007.
          (1) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient and 
        specialty care clinic in Austin, Texas, in the amount 
        of $6,163,000.
          (2) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Lowell, Massachusetts, in the amount of $2,520,000.
          (3) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the amount of $4,409,000.
          (4) Authorizes up to four leases for outpatient 
        clinics in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the amount of 
        $8,518,000.
          (5) Authorizes a lease for an outpatient clinic in 
        Parma, Ohio, in the amount of $5,032,000.
    Sec. 807. Authorizes appropriations.
    Sec. 811. Establishes a VA Director of Construction and 
Facilities Management.
    Sec. 812. Increases the threshold for major medical 
facility projects that require Congressional authorization from 
$7,000,000 to $10,000,000.
    Sec. 813. Authorizes the conveyance of VA property to the 
city of Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
    Sec. 821. Requires a report on options for medical facility 
improvements in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    Sec. 822. Requires VA to develop business plans for 
enhanced access to outpatient care in certain rural areas.
    Sec. 823. Requires a report on options for construction of 
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Okaloosa 
County, Florida.

                 TITLE IX--INFORMATION SECURITY MATTERS

    Sec. 901. Short Title--Department of Veterans Affairs 
Information Security Enactment of 2006.
    Sec. 902. Establishes VA Information Security Programs and 
Requirements. Amends Title 38, Chapter 57 by adding Subchapter 
III--Information Security.
          5721  Explains the purpose of the program
          5722  Establishes policy and key elements of the 
        program
          5723  Establishes responsibilities for the Secretary, 
        Assistant Secretary for Information Technology, 
        Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and 
        Information Security, Department Information Owners, 
        other key officials, and the Inspector General
          5724  Establishes requirements and actions to be 
        taken when sensitive data may have been compromised. 
        Requires VA to promulgate regulations
          5725  Establishes contractor requirements
          5726  Defines reporting requirements to the 
        Committees
          5727  Defines terms used in the section
          5728  Authorizes appropriations and clerical 
        amendments
    Sec. 903. Establishes a VA Information Security Education 
Assistance Programs. Amends Title 38, Chapter 78 by adding a 
new chapter.
          7901  Explains the purpose of the program
          7902  Establishes opportunity and requirements for 
        scholar-ship program
          7903  Establishes opportunity and requirements for 
        education debt reduction program
          7904  Establishes preferences for awarding financial 
        assistance
          7905  Establishes a requirement that recipient be 
        honorably discharged from service
          7906  Establishes requirement for Secretary to 
        prescribe regulations
          7907  Provides for termination of the program

                         TITLE X--OTHER MATTERS

    Sec. 1001. Requires VA to also notify the Senate and House 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs concerning the transfer of 
appropriations when mandated to provide notification to other 
Congressional committees.
    Sec. 1002. Treats veterans who are incarcerated in 
privately operated prisons in the same manner as veterans who 
are incarcerated in Federal or State prisons for the purposes 
of receipt of veterans' benefits.
    Sec. 1003. Extends VA authority to provide care for 
veterans who participated in chemical and biological warfare 
testing conducted by the Department of Defense, known as 
``Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense'' (SHAD) through 
December 31, 2007.
    Sec. 1004. Provides for technical and clerical corrections 
in Title 38.
    Sec. 1005. An increase in benefits to be paid in 2007 was 
enacted by Public Law 109-361. These provisions codify the 
statutory rates for Veterans' Service-connected Disability 
Compensation, additional compensation for dependents, clothing 
allowance for certain disabled veterans, Dependency and 
Indemnity Compensation for surviving spouses, additional 
dependency and indemnity compensation for children and 
supplemental dependency and indemnity compensation for certain 
children.
    Sec. 1006. Provides for coordination of the provisions 
included in the Veterans Programs Extension Act of 2006, H.R. 
6342.
    Legislative History:
    June 6, 2006: Introductory remarks on measure.
    June 6, 2006: Read twice and referred to the Committee on 
            Veterans' Affairs.
    June 22, 2006: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Ordered to 
            be reported with an amendment favorably.
    September 6, 2006: Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Reported 
            by Senator Craig with amendments. With written 
            report No. 109-328.
    September 6, 2006: Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar 
            under General Orders. Calendar No. 592.
    September 26, 2006: Measure laid before Senate by unanimous 
            consent. Passed Senate with an amendment by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    September 26, 2006: Received in the House.
    September 26, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    September 26, 2006: Held at the desk.
    December 8, 2006: Mr. Buyer moved to suspend the rules and 
            pass the bill, as amended. Considered under 
            suspension of the rules. On motion to suspend the 
            rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by 
            voice vote. The title of the measure was amended. 
            Agreed to without objection.
    December 8, 2006: Message on House action received in 
            Senate and at desk: House amendments to Senate 
            bill.
    December 9, 2006: Senate agreed to House amendments by 
            Unanimous Consent.
    December 9, 2006: Cleared for White House.
    December 11, 2006: Message on Senate action sent to the 
            House.
    December 20, 2006: Presented to President.
    December 22, 2006: Signed by President. (Public Law No. 
            109-__)
    Note: Bill includes provisions from H.R. 1220, as amended; 
H.R. 1588; H.R. 3082, as amended; H.R. 5524, H.R. 5815, as 
amended; H.R. 5835, as amended; H.R. 6314, H.R. 6342 (House 
bills); S. 716, S. 1182, as amended; S. 2694, as amended, and 
S. 3421, as amended (Senate bills).

                      ACTIVITIES OF THE COMMITTEE


                         LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

First Session

Business Meeting to discuss the Committee's views and estimates 
on the Administration's Proposed Budget for the Department of 
Veterans Affairs for FY 2006

    On February 17, 2005, the Committee met to discuss the 
proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs for FY 
2006.
    Following this meeting, the majority and minority submitted 
their views and estimates to the House Committee on the Budget 
on February 23, 2005. (See Report on the Budget Proposal for FY 
2006, page 105.)

Full Committee Markup of H.R. 2046, the Servicemembers' Health 
Insurance Protection Act of 2005

    On May 11, 2005, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
2046, and ordered reported favorably with an amendment in the 
nature of a substitute by unanimous consent (see H. Rept. 109-
88).
    On May 23, 2005, the House passed H.R. 2046, as amended, by 
voice vote.
    On May 22, 2006, provisions were incorporated into S. 1235 
(Sec. 105, 302, and 303). The House passed S. 1235, with an 
amendment and an amendment to the title by the Yeas and Nays 
(2/3 required) 372-0 (Roll No. 177).
    On May 25, 2006, the Senate agreed to the House amendments 
to S. 1235, as amended, and passed the bill by Unanimous 
Consent.
    On June 15, 2006, S. 1235, as amended was enacted as Public 
Law 109-233.

Full Committee Markup of H.R. 2988, the Veterans Medical Care 
Revenue Enhancement Act of 2005

    On June 23, 2005, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
2988, and the text was incorporated into H.R. 1220, Section 5. 
The Committee favorably reported H.R. 1220, as amended (see H. 
Rpt. 109-162).
    On July 13, 2005, the House passed H.R. 1220, as amended, 
by voice vote.
    On November 16, 2005, the House passed S. 1234, which 
incorporated the cost-of-living adjustment provision of H.R. 
1220, as amended.
    On November 22, 2005, S. 1234 was enacted as Public Law 
109-111.

Full Committee Markup of H.R. 3200, the Servicemembers' Group 
Life Insurance Enhancement Act of 2005, and H. Res. 361, a 
resolution recognizing the 75th Anniversary of the 
establishment of the Veterans Administration on July 21, 1930

    On July 14, 2005, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
3200, and H. Res. 361. H.R. 3200 was ordered reported favorably 
by unanimous consent (see H. Rpt. 109-177). H. Res. 361 was 
ordered reported favorably by unanimous consent.
    On July 18, 2005, the House passed H. Res. 361 by voice 
vote.
    On July 26, 2005, the House passed H.R. 3200 by the Yeas 
and Nays (2/3 required) 424-0 (Roll No. 420).
    On September 27, 2005, the Senate passed H.R. 3200, with an 
amendment.
    On September 28, 2005, the House agreed to the Senate 
amendment to H.R. 3200 by voice vote.
    On September 30, 2005, H.R. 3200, as amended, was enacted 
as Public Law 109-80.

Full Committee Markup of H.R. 4061, Department of Veterans 
Affairs Information Technology Management Improvement Act of 
2005

    On October 20, 2005, the full Committee met and marked up 
H.R. 4061, and ordered reported to the House by unanimous 
consent (see House Report 109-256).
    On November 2, 2005, the House passed H.R. 4061 under 
suspension of the rules, by a vote of 408-0.

Second Session

Business Meeting to discuss the Committee's views and estimates 
on the Administration's Proposed Budget for the Department of 
Veterans Affairs for FY 2006

    On February 16, 2006, the Committee met to discuss the 
proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs for FY 
2007.
    Following this meeting, the majority and minority submitted 
their views and estimates to the House Committee on the Budget 
on February 23, 2006. (See Report on the Budget Proposal for FY 
2007, page 122).

Full Committee Legislative Hearing on veterans identity and 
credit protection legislation

    On July 18, 2006, the full Committee held a legislative 
hearing to discuss legislative proposals for veterans' identity 
and credit protection in preparation for marking up legislation 
that will mitigate the effects of the data loss.
    Testimony was heard from Members discussing their proposals 
introduced since the May 3rd data theft, including notification 
requirements and reporting on the feasibility of using an 
identifier other than the Social Security Number, credit 
monitoring, and protection services. Testimony also highlighted 
critical weaknesses in VA Information Technology. See 
Legislative Hearing on Veterans Identity and Credit Protection 
Legislation--Serial No. 109-60.

Full Committee Markup of H.R. 3082, the Veterans Small Business 
and Memorial Affairs Enhancement Act of 2005

    On July 13, 2006, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
3082, as amended, and ordered the bill reported, as amended to 
the House by unanimous consent (see H. Rpt. 109-592).
    On July 24, 2006, the House passed H.R. 3082, as amended 
under suspension of the rules, by voice vote.
    On December 8, 2006, provisions from H.R. 3082, as amended 
were incorporated into S. 3421 (Sections 302, 303, 304, 306, 
401, 402, 403, 502, 503, 601, 602, 603, 604, and 605). S. 3421, 
as amended passed the House under suspension of the rules by 
voice vote.
    On December 9, 2006, the Senate agreed to the House 
amendments and passed S. 3421 by Unanimous Consent.
    On December 22, 2006, S. 3421, as amended, was enacted as 
Public Law 109-_.

Full Committee Markup of H. Con. Res. 125, a bill expressing 
support for the designation and goals of ``Hire a Veteran 
Week'' and encouraging the President to issue a proclamation 
supporting those goals; H. Con. Res. 347, a bill honoring the 
National Association of State Veterans Homes and the 119 State 
veterans homes providing long-term care to veterans that are 
represented by that association for their contributions to the 
health care of veterans and the health-care system of the 
Nation; H.R. 5815, the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical 
Facility Authorization Act of 2006; and, H.R. 5835, Veterans 
Identity and Credit Security Act of 2006

    On July 20, 2006, the full Committee met and marked up H. 
Con. Res. 125, H.Con. Res. 347, H.R. 5815, and H.R. 5835. The 
Committee ordered H. Con. Res. 125 and H. Con. Res. 347 
reported to the House by unanimous consent. The Committee 
ordered H.R. 5815, reported as amended, and with a perfecting 
amendment to the House by unanimous consent (H. Rpt. 109-643). 
The Committee ordered H.R. 5835 reported as amended to the 
House by unanimous consent (see H. Rpt. 109-651, Part 1).
    On July 24, 2006, the House passed H. Con. Res. 125 under 
suspension of the rules by voice vote.
    On July 24, 2006, the House passed H. Con. Res. 347 under 
suspension of the rules by voice vote.
    On September 13, 2006, the House passed H.R. 5815, as 
amended, under suspension of the rules by voice vote.
    H.R. 5835, as amended, was discharged from the Committee on 
Government Reform on September 13, 2006, and the Committee on 
Financial Services on September 26, 2006, with an exchange of 
letters between the Committees.
    On September 26, 2006, the House passed H.R. 5835, as 
amended, under suspension of the rules by voice vote.
    On December 8, 2006, provisions from H.R. 5835, as amended, 
were incorporated into S. 3421 (Sections 902 and 903). 
Provisions from H.R. 5815, as amended, were incorporated into 
S. 3421 (Sections 801, 802, 804, 805, 806, 807, 811, 813, 821, 
822, and 823). S. 3421, as amended passed the House under 
suspension of the rules by voice vote.
    On December 9, 2006, the Senate agreed to the House 
amendments and passed S. 3421 by Unanimous Consent.
    On December 20, 2006, S. 3421 was presented to the 
President. On December 22, 2006, S. 3421, as amended, was 
enacted as Public Law 109__.

                          OVERSIGHT ACTIVITIES

First Session

Offsite Meeting with Veterans and Military Organizations at The 
Citadel, Charleston, SC

    On February 11, 2005, at The Citadel, Charleston, SC, 
Committee Chairman Steve Buyer discussed with leaders of 
national veterans and military organizations the challenges 
facing the veterans community. Participants also included 
Economic Opportunity Subcommittee Chairman John Boozman (R-AK, 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee 
Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL), and Health Subcommittee Chairman 
Henry Brown.
    The veterans and military organizations presented their 
legislative priorities during the morning session, and the 
Subcommittee Chairmen presented their views regarding the 
challenges facing the veterans community during the afternoon 
session. After closing remarks by Chairman Buyer, the 
participants in the meeting were honored by a parade of The 
Citadel's cadet corps.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the President's Proposed FY 
2006 Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs

    On February 16, 2005, the Committee held a hearing on the 
pro-posed VA budget for FY 2006. The Administration requested 
$70.8 billion in appropriations for the VA budget. Of this 
total, $37.4 billion was for entitlement programs such as 
disability compensation and Montgomery GI Bill payments, and 
$33.4 billion was for health care, medical research, and 
administration of the benefits and cemetery systems.
    The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs, was accompanied by senior officials of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs for his testimony to the Committee in 
support of the President's proposed budget. Also, 
representatives of major veterans service organizations and 
military associations presented their views on the proposed 
budget. Finally, representatives of the Independent Budget 
presented their proposal for the FY 2006 veterans' budget. See 
Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY 2006, 
Serial No. 109-1, February 16, 2005.

Full Committee CODEL to France

    Chairman Steve Buyer led a congressional delegation visit 
to American National Cemeteries operated by the American Battle 
Monuments Commission in France, From May 27 to May 31, 2005. 
Accompanying Chairman Buyer was Veterans Health Subcommittee 
Chairman Henry Brown. Chairman Buyer addressed an international 
audience in the 2005 Normandy Memorial Day ceremony held May 29 
at the American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking Omaha Beach, 
site of D-Day's heaviest fighting on June 6, 1944.
    Before and after the ceremony, Chairman Buyer spoke with 
still-grateful French survivors of the occupation, as well as 
British paratroopers who landed in the hedgerows the night 
before the invasion. In one poignant moment, Chairman Buyer and 
Chairman Brown met a 90-year-old French survivor of Dachau, 
dressed in his prisoner clothing.
    On May 30, Chairman Buyer and Chairman Brown laid a wreath 
in a tribute to U.S. war dead of both world wars at Suresnes 
American Cemetery, in Suresnes, France.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Department of Veterans 
Affairs (VA) Budget Modeling and Methodologies

    On June 23, 2005, the Committee held a hearing to examine 
the budget modeling and methodologies used by VA to develop and 
forecast veterans' health care cost and utilization 
projections.
    Testifying before the Committee, VA officials said that 
largely be-cause of flaws in its forecasting model, VA must 
conduct workarounds in the FY 2005 veterans' healthcare budget, 
using $400 million in carryover funds intended for FY 2006. 
Further, VA has moved $600 million in FY 2005 non-recurring 
maintenance and equipment accounts to pay for FY 2005 health 
care services, thus creating a gap in these accounts for the 
following FY.
    The Committee also received testimony from witnesses from 
the Department of Defense, private sector health care 
organizations and national veterans' service organizations in 
an effort to benchmark VA's methodologies against other public 
and private sector health care providers.
    The hearing uncovered key weaknesses in the processes used 
by VA to predict healthcare demand and future health-related 
requirements. See Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Budget 
Modeling and Methodologies Serial No. 109-12.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Budget for the 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

    On June 30, 2005, the Committee held a hearing to examine 
the necessity of the VA to reprogram $1 billion dollars to the 
Medical Services account in FY 2005 and the implications for FY 
2006. At the hearing, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 
Honorable R. James Nicholson, notified Congress that the 
administration was requesting $975 million in additional funds 
for veterans' health care.
    Committee Members pledged to take immediate action to pass 
a FY 2005 veterans' supplemental funding bill.
    Secretary Nicholson said the Administration would reassess 
the FY 2005 budget and submit an amended veterans' budget for 
FY 2006. See The Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care 
Budget Serial No. 109-16.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Administration's FY 
2006 Budget Amendment for the Department of Veterans Affairs

    On July 21, 2005, the Committee held a hearing to examine 
an amendment the Administration submitted to Congress for the 
VA FY 2006 budget, requesting an additional $1.977 billion for 
higher-than expected veterans health care needs. The hearing 
focused on the need for supplemental monies resulting from 
various modeling errors that underestimated demand and 
financial requirements.
    The proposed FY 2006 budget amendment, submitted by the Ad-
ministration on July 14, 2005, included: (1) $300 million to 
replenish carry-over funds to be expended in FY 2005 to cover 
the increase in average cost per patient; (2) $677 million to 
cover an estimated additional 2 percent increase in the number 
of patients expected to seek care in FY 2006; (3) $400 million 
increase to accommodate more costly treatments; and (4) $600 
million to correct for the underestimated cost of long term 
care.
    The Chairman stated his intention to continue monitoring 
the FY 2007 budgetary process to ensure that the VA improves 
its methodology and assumptions so that the mistakes of FY 2005 
and FY 2006 are not repeated. See Proposed Health Care Budget 
Amendment for FY 2006 Serial No. 109-18.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Department of Defense 
(DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): The Continuum of 
Care for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    On July 27, 2005, the Committee held a hearing to examine 
the efforts of DOD and VA to identify recent combat 
servicemembers at risk for PTSD, including Reserve and National 
Guard members, and their capabilities to meet an increase in 
demand for PTSD services. Mrs. Stefanie Pelkey of Spring, 
Texas, shared her story of her husband, a veteran who had 
served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and died due to a self-
inflicted gunshot wound in November 2004. He was diagnosed with 
PTSD a week before his death.
    Committee members also heard from officials and 
practitioners from VA and DOD on the mental health care 
initiatives currently being undertaken for those soldiers 
returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi 
Freedom. See The Department of Defense and Department of 
Veterans Affairs: The Continuum of Care for Post Traumatic 
Stress Disorder, Serial No. 109-190.

Site Visit--Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical 
Center in Richmond, VA

    On August 18, 2005, majority staff members made an 
oversight visit to the Hunter Holmes McGuire Department of 
Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. After a 
briefing with key staff members from the Medical Center, who 
provided an overview of operations of the facility, the staff 
toured the poly-trauma unit, the spinal cord injury unit, the 
rehabilitation unit, and the prosthetic unit. The staff found 
two issues: (1) set criteria are needed to determine which 
medical center active duty and medically discharged 
servicemembers should be initially sent to; some servicemembers 
who should be initially treated in a poly-trauma center are 
being sent instead to the nearest facility to their homes; and 
(2) data sharing problems between the Department of Defense and 
the Department of Veterans Affairs, which makes treatment of 
servicemembers more difficult.

Staff Site Visit--Salt Lake City VA Facilities

    On August 22, 2005, majority staff visited the Salt Lake 
City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, which is adjacent to the 
University of Utah. The medical center's director, Mr. James 
Floyd provided comprehensive information on the hospital's 
operations and answered questions. The VISN 19 director, Mr. 
Larry Biro, was present for the meeting.
    The medical center is a busy 121 bed tertiary care facility 
with a very large service area of 25,000 square miles, 
including Utah and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada. The 
medical center also serves 21 Indian reservations. It has 1,277 
FTEE and is affiliated with the University of Utah Medical 
School.
    On the day of the visit, the bed census was 85 percent. The 
director stated the medical center is usually full or nearly 
full, and he plans to add 12 new mental health beds. The 
medical center has 893 Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation 
Iraqi Freedom veterans enrolled and all but 2 have requested 
care. They were being seen within 30 days. Getting their 
military medical records from the Army was a problem in some 
cases. The majority of care sought was general medical, dental 
and mental health. Dental work has been much more than expected 
and some returning servicemembers have needed extensive care. 
The heavy workload has necessitated some contracting out.
    Outreach to departing and returning Reserve and Guard 
members and their families, and their military units is largely 
being coordinated though the Governor's Veterans Advisory 
Committee that has VA, DOD, state and VSO representatives. 
Medical center staff believed this approach was effective, but 
stated that obtaining complete information on individual and 
small unit deployments from the military has been a challenge.
    On August 23, 2005, majority staff visited the Salt Lake 
City Regional Office. The regional office (RO) is co-located 
with the medical center on its 75-acre grounds. The Anchorage, 
Alaska and Fort Harrison, Montana offices are also 
administratively part of the regional office. Mr. Douglas 
Wadsworth, the office director, provided staff a comprehensive 
briefing on the office's operations. The regional office is one 
of two Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) rating activity 
sites, along with the Winston-Salem Regional Office in North 
Carolina. The BDD sites use a web-based system for processing 
claims. The RO had 72 FTEE and was adding 68 additional FTEE 
for the BDD activity. The BDD operation at Salt Lake City had 
rated 1,991 BDD cases with an average of 17.9 days from receipt 
of verification of service to authorization of award. The 
average number of days from discharge to authorization of award 
was 34.7 days. The average number of issues per case was 10.24.


Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Department of Veterans 
Affairs' information technology infrastructure reorganization 
and the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO)

    On September 14, 2005, the Committee held an oversight 
hearing on VA IT infrastructure reorganization and the role of 
the CIO. The hearing examined possible legislative solutions to 
empower the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and provide VA with 
a more efficient way to maximize their IT resources.
    The first panel testified on the background and the history 
of the CIO. The Committee heard testimony by a representative 
of from Gartner, Inc., VA's IT consultant, who testified on the 
results and recommendations provided to VA for reorganization 
of VA IT. VA testified on the second panel, discussing the role 
of the CIO. See VA IT Infrastructure Reorganization and the 
Role of the CIO--Serial No. 109-22.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on seamless transition: Where 
are we now?

    On September 28, 2005, the Committee held a hearing on 
seam-less transition of servicemembers from active duty to 
veteran status, focusing on senior leadership's efforts in the 
Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to 
aid in the transition. Testimony and questions addressed the 
timely transfer of service members from military hospitals to 
VA medical centers and the need for servicemembers' medical 
records to be electronically accessible to doctors and health 
care staff. The hearing also examined the potential need for 
new equipment and technology that could improve inter-agency 
coordination and sharing. See Seamless Transition--Serial No. 
109-25.

Offsite Meeting with Veterans and Military Organizations at 
Carlisle Barracks, PA

    On November 7, 2005, Committee Chairman Steve Buyer 
discussed a broad range of veterans issues with leaders of 
national veterans and military organizations at the Army War 
College, located at the Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. 
Participants also included Economic Opportunity Subcommittee 
Chairman John Boozman (R-AR.) and Health Subcommittee Chairman 
Henry Brown (R-SC).
    After a discussion of the committee's 2006 schedule, 
Chairman Buyer made a decision that the Committee would hear 
the testimony of the veterans and military organizations on the 
proposed budget for veterans programs earlier in the 
legislative process, at the same time the President sends his 
budget to Congress. He called on veterans' groups to play a 
more influential role in developing the annual Department of 
Veterans Affairs budget, and announced that there would be full 
committee and subcommittee hearings in February, during which 
veterans' groups could present their budget priorities and 
offer guidance on legislative proposals.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the challenges and 
opportunities facing disability claims processing in 2006

    On December 7, 2005, the Committee held an oversight 
hearing to review the challenges and opportunities facing 
disability claims processing at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs' Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) in 2006, which 
over the past two years has seen an increase in the backlog of 
pending claims and the amount oftime it takes to process a 
claim.
    A retired Air Force veteran recounted the difficulty he has 
experienced over the past 6\1/2\ years with his claims for 
disability compensation, and he made several recommendations 
for improvement, including a need for medical staff be with a 
greater understanding of the issues inherent to veterans. The 
veterans' group representatives in their testimony all stressed 
a need for more claims staff, stronger accountability, and 
better quality decisions. Many of the witnesses felt that VBA 
claims staff was focused more on quantity than quality, that 
there is not enough emphasis on training, and that there is 
little in the way of accountability.
    The VBA and Board of Veterans' Appeals witnesses 
acknowledged the challenges and complexities of the claims and 
appeals processes, to include increased workloads in both 
departments, and offered examples where improvements have been 
and should be made. See The Challenges and Opportunities Facing 
Disability Claims Process at the Veterans Benefits 
Administration--Serial No. 109-28.

Second Session

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the President's pro-posed 
FY 2007 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs

    On February 8, 2006, the Committee held a hearing on the 
pro-posed VA budget for FY 2007. The Administration requested 
$80.6 billion in appropriations for the VA budget. Of this 
total, $42.1 billion was for entitlement programs and $38.5 
billion was for health care, medical research, and 
administration of the benefits and cemetery systems.
    The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs, was accompanied by senior officials of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs for his testimony to the Committee in 
support of the President's proposed budget. Also, 
representatives of two major veterans service organizations 
presented their views on the proposed budget. Finally, 
representatives of the Independent Budget presented their 
proposal for the FY 2007 veterans' budget. See The Department 
of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY 2007--Serial No. 109-
30.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the presentation of the 
annual legislative agendas for the Veterans Service 
Organizations and Military Associations--Hearings I & II

    On February 15 and 16, 2006, the Committee held an 
oversight hearing to receive testimony from veterans' and 
military service organizations on their legislative proposals 
for FY 2007.
    The testimony was used by the Committee in beginning the 
development of the budget for FY 2007, as well as in planning 
the legislative agenda. See Legislative Presentations of 
Veterans Service Organizations and Military Associations, 
Hearings I and II--Serial Nos. 109-33 and 109-34.

Full Committee Hearing on Department of Veterans Affairs 
collaboration opportunities with affiliated medical 
institutions and the Department of Defense

    On Wednesday, March 8, 2006, the Committee held an 
oversight hearing on improving access to quality care for our 
nation's veterans through collaboration and the operation of 
integrated medical facilities with State affiliated medical 
institutions and DOD.
    The hearing's focus was on leveraging local health 
economies in order to both improve the efficiency and quality 
of care. The Chairman explained that many of the inpatient 
facilities are becoming obsolete due to outpatient, and 
preventative health measures. There was discussion to improve 
on the ``Charleston Model'' referring to the collaboration 
strategy that VA has developed with the Medical University of 
South Carolina. Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, Under Secretary for 
Health, stated that the VA is committed to collaboration and is 
looking forward to opening one such facility in Chicago, IL, a 
DOD/VA joint facility. See Department of Veterans Affairs 
Collaboration Opportunities with Affiliated Medical 
Institutions and the Department of Defense--Serial No. 109-37.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on education benefits for the 
total military force

    On March 15, 2006, the Committee conducted an oversight 
hearing on education benefits for the total military force. The 
Committee was concerned about the possible effects of the 
growing differences between the benefits offered under Chapter 
30 of title 38, United States Code, (Active-duty program) and 
sections 1606 and 1607 under title 10, United States Code 
(Selected Reserve programs). Specifically, the Committee 
explored whether the current education and training programs 
under the GI Bill are meeting the recruiting and retention 
needs of the Armed Forces, as well as the readjustment goals of 
servicemembers and veterans transitioning back to civilian life 
and the workforce. The Committee also received views on the 
Total Force GI Bill concepts proposed by the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Education and the 
Partnership for Veterans Education.
    The Committee heard testimony from several senior officials 
of the National Guard and Reserves on education benefits for 
the total military force. Committee members questioned whether 
the current GI Bill education and training programs are meeting 
the needs of servicemembers and veterans transitioning back to 
civilian life and the workforce, as well as maintaining the 
retention goals of both active duty and reserve forces. The 
officials declined to endorse a proposal put forward by the 
Partnership for Veterans Education, noting that the program as 
a result could lose its value as a recruiting and retention 
tool for the National Guard and Reserve. See The Modernization 
of the GI Bill--Serial No. 109-39.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on improving and enhancing 
access to quality care for our nation's veterans through VISN-
wide care coordination demonstrations, Project Health-care 
Effectiveness through Resource Optimization (Project HERO)

    On Wednesday, March 29, 2006, the Committee conducted an 
over-sight hearing on improving and enhancing access to quality 
care for our nation's veterans through VISN-wide care 
coordination demonstrations (Project HERO). Project HERO is 
VA's response to direction provided by Congress requiring the 
Department to examine and implement health care management 
strategies that have proven valuable in the broader public and 
private sectors. Currently, VA may use private health care 
providers outside VA when its own facilities cannot provide 
suitable, timely care.
    The VA testified that the Department plans to conduct 
Project HERO demonstrations at four Veterans Integrated Service 
Networks (VISNs) by the end of this year: VISN 8, VA Sunshine 
Healthcare Network; VISN 16, South Central VA Health Care 
Network; VISN 20, Northwest Network; and VISN 23, VA Midwest 
Health Care Net-work and that participation at each site would 
be entirely voluntary for veterans. Further, the Department 
stated that the objectives of Project HERO are to: (1) increase 
the efficiency of VHA processes associated with purchasing care 
from outside sources; (2) reduce the growth of costs associated 
with purchased care; (3) implement management systems and 
processes that foster quality and patient safety, and make 
contracted providers virtual, high-quality extensions of VHA; 
(4) control administrative costs and limit administrative 
growth; (5) increase net collections of medical care revenues 
where applicable, and (6) increase enrollee satisfaction with 
VHA services. Committee members heard from Rep. Tom Osborne (R-
Neb.), who emphasized the importance of efficient, high-quality 
contract care in rural areas. Mr. Osborne testified that 
Project HERO may have utility in increasing health care access 
to veterans in rural areas. See Enhanced Access to the 
Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care--Serial No. 109-42.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on corporate commitment to 
hiring veterans

    On April 26, 2006, the Committee conducted an oversight 
hearing on the Corporate Commitment to Hiring Veterans. The 
Committee examined the private sector's views and practices 
with respect to recruiting, employing, and advancing in 
employmentrecently separated servicemembers and veterans. The 
Committee was particularly interested in highlighting the knowledge, 
skills and abilities of today's military personnel and learning how to 
market veterans to private sector employers through the first-hand 
experiences of corporate America.
    The Committee heard testimony from former servicemembers 
about their transition into the civilian workforce. Senior 
company executives familiar with veterans' employment testified 
how they strive to recruit former servicemembers for their 
leadership pro-grams. In particular, Daniel Nelson, Vice 
President, Exxon Mobile Corporation, stated, ``we actively 
recruit veterans through military placement firms and Service 
Academy Career Conferences, and the disabled through Career 
Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Conferences. 
Frankly, one of our most important recruiting tools--beyond the 
challenging and exciting careers we offer--is the reputation we 
have as an employer of choice for veterans.'' See Corporate 
Commitment to Hiring Veterans--Serial No. 109-45.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on right-sizing the Department 
of Veterans Affairs infrastructure.

    On Thursday, May 11, 2006, the Committee conducted an over-
sight hearing on right-sizing VA's infrastructure and the 
Department's pending major medical facility project and lease 
authorization requests. VA's major construction projects and 
leases, the processes by which projects are chosen and 
executed, and efforts between medical universities and VA 
hospitals were discussed. Committee Members heard testimony 
from Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-LA.), Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-
LA.) and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL.) on their districts, as well as 
state-wide interests in constructing new facilities.
    The Committee heard testimony from The American Legion and 
Independent Budget on collaboration efforts between medical 
universities and VA hospitals as new construction projects and 
renovations are being considered. While they acknowledged that 
collaboration efforts can be a useful tool to mitigate costs 
and share medical advancements, they expressed concern that the 
VA could lose its unique identity within the communities where 
collaboration is allowed to flourish. See Right-sizing the 
Department of Veterans Affairs--Serial No. 109-47.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the failure of VA's in-
formation management

    On May 25, 2006, the Committee held the first in a series 
of oversight hearings for the Second Session of the 109th 
Congress on the failure of VA's information technology 
management. This hearing was follow-up to the May 22, 2006, 
announcement that on May 3, 2006, a VA employee's personal 
laptop containing sensitive personal information of 26.5 
million veterans and 2.2 million service members and families 
was stolen.
    Testimony at the hearing explained how the data was lost 
and discussed VA plans to eliminate vulnerabilities associated 
with the security of sensitive information. Testimony was also 
provided on how the VA was going to notify veterans and their 
families on the government's activities for protecting those 
affected against fraud. See The Failure of VA's Information 
Management--Serial No. 109-48.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the Department of Veterans 
Affairs medical and prosthetic research program

    On Wednesday, June 7, 2006, the Committee conducted an 
over-sight hearing to review VA's Medical and Prosthetic 
Research pro-grams. The hearing focused on: (1) the relevance 
of VA research to the clinical treatment of veterans; (2) the 
Department's FY 2007 budget submission identified special 
research projects, OIF/OEF Initiative and Genomic Medicine; and 
(3) the need for upgrading and modernization of VA research 
facilities.
    The Administration requested an FY 2007 appropriation level 
of $399 million for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, a 
decrease of $13 million below the FY 2006 enacted appropriation 
level. In addition to appropriated funds, VA's researchers 
compete and receive funds from other Federal and non-Federal 
sources, bringing the Administration's total budgetary 
resources requested for FY 2007 to $1.649 billion. The 
Committee recommended a $28 million increase over the 
Administration's request for VA's medical and prosthetic 
research appropriation in its FY 2007 Budget Views and 
Estimates document; the Minority Views and Estimates 
recommended a $51 million increase over the Administration's 
request.
    VA Medical Centers are increasingly collaborating with 
universities and private sector entities in performing research 
projects. The Committee fully supports this type of 
collaboration and promotes VA's use of collaboration with other 
federal, state and local health entities.
    Friends of VA Research (FOVA) expressed the organization's 
concern about the state of research facilities within the VA 
and need for adequate funding to maintain state-of-the-art 
technology, equipment, and facilities. In addition, FOVA 
expressed the view that earmarked funding exacerbates resource 
allocation problems and to preserve the integrity of the VA 
research program, an intramural program must be firmly grounded 
in scientific peer review. See Department of Veterans Affairs 
Research--From Bench to Bedside--Serial No. 109-49.

Roundtable discussion on VA information security

    On June 8, 2006, the Committee held a roundtable discussion 
to address VA Information Security, which included a discussion 
of the organization of information technology (IT) in the 
private sector.
    The attendees from 6 companies, including American Bankers 
Association, CitiGroup, EMC Corporation, Goldman, Sachs & 
Company, TriWest, and VISA, discussed how information security 
was handled within their organizations and emphasized the need 
for centralized control of information security and sound 
security policies. None of the private-sector companies would 
endorse the VA's proposed ``federated'' model for VA IT 
reorganization. Also in attendance were representatives from 
the Government Accountability Office, VA Office of Inspector 
General, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the repeated failures of 
VA's information technology management

    On June 14, 2006, the Committee held the second hearing in 
a series reviewing failures in VA's information management.
    The Office of Inspector General and the Government 
Accountability Office offered testimony discussing past 
hearings that highlighted the failure or lack of internal 
controls that led to the loss of data. The hearing also 
included a discussion on VA's lack of accountability on 
expenditures of IT funds. See Failure of VA's Information 
Security Management--Serial No. 109-51.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on the academic and legal 
implications of VA's data loss

    On June 22, 2006, the Committee held the third hearing in a 
series reviewing failures in VA information management. The 
hearing focused on the academic and legal implications of VA's 
data loss.
    Testimony discussed the legal implications of the data loss 
and reemphasized the need to implement changes in the 
organizational structure within VA IT, which the Committee has 
been reviewing since 2000. See the Academic and Legal 
Implications of VA's Data Loss--Serial No. 109-56.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing on VA's information technology 
reorganization and decision to move to a federated model

    On June 28, 2006, the Committee held the fourth, in a 
series of hearings reviewing failures in VA information 
management.
    Testimony stressed organizational difficulties with VA IT 
and supported a centralized model for VA's IT organization. 
This hearing also discussed how VA and DOD are working together 
to mitigate the effects from data of the 2.2 million active 
duty service members lost on May 3, 2006. See The Department of 
Veterans Affairs Information Technology Management--Serial No. 
109-58.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing to update the breach of data 
security at the Department of Veterans Affairs

    On June 29, 2006, the Committee held a fifth hearing 
reviewing the failures in VA information management.
    Testimony from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs described 
the recovery of a laptop computer stolen on May 3, 2006. 
Testimony also revealed that forensic analysis by the Federal 
Bureau of Investigations indicated that data was not accessed. 
See Update on the Breach of Data Security at the Department of 
Veterans Affairs--Serial No. 109-59.

Full Committee CODEL to Kuwait, Iraq and Germany

    In August 2006, Chairman Steve Buyer led a congressional 
delegation to U.S. military facilities in Kuwait, Iraq and 
Germany. Accompanying Buyer on the trip, from August 14-19, 
were committee members Honorable John Boozman and Honorable 
John Salazar, as well as Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James 
Nicholson. The delegation met with Multi-National Forces--Iraq 
commander, General George Casey; Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, 
commander of 3rd U.S. Army, headquartered in Kuwait; as well as 
Iraq's president and members of his cabinet; and the U.S. 
ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Zalmay M. Khalilzad.
    The delegation observed the full continuum of medical care, 
from ``level 1'' care provided by a combat medic and ``dustoff' 
air ambulances, through the second and third levels of care in 
combat support hospitals--such as those in Kuwait and Iraq--to 
level 4 care at the military's Landstuhl Regional Medical 
Center in Germany. Chairman Buyer called this continuum of 
health care, which culminates for many at VA, ``the unbreakable 
link in the medical chain of mercy.''
    In Baghdad, Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, took 
advantage of the visit of the delegation, with its 
representation of both the U.S. Executive and Legislative 
branches, to gather his newly formed cabinet for a meeting at 
his home. Talabani expressed the appreciation of the Iraqi 
people for the role of America in their liberation. He urged 
his guests to convey to Congress the importance of continued 
support of his unity government and Iraq's struggle for 
democracy.
    While Chairman Buyer was in Iraq, staff from the 
Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity assessed the 
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) run by the Department of 
Labor and VA to help separating and retiring service members 
find work. Staff members visited TAP classes at Ramstein and 
Spangdahlem air bases in Germany. The Committee remains 
concerned that program staffing limits the impact of TAP and 
that people separating from remote sites with high operations 
tempo, such as Afghanistan, have the opportunity to participate 
in TAP.
    Concluding the trip, the delegation visited the American 
Military Cemetery in Luxembourg, the resting place for 5,076 
American dead, most of whom lost their lives in the Battle of 
the Bulge and the advance to the Rhine River the following 
spring.

Full Committee Oversight Hearing to review the previous fiscal 
year and look ahead to the upcoming year--Hearings I & II

    On September 20, 2006, and September 21, 2006, the 
Committee conducted oversight hearings to review the previous 
fiscal year and look ahead to the upcoming year.
    The Committee received views from a number of veterans 
service organizations, and military service organizations and 
associations. This hearing agenda offered an opportunity for 
members to hear, prior to the consideration of the FY 2008 
budget, the views and priorities of these veterans 
organizations and military associations to assist in developing 
the Committee's funding priorities. These hearings were a 
continuation of the hearings the Committee held February 8, 15, 
and 16, 2006. See Review Previous Fiscal Year & Look Ahead to 
the Upcoming Year--Serial No. 109-63 and 109-64.

                    ACTIVITIES OF THE SUBCOMMITTEES


                         Subcommittee on Health


                          OVERSIGHT ACTIVITIES

First Session

Staff visit to Charleston, SC on feasibility of a joint venture 
to share facilities and resources with the Charleston (Ralph H. 
Johnson) VA Medical Center (VAMC) and the Medical University of 
South Carolina (MUSC)

    On April 15, 2005, majority staff, met separately with Dr. 
Jack Feussner, Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Dr. 
Jerry Reves, Dean of the College of Medicine, MUSC, and Mr. 
William Mountcastle, Director, Ralph H. Johnson VAMC.
    The Charleston VAMC and the MUSC hospital are in the same 
proximity and currently have a strong collaborative 
relationship with the sharing of medical staff and research 
activities. VA and MUSC face many of the same challenges with 
aging facilities, ingress and egress, as well as parking 
problems. The VA facility is a 40-year old, 100-inpatient bed, 
tertiary-level medical center and the future inpatient bed 
level need is projected to remain at that level. MUSC is 
currently undertaking a five-phase hospital replacement project 
that will increase the current number of inpatient beds from 
600 to beds. In the fall of 2004, MUSC secured $401 million in 
HUD-backed bonds to provide money for the project. On April 8, 
2005, MUSC formally broke ground on Phase 1, the construction 
of a new $276 million hospital. The new 156-bed hospital is 
expected to open in early 2008.
    The Committee believes that collaborating on a joint 
federal-state health care venture would benefit both 
organizations. To date, however, VA and MUSC have not yet been 
able to agree on a mutually beneficial partnership. High-level 
VA and Congressional involvement and direction will continue to 
be critical to launching any collaborative agreement. Critical 
outstanding issues include: complex land acquisition and legal 
concerns; hospital location; land-use and enhanced-use 
agreements; development of a shared governance structure; 
maintaining VA identity with an identifiable VA tower; impact 
to VA staff and labor partners; and appropriate negotiated fee 
schedule for shared services with MUSC.

Hearing on the use and development of telemedicine technologies 
in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system

    On May 18, 2005, the Subcommittee held a hearing on VA 
telemedicine applications and development. The hearing explored 
the use and development of telemedicine technologies in VA, 
particularly in the areas of mental health, rehabilitation, 
long-term care and care in rural areas. Among those testifying 
were physicians from VA's Care Coordination, Education, 
Telemental Health, and Rehabilitation programs.
    VA is well suited to be a leader in the development of 
telemedicine programs by virtue of its organizational, legal, 
and financial structure that mitigates many of the challenges 
facing private sector health care systems. These new patient-
centered approaches to delivering care have much to offer 
veteran patients, particularly those with complex medical 
conditions, and where geography and/or disability limit access 
to facilities. The VA has and continues to invest heavily in 
telehealth technologies. Testimony revealed that telemedicine 
programs is not just a concept, but an application that is 
providing real benefits to veteran patients and is an 
increasingly viable option for delivering care to our nation's 
veterans. See The Use and Development of Telemedicine 
Technologies in the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care 
System--Serial No. 109-8.

Staff Participation in the 12th National Convention of the 
Vietnam Veterans of America, Reno, NV, and Visit to the VA 
Sierra NV Health Care System

    On August 12 through August 13, 2005, a minority staff 
member represented the Committee and participated in the 12th 
NationalConvention of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Staff 
presentation included an update on current legislative activities of 
the Committee and Congress, with particular emphasis on veterans' 
mental health care, homeless veterans and the emerging health issues 
for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Additionally, the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions 
and provide comments. On August 13, 2006, a minority staff member 
conducted an oversight visit of the VA medical facility in Reno, NV, 
meeting with mental health providers and other facility staff.

Field Hearing on rural veterans' access to primary care

    On August 22, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing on ``Rural Veterans' Access to Primary Care: Successes 
and Challenges.'' The Subcommittee examined: (1) how the VA is 
providing veterans in rural Maine access to primary care; (2) 
challenges VA confronts in providing rural veterans with access 
to primary care; and (3) VA plans to meet these challenges. The 
hearing was held at Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor, 
Maine.
    The Network Director for VISN 1 and the Director of the 
Togus VA Medical Center testified about the challenge for 
mostly rural states like Maine to enhance the capacity to serve 
veterans in even the most remote areas. The local President of 
the American Federation of Government Employees acknowledged 
the challenges rural health care markets face with a limited 
number of specialists, less access to expensive technologies 
and, in many cases, a less affluent patient population. 
Representatives of Maine's veterans service organizations 
touched on the need to ensure appropriate funding to keep up 
with increased levels of enrollment. See Rural Veterans' Access 
to Primary Care: Successes and Challenges--Serial No. 109-21.

Site Visit to the Maine Veterans' Home in Augusta, ME, and the 
VA Medical Facility in Togus, ME

    On August 22, 2005, subcommittee staff accompanied Health 
Subcommittee Chairman Henry E. Brown, Jr. and Health 
Subcommittee Ranking member Michael H. Michaud on a visit to 
the VA Medical Center in Togus, Maine, to assess capacity of 
the facility to meet the needs of rural veterans in Maine.
    On August 23, 2005, a minority staff member visited the 
Maine Veterans' Home in Augusta, ME, to assess the facility's 
long-term care services for veterans, including the facility's 
Alzheimer unit and pharmacy.

Field Hearing on the opportunity for the Ralph H. Johnson VA 
Medical Center (VAMC) in Charleston, SC, and the Medical 
University of South Carolina (MUSC) to enter into a joint 
venture to share facilities and resources

    On Monday, September 26, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted 
an oversight hearing to assess progress made by the VAMC and 
MUSC as they jointly examine the possibility of developing 
shared facilities. Among those providing testimony were the 
VAMC and MUSC officials, local leaders of The American Legion 
and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a representative of the U.S. 
Government Accountability Office.
    The Subcommittee examined progress made on a formalized 
agreement signed by the VAMC and MUSC on August 18, 2005, to 
work together and develop a mutually beneficial agreement to 
share facilities and integrate the delivery of veterans' health 
care services with the new MUSC Hospital Replacement Project 
currently in the first phase of construction. Four workgroups 
were established to resolve critical collaboration issues and 
obstacles and produce an implementation plan. The Subcommittee 
received an interim report detailing a potentially viable 
implementation plan. See Collaborative Opportunity for the 
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and the Medical University 
of South Carolina to Share Facilities and Resources--Serial No. 
109-24.

Staff visit to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, 
Charleston, SC

    On September 26, 2005, a minority staff member met with 
mental health care providers to discuss VA's services for 
veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meeting on facility and resources sharing proposal for the 
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center (VAMC), Charleston, SC, and 
the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

    On December 12, 2005, majority staff accompanied Committee 
Chairman Steve Buyer and Subcommittee on Health Chairman Henry 
E. Brown, Jr., to a meeting in Charleston, South Carolina with 
MUSC and VA officials to review results of the Collaborative 
Opportunities Steering Group (COSG), formed in August to 
explore the short- and long-term potential offered by better 
collaboration between them. Collaboration could include 
increased levels of shared clinical services and expensive 
medical equipment unique to South Carolina, and construction of 
new, joint facilities.

Second Session

Site visit to the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Las 
Vegas, NV

    On January 4, 2006, Committee staff accompanied Chairman 
Steve Buyer and Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs 
Subcommittee Ranking Member Shelley Berkley on a visit to the 
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System (VASNHS) and Mike 
O'Callaghan Federal Hospital, at Nellis Air Force Base, NV.

Site visits to the State Veterans Home in Chula Vista, CA, and 
VA Access Point in Imperial County, CA

    On January 18, 2006, a minority staff member accompanied 
Representative Bob Filner to a forum on the long-term care 
needs of veterans in Chula Vista, CA. On January 19, 2006, a 
minority staff member accompanied Representative Bob Filner to 
a forum on the veterans' access to rural health care in 
Imperial, CA.
    On January 18, 2006, a minority staff member met with Gary 
J. Rossio, CHE, Director of the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

Site visit to New York Harbor Healthcare System, Brooklyn 
Campus

    On January 27, 2006, a majority staff member accompanied 
Chairman Buyer and the Honorable Vito Fossella on a visit to 
the Brooklyn campus of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System 
to assess needs and future of the facility.
    CARES identified the Brooklyn-Manhattan VAMCs as one of 18 
sites for additional analysis and study. PricewaterhouseCoopers 
selected the following options for assessment: (Option 1) 
Maintain the current state without any changes to facilities or 
programs, but right-size services; (Option 2) Consolidate at 
Brooklyn VAMC and expand Harlem and SoHo CBOCs; (Option 3) 
Consolidate at Manhattan VAMC and create new Queens and Borough 
Hall CBOCs; (Option 4) Consolidate inpatient and limited 
ambulatory at Manhattan VAMC; retain Brooklyn ambulatory; and 
create new Queens and Borough Hall CBOCs; (Option 5) Convert 
Manhattan VAMC to medical/surgical only and convert Brooklyn 
VAMC to psychiatric/behavioral health; (Option 6) Realign 
services along clinical lines with cardiology, orthopedics, 
surgery and women's health at Manhattan and oncology at 
Brooklyn and retain general acute care at both sites; (Option 
7) Incrementally consolidate specialty services, including 
renovations and rightsizing at both campuses and expand CBOCs 
at Harlem and Chapel Street and develop new CBOCs in Queens and 
Borough Hall or near Broadway Junction in Brooklyn; (Option 8) 
Consolidate all existing services at a new VAMC in Queens; and 
(Option 9) Consolidate all existing services at a new VAMC site 
in Brooklyn and create new Borough Hall and Queens CBOCs. 
Representative Fossella issued a press release on November 7, 
2005, urging Secretary Nicholson to consider only Options 1, 6, 
or 7.
    Brooklyn staff maintained that data demonstrating a 
projected decline in workload demographics over time should not 
be the driving force behind consolidation, as there will likely 
be increased utilization due to aging veteran patients they 
serve and will offset the decline in enrollment. Additionally, 
they stated that access to both facilities is necessary because 
of the configuration and inadequacies of the 
publictransportation system that makes it difficult for certain and 
disabled veterans to access either Brooklyn or Manhattan.

Hearing on VA's FY 2007 budget request for the Veterans Health 
Administration

    On Tuesday, February 14, 2006, the Subcommittee held a 
hearing on the VA's FY 2007 budget request for VHA.
    The Under Secretary for Health, the Honorable Jonathan 
Perlin, M.D., presented the President's FY 2007 budget proposal 
for VHA. The total request was $34.3 billion, an increase of 
$3.5 billion, representing an 11.3 percent increase over the 
2006 estimate, including the $2.8 billion from the Medical Care 
Collections Fund (MCCF). The FY 2007 budget had the largest 
dollar increase for VA medical care ever requested.
    Dr. Perlin identified three key drivers of the additional 
funding required to meet the demand for VA health care services 
in 2007: inflation, workload, and greater intensity of services 
provided. The Subcommittee also heard testimony from The 
American Legion and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, 
representing the Independent Budget, about their respective 
proposed budgets and how they differ from the President's 
request. See Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for 
FY 2007 for the Veterans Health Administration--Serial No. 109-
32.

Staff Site visit to Anchorage, AK (Alaska VA Healthcare System 
and Elmendorf Air Force Base); Tacoma, WA (VA Puget Sound--
Madigan Army Medical Center) and Palo Alto, CA (VA Palo Alto 
Healthcare System)

    On April 9 through April 14, 2006, majority staff visited 
the respective VA and DOD health care facilities. There are 
many challenges related to delivering health care in Alaska 
because of the extremely rural nature of the state, the vast 
geographic distances, limited road system and severe weather 
conditions. The Elmendorf Air Force Base Joint Venture hospital 
opened in 1999. The Air Force manages the hospital with 
integrated DOD/VA staff. VA is in the process of constructing a 
new outpatient clinic just outside the base gate with a land 
use permit granted by the Air Force. Construction of the clinic 
is expected to be completed in 2008. The 3rd Medical Group at 
Elmendorf Air Force Hospital Command and Alaska VA were 
selected as a demonstration site for a VAIDOD Joint Executive 
Committee (JEC) Initiative for a coordinated budget and 
financial management system--Joint Venture Business Office. 
Other integration initiatives in the works include (1) a 
combined warehouse procurement and storage capability (each 
Department's different logistic and inventory systems presents 
challenges); (2) the Bidirectional Health Information Exchange 
(BHIE) to be operational in May 2006; (3) a library in July 
2006; and (4) central sterile supply and (5) laboratory.
    VA Puget Sound has developed an innovative organizational 
structure built around the veteran patient rather than VA 
personnel. VA Puget Sound received a national award for its 
computerized medical record system in 2000 which utilizes an 
electronic signature consent that is in the early stages of a 
national rollout across VA and is one of the demonstration 
sites for the BHIE. VA has a long history of partnerships with 
Madigan Army Medical Center (MAMC). The partnership includes 
having transferred 15 inpatient beds from VA's American Lakes 
division to MAMC; MOUs for Emergency Preparedness; a joint 
mental health research project for Prazosin treatment for 
combat trauma PTSD; a pilot program for inpatient psychiatry to 
treat active duty service members at Puget Sound; and a joint 
planning process for a future Fisher House. VA Puget Sound 
received Joint Incentive Fund (JIF) money for a consolidated 
cardiothoracic surgery program in 2005. As a result, VA Puget 
Sound is open to receive cardiac patients from MAMC, as well as 
the Navy Hospital in Bremerton and the Navy Hospital in Oak 
Harbor. MAMC received JIF money in 2005 for a coordinated 
neurosurgery program and MAMC is open to receive neurosurgery 
patients from VA. Caseload and cost savings of both programs 
are being monitored.
    The Palo Alto Polytrauma Center was established in April, 
2005, and provides both inpatient and outpatient services with 
specialized rehabilitation program including traumatic brain 
injury, spinal cord injury, blind rehabilitation and post 
traumatic stress disorder. Staff spent significant time 
visiting with patients and their families. For the most part, 
patients praised the high quality of care and dedication of the 
caregivers at the VA. Further, all agreed that having a DOD 
liaison on site was a huge improvement, as there tends to be 
much confusion between VA and DOD as to which Department has 
responsibility for what. Questions were raised about the 
lengthy bureaucratic process for the procurement of prosthetics 
and sensory aids.

Staff site visit to San Juan, PR Department of Veterans Affairs 
Caribbean Healthcare System

    On April 28, 2006, majority staff reviewed the need for 
major medical facility improvements and VA authorization 
requests for major facility construction projects at the San 
Juan VA Medical Center. The San Juan VAMC is a 319-bed acute 
care facility with documented condition deficiencies. 
Deficiencies in the aging structure include: (1) insufficient 
space; (2) lack of patient privacy, especially for female 
veterans; (3) disabled accessibility issues; (4) significant 
parking problems; (5) seismic vulnerabilities; (5) asbestos 
abatement requirements that are time consuming, expensive, and 
challenging; (6) aging air conditioning/ventilation system; and 
(7) inadequate water storage capabilities.
    In 2002, a proposal to build a replacement hospital was 
presented, but rejected by VA due to budget constraints. In 
October 2002, a decision was made to develop a 2-phased 
strategy: Phase 1--a new bed tower with 314 beds on 6 floors; 
and Phase 2--Seismically correct main building with renovations 
that would include asbestos abatement, new sprinklers, and 
improvements in critical utilities.
    Given the documented and substantial facility deficiencies, 
the Committee questions whether it makes sense to spend nearly 
$300 million on renovations in San Juan that will likely leave 
VA with a facility that still falls short of the capacity 
needed to handle the current and future workload.
    There may be an option for VA to consider a public/private 
business proposal to construct and operate a new medical 
facility in Puerto Rico. The Committee should seriously 
consider whether it makes sense for San Juan, Puerto Rico to 
become a pilot site for such a public/private partnership 
project that could be leveraged in other areas in the future.

Staff participation in the National Association of State Women 
Veterans Coordinators conference, Reno, NV

    On June 1, 2006, a majority staff member represented the 
Committee and participated in the 7th Annual Conference of the 
National Association of State Women Veterans Coordinators. 
Staff presentation included an update on current legislative 
activities of the Committee and Congress, with particular 
emphasis on women veteran issues. Information was provided on 
the expected future legislative and oversight focus of the 
Committee. Additionally, the audience was given an opportunity 
to ask questions and provide comments.

Hearing on safeguarding veterans' medical information within 
the Veterans Health Administration

    On June 21, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted a hearing to 
examine VA's efforts to maintain the security and integrity of 
the electronic health records of enrolled veterans, while 
safeguarding sensitive personal veteran information from 
internal and external security threats.
    This hearing was in response to a VA security breach which 
occurred in May 2006. Although the data theft did not involve 
the loss or compromise of VA medical records, the Subcommittee 
is concerned about current and future vulnerabilities of VA's 
electronic medical records system and examined the access and 
control policies VA employs as well as the compliance 
mechanisms VA uses to safeguard sensitive health information.
    The Subcommittee received testimony from data security 
experts from the private sector who stated that the real 
security and privacychallenge that the health care industry 
face are transgressions from within, not attacks from outside. In 
addition to patient confidentiality, the Subcommittee explored measures 
that could be enacted to provide sound network security and appropriate 
encryption of data, as well as providing caregivers with the tools 
necessary to ensure patients' privacy and security without giving up 
the quality of the patients' healthcare. See Safeguarding Veterans' 
Medical Information within the Veterans Health Administration--Serial 
No. 109-55.

Hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
efforts to provide high quality health care to veterans in 
rural communities

    On June 27, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing to examine VA's efforts to provide high quality health 
care to veterans in rural communities. Under Secretary for 
Health, Honorable Jonathan Perlin, M.D., testified that there 
are problems in reaching many veterans who live in rural 
communities. He stated that VA has implemented several new 
initiatives that provide for special consideration for these 
rural veterans, such as building and operating additional 
community based outpatient clinics and efforts to increase the 
use of telemedicine to bridge the distance gap between 
veterans' and traditional VA medical facilities. See The 
Department of Veterans Affairs' Efforts to Provide High Quality 
Health Care to Veterans in Rural Communities--Serial No. 109-
57.

Meeting to enhance sharing between the Medical University of 
South Carolina (MUSC) and the Ralph H. Johnson Department of 
Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), Charleston, SC

    On July 14, 2006, Committee staff accompanied Committee 
Chairman Steve Buyer and Health Subcommittee Chairman Henry 
Brown, Jr., to a meeting with VA and MUSC officials to discuss 
progress on options being considered for enhanced collaboration 
between MUSC and VA, which could include a co-located, joint-
use facility in Charleston. The outcome of the meeting was the 
expectation that MUSC and VA would move to the next phase, the 
Collaborative Opportunities Planning Group (COPG).
    The COPG will undertake more detailed planning and 
consideration of previously developed options.

Hearing to examine new data and treatment trends for Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury as 
emerging issues in force and veteran health

    On September 28, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted a hearing 
to examine the new data and treatment trends for Post-traumatic 
Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and as-
certain what initiatives are currently underway to mitigate the 
long-term mental health consequences for veterans. 
Acknowledging that in the past five years mental health care 
has significantly progressed, VA's acting principal Deputy 
Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Gerald Cross, spoke of the 
extended time servicemembers and veterans need for 
rehabilitation from PTSD and TBI, due to the ``complexity of 
the wounds.'' He told the subcommittee of the need for 
continued research and the value of multi-disciplinary 
treatments. Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, M.D, a psychiatry 
consultant to the U.S. Army Surgeon General, testified that the 
stigma associated with asking for help with mental health 
problems keeps many servicemembers from seeking assistance. 
Colonel Ritchie said the Army is beginning to integrate 
behavioral healthcare into primary care in order to ensure that 
those suffering from mental health problems are provided the 
same immediate attention as those who are experiencing physical 
problems.
    Colonel Charles Hoge, M.D., chief of psychiatry and 
behavior sciences of the Division of Neurosciences at Walter 
Reed Army Institute of Research, cited studies showing symptoms 
of mental health problems of Reservists and Guardsmen emerge 
often after they have been home for some time, and that members 
of the reserve components experience higher rates of PTSD than 
their active-duty counterparts. Testimony revealed that the VA 
had not spent all of the mental health care dollars 
appropriated for it in FY 2005. The Subcommittee members 
expressed their intent to conduct greater oversight on the 
issue to determine what VA is spending and how it is being 
spent, to ensure that the intent of Congress is being met. See 
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury: 
Emerging Trends in Force and Veteran Health--Serial No. 109-67.

Staff Site Visit to VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

    On October 18, 2006, majority staff visited the campus of 
the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. The Greater Los 
Angeles Health Care System (GLAHCS) is comprised of 91 total 
structures on 387 acres of land, at an estimated fair market 
value of $6 billion. Current alternative revenue program 
produces $5 million in consideration per year.
    The Secretary's CARES Decision Document, May 2004, calls 
for VA to develop a clear framework for managing the vacant and 
underused property at the West LA campus and to develop a 
Master Plan for the campus in collaboration with stakeholders. 
However, because of a commitment made by a previous Secretary 
of Veterans Affairs, certain reuses of the property for 
commercial purposes have been precluded.
    In addition to identifying novel land-use opportunities, VA 
was directed to explore options for the development of new 
research facilities at the West LA campus. A master plan was 
expected to be complete in 2004. To date, the Secretary has not 
made any recommendation for the potential reuse or 
redevelopment of the current real property.
    Continued Congressional oversight should be exercised to 
ensure that VA has a clear framework for managing the vast 
campus and the vacant and underused property on that campus.

Staff Participation in a Veterans' Town Hall Forum in El Paso, 
TX

    On November 9, 2006, a minority staff member participated 
in a Veterans' Town Hall Forum with Representative Silvestre 
Reyes.

       Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs


                         LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

First Session

Subcommittee markup of H.R. 1220, Veterans' Compensation Cost-
of-Living Adjustment Act of 2005

    On June 9, 2005, the Subcommittee met and marked up H.R. 
1220, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act 
of 2005. The bill was reported favorably to the full Committee.

Hearing on legislation to amend the Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance program

    On June 16, 2005, the Subcommittee held a legislative 
hearing on a draft bill, the Servicemembers' Group Life 
Insurance Enhancement Act of 2005 (subsequently introduced as 
H.R. 3200 by Honorable Jeff Miller and Honorable Shelley 
Berkley on July 11, 2005); H.R. 1618, the Wounded Warrior 
Servicemembers Group Disability Insurance Act of 2005, 
introduced by Honorable Rick Renzi on April, 13, 2005; and 
certain VA insurance provisions included in Public Law 109-13, 
Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global 
War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005.
    Witnesses for the Administration testified in support of 
the provisions included in the draft bill, and offered 
suggestions for clarifying the intent of language included in 
both the draft legislation and Public Law 109-13. The veterans' 
service organization witnesses fully supported the provisions 
of the draft language, as well as the Traumatic Injury 
Protection program included in Public Law 109-13; however, many 
opposed certain aspects of the Traumatic Injury Protection 
program, namely that servicemembers be required to 
participatein the program and pay the estimated $1 per month premium. 
See Legislative Hearing to Consider Draft Legislation to Amend the 
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Program, the Traumatic 
Injury Protection provisions of Public Law 109-13, and H.R. 1618, the 
Wounded Warrior Servicemembers Group Disability Insurance Act of 2005--
Serial No. 109-11.

Subcommittee markup of H.R. 3200, the Servicemembers' Group 
Life Insurance Enhancements Act of 2005

    On July 13, 2005, the Subcommittee met and marked up H.R. 
3200, the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Enhancement Act 
of 2005. The bill was reported favorably to the full Committee.

Second Session

Legislative hearing on H.R. 23, H.R. 601, H.R. 2188, H.R. 2963, 
H.R. 4843, H.R. 5037, and H.R. 5038

    On April 6, 2006, the Subcommittee held a legislative 
hearing on H.R. 23, the Belated Thank You to the Merchant 
Mariners of World War II Act of 2005, introduced by Honorable 
Bob Filner on January 4, 2005; H.R. 601, the Native American 
Veterans Cemetery Act of 2005, introduced by Honorable Tom 
Udall on February 2, 2005; H.R. 2188, a bill to authorize the 
placement of memorial markers in a national cemetery of 
individuals buried in an American Battle Monument Cemetery, 
introduced by Honorable James Langevin on May 5, 2005; H.R. 
2963, the Dr. James Allen Disabled Veterans Equity Act, 
introduced by Honorable Tammy Baldwin on June 17, 2005; H.R. 
4843, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act 
of 2006, introduced by Honorable Jeff Miller, Honorable Shelley 
Berkley, Honorable Steve Buyer, and Honorable Lane Evans on 
March 2, 2006; H.R. 5037, the Respect for America's Fallen 
Heroes Act, introduced by Honorable Mike Rogers of Michigan, 
Honorable Steve Buyer, Honorable Jeff Miller, and Honorable 
Silvestre Reyes on March 29, 2006; and H.R. 5038, the Veterans' 
Memorial Marker Act of 2006, introduced by Honorable Jeff 
Miller and Honorable Shelley Berkley on March 29, 2006.
    Seven members of Congress testified on their respective 
bills. The Department of Veterans Affairs witness opposed H.R. 
23 and H.R. 2188, and offered suggestions for strengthening the 
intent of H.R. 5037. The Superintendent of Arlington National 
Cemetery testified in support of H.R. 5037. The veterans' 
representatives generally supported the bills on the agenda, 
with the exception of H.R. 23. The Veterans of Foreign Wars 
opposed the equity of the proposal to provide monthly benefits 
of $1,000 to World War II Merchant Marines. In testimony 
submitted for the record, AMVETS and the Disabled American 
Veterans raised concerns about the cost of H.R. 23 and its 
impact on other veterans' funding. See Legislative Hearing on 
H.R. 23, H.R. 601, H.R. 2188, H.R. 5037, and H.R. 5038--Serial 
No. 109-44.

Subcommittee markup of H.R. 601 and H.R. 4843

    On June 8, 2006, the Subcommittee held a markup on two of 
the seven bills considered at the legislative hearing on April 
6, 2006. H.R. 601, the Native American Veterans Cemetery Act, 
and H.R. 4843, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living 
Adjustment Act of 2006.
    On June 8, 2006, the Subcommittee met and marked up H.R. 
601 and H.R. 4843. Both bills were reported favorably to the 
full Committee. On June 22, 2006, the full Committee met and 
marked up H.R. 4843, as amended (see H. Rpt. 109-521).
    On June 27, 2006, the House passed H.R. 4843, as amended, 
by a vote of 408-0.
    On July 13, 2006, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
3082, as amended, which included the provisions of H.R. 601 
(see House Report 109-592).
    On July 24, 2006, the House passed H.R. 3082, as amended, 
by voice vote.
    On September 30, 2006, the House agreed to S. 2562, as 
amended, which provided the cost-of-living increase and a 
technical amendment included in H.R. 4843, by unanimous 
consent.
    On October 16, 2006, S. 2562, as amended, was enacted as 
Public Law 109-361.
    On December 8, 2006, the House agreed to S. 3421, as 
amended, which included provisions from H.R. 3082, as amended.
    On December  , 2006, S. 3421, as amended, was enacted at 
Public Law 109-__.

                          OVERSIGHT ACTIVITIES

First Session

Roundtable briefing on Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance

    On March 6, 2005, the Subcommittee held a roundtable 
briefing on sections 1113(a)-(d), 1114(a)(1), 1114(b)(1) and 
(3), and 1114(c) of H.R. 1268, the Emergency Supplemental 
Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terrorism, 
and Tsunami Relief (as introduced in the House).
    Participants included Admiral Daniel L. Cooper, Under 
Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, who 
was accompanied by Mr. Tom Lastowka, Director of the VA 
Regional Office and Insurance Center, Mr. Steve Wurtz, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Insurance, Mr. Mike Tarzian, Actuary, VA 
Insurance Center, and Ms. Martie Adelman, Office of General 
Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs; Mr. Charles S. Abel, 
Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and 
Readiness, Department of Defense; Mrs. Frances Hackett, Vice 
President, Administration and Office of SGLI, The Prudential 
Life Insurance Company of America; and Mr. Bob McDonald, 
Executive Director, Life Company Sales, Military Segment, USAA.
    The purpose of the briefing was to understand the process 
that led to the Administration's policy changes to the 
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program in the war 
supplemental appropriations bill. The Subcommittee wanted an 
understanding of how and why certain policies were promulgated 
and whether the Department of Defense and the Office of 
Management and Budget sought policy assistance from the 
Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hearing on Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery 
Administration

    On April 20, 2005, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs' National 
Cemetery Administration (NCA) to examine policy and operational 
issues facing NCA, short- and long-term goals with respect to 
new cemetery construction. The Subcommittee also heard 
testimony concerning NCA's efforts to address the 928 
restoration and repair projects identified in 2002 by the 
Logistics Management Institute. Additionally, the Subcommittee 
took testimony on VA's State Cemetery Grants Program.
    The Administration testified on the state of the NCA and 
the State Cemetery Grants Program. NCA estimates the number of 
veteran deaths will peak in 2008 at 676,000, with the number of 
internments rising from 93,000 in FY 2004 to 115,000 in FY 
2010. NCA also testified to its progress in addressing 
maintenance and repairs identified in the 2002 National Shrine 
Commitment report.
    The other witnesses generally praised NCA for its 
professional and dignified service and confirmed that its 
customers are pleased with the service they receive. 
Recommendations were made to review the sufficiency of the 
burial and plot allowances provided by the Department of 
Veterans Affairs. Finally, the National Association of State 
Directors of Veterans Affairs recommended establishing a State 
Veterans' Cemetery Operations Grant program to assist states 
cover the operational costs of maintaining state veteran 
cemeteries established under the State Cemetery Grants Program. 
See The National Cemetery Administration--Serial No. 109-3.

Hearing on Department of Veterans Affairs' Board of Veterans' 
Appeals and the Appeals Management Center

    On May 5, 2005, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing 
to review the operations of the Board of Veterans' Appeals 
(BVA) and the Appeals Management Center (AMC).
    The Board of Veterans' Appeals witness highlighted 
improvements, while acknowledging that there are significant 
and persistent challenges to providing veterans with accurate 
and timely decisions. The Board is working with the Veterans 
Benefits Administration, the Office of General Counsel, and the 
Veterans Health Administration to identify and track the root 
causes of remands--those claims that must be sent back to 
either the originating regional office or Appeals Management 
Center for additional work.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness explained the 
history of and purpose for the establishment of the Appeals 
Management Center, which is set up to further develop claims 
sent by the BVA. If the evidence is fully developed, the AMC 
may grant a claim. The Veterans Benefits Administration 
anticipates that future efforts will include additional 
training, quality reviews, and regulatory changes as 
appropriate.
    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) witness 
testified that the BVA has taken actions to strengthen its 
system for reviewing the quality of its own decisions, but 
still lacks a systematic method for ensuring the consistency of 
decision-making within VA. The witness suggested that 
adjudicator judgment is a factor that plays into the variation 
of rating decisions, and recommended that any assessment of 
inconsistency include a determination of an acceptable level of 
variation for specific types of disabilities. GAO also 
recommended that BVA revise its formula for calculating 
accuracy rates to avoid potentially misleading rates.
    The veterans' service organization witnesses detailed their 
experiences with the Board, and made recommendations for 
improvements, primarily the need for additional resources for 
more staff to meet the workload demands. See Department of 
Veterans Affairs' Board of Veterans' Appeals and the Appeals 
Management Center--Serial No. 109-5.

Site Visit--Washington, DC, Regional Office

    On August 30, 2005, majority staff members of the 
Subcommittee and full Committee made site visits to the 
Veterans Benefits Administration's Appeals Management Center 
(AMC) and Washington DC Regional Office (WRO) in Washington, 
DC.
    The WRO is one of 57 regional offices located throughout 
the United States and Philippines that provide veterans, 
survivors, and other VA beneficiaries access to compensation, 
pension, education, vocational rehabilitation, insurance, and 
burial benefits. The WRO is one of the smallest regional 
offices, with 77 employees who handle approximately 0.28 
percent of the VBA's workload. In addition to processing 
benefit claims, WRO employees provide outreach to transitioning 
servicemembers through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) 
and Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP). The WRO also 
has 59 agreements with local military installations to provide 
Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) for expeditious disability 
claims processing for servicemember leaving active duty.
    The Appeals Management Center (AMC) was established in 2004 
to assist VBA in the appeals process. By centralizing appeals 
which had been remanded for further development at one station, 
the intent was to improve timeliness and quality and help VBA 
identify areas where other regional offices could improve 
initial claims processing. In August 2005, the AMC averaged 
receiving 300 remanded claims each week and had approximately 
19,000 remanded claims pending.

Site Visit--St. Louis, MO

    On September 16, 2005, majority and minority staff members 
of the Subcommittee made site visits to the National Cemetery 
Administration's (NCA) National Training Center, Jefferson 
Barracks National Cemetery, and the Veterans Benefits 
Administration's (VBA) Regional Office in St. Louis, Missouri.
    The NCA Training Center was established in 2004 to provide 
employees with the training necessary to ensure consistency in 
operations throughout the national cemetery system, as well as 
a high performing workforce. It is currently focused on 
training cemetery directors and assistance directors; 
eventually training will be expanded to include foremen, 
equipment operators, groundskeepers, cemetery representatives, 
and other employees. There are currently 14 cemetery director 
management interns, all of whom will be stationed at cemeteries 
throughout the country upon completion of their training. The 
Training Center spent $1.5 million in FY 2005.
    Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery is the fifth most 
active cemetery in NCA's system, averaging 300 internments each 
month. The cemetery is currently open to both casketed and 
cremated remains; however, NCA is working through the CARES 
process to identify opportunities at the medical center for 
land adjacent to the cemetery in order to provide service 
beyond the anticipated closing date of 2010.
    Subcommittee staff also met with the director of the VBA 
Regional Office (RO) and received briefings from various 
program managers. The St. Louis RO is the seventh largest 
regional office and has 381 employees supporting three business 
lines: compensation and pension, education, vocational 
rehabilitation and employment. The Veterans Service Center 
provides the full range of compensation and pension benefits to 
592,000 veterans in Missouri; approximately 97,000 are in 
receipt of compensation or pension benefits paying about $49 
million per month. There are 179 FTE supporting the 
compensation and pension program--74 veterans service 
representatives (review incoming claims folders) and 47 rating 
veterans service representatives (grant/deny claims). There are 
seven out-based FTE to the VA Medical Centers in St. Louis and 
Kansas City, and at Ft. Leonard Wood.

Hearing on the variances in disability compensation claims 
decisions made by VA Regional Offices; the Post-Traumatic 
Stress Disorder claims review; and United States Court of 
Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision Allen v. Principi

    On October 20, 2005, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on variances in disability compensation claims 
decisions made by VA's regional offices, factors affecting 
claims decisions, and recommendations for standardizing the 
adjudication process. The Subcommittee also received reviews of 
two Government Accountability Office reports, VA Needs Plans 
for Assessing Consistency of Decisions (GAO-05-99, November 
2004) and VA Could Enhance Its Progress in Complying with Court 
Decision on Disability Criteria (GAO-06-46, October 2005), as 
well as the May 2005 report by the Office of VA Inspector 
General, Review of State Variances in VA Disability 
Compensation Payments (05-00765-137), including the ongoing 
review of PTSD claims. Finally, the Subcommittee received 
testimony on Allen v. Principi (237 F.3d 1368, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 
2001)).
    The Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector 
General and the Government Accountability Office witnesses 
summarized their findings, respectively, of the factors that 
influence disability compensation payments, and explained why 
some variance in average payments by state is to be expected--
due to the nature of certain disabilities and the adjudication 
of a claim requiring the use of judgment. Therefore, some level 
of variation in outcome can be expected. Much of the testimony 
and subsequent question and answer period centered on a review 
by the Veterans Benefits Administration of PTSD claims, as 
recommended by the Office of Inspector General in its report, 
Review of State Variances in VA Disability Compensation 
Payments. Several witnesses and Subcommittee members questioned 
the need for the review, and the added stress it was causing 
certain veterans. See State by State Variances of Claims 
Decisions--Serial No. 109-26.

Hearing on the development of the Veterans Benefits 
Administration's annual budget request

    On November 3, 2005, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the development of the Veterans Benefits 
Administration's (VBA) annual budget request. The Subcommittee 
focused on the processes and assumptions used to project the 
workload and workforce trends used in budget formulation 
requests.
    The VBA witness summarized the compensation and pension 
(C&P;) program budget for the Subcommittee. In FY 2005, VBA's 
C&P; program obligations were $32.5 billion in mandatory funds 
and $1.0 billion in discretionary funds. In developing VBA's 
budget VBA must project workload--the number of claims 
submitted for determination of benefits--and caseload--the 
number of beneficiaries presently receiving monthly benefits. 
These numbers are then used toproject mandatory and 
discretionary obligations.
    In 2005, VBA produced over 763,000 disability 
determinations; processed 2 million award actions; handled over 
6.3 million phone calls; conducted over a million interviews; 
and briefed more than 330,000 servicemembers. Personnel costs 
account for approximately 71 percent of the discretionary 
budget. VBA, like other agencies, concede that developing 
assumptions for use in the budget ``is not a precise science.'' 
Workload projections must be made two years in advance.
    In FY 2005 VBA's Compensation and Pension appropriation was 
$32.5 billion; an increase of $14.7 billion (or 83%) over the 
FY 1995 mandatory appropriation of $17.8 billion. In addition 
to cost-of-living-adjustments, the number of veterans filing 
claims has increased every year since 2000. VBA has also seen a 
significant increase in claimants filing claims for service-
connected diabetes and post traumatic stress disorder. See 
Budget Methodologies for Veterans' Benefits Administration 
Compensation and Pension Programs--Serial No. 109-27

Site Visit--Lincoln, NE, Regional Office

    On January 5-6, 2006, majority and minority staff of the 
Subcommittee, along with staff of the Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity and the Subcommittee on Oversight and 
Investigations, made a site visit to the Lincoln, Nebraska, 
Regional Office (RO).
    The Lincoln RO is one of 57 VA regional offices operated by 
VBA to administer benefits and services to veterans and other 
VA beneficiaries. The Lincoln RO employs 88 FTE and serves 
nearly 160,000 veterans. The major business lines at the 
Lincoln RO are compensation, pension, and vocational 
rehabilitation.
    The primary purpose of the visit was to receive a briefing 
and demonstration on VETSNET, an Information Technology program 
designed to replace the aging Benefits Delivery Network (BDN). 
In May 2004, the Lincoln RO was selected to be a pilot test 
site for implementing the VETSNET program. VETSNET is comprised 
of five applications to assist in the establishment, 
development, and payment of VA claims. In August 2005, the 
Lincoln RO began implementing the fourth and fifth 
applications--Award and the Financial and Accounting System 
(FAS). Lincoln RO staff had a favorable impression of the Award 
and FAS applications. They said it was easy to learn, provided 
added features to improve accuracy of payments, and was an 
overall improvement over the current Benefits Delivery Network 
(BDN) system.
    Prior to the VETSNET demonstration, Subcommittee on 
Disability and Memorial Affairs staff met with Lincoln RO 
adjudication staff to better understand the operations of the 
RO. The Lincoln RO is a high performing office and the 
personnel routinely exceed RO performance goals. The RO 
director credited a good hiring pool and motivated employees to 
the offices' success.

Second Session

Hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2007 bud-get 
request for compensation and pension programs

    On February 16, 2006, the Subcommittee held a hearing on 
the Administration's FY 2007 budget request for VA 
compensation, pension, and burial programs.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness, the Honorable 
Daniel L. Cooper, supported the Administration's budget request 
while acknowledging that VBA has experienced an unyielding 
increase in workload. Among the reasons cited for a significant 
increased work-load were: Operations Iraqi and Enduring 
Freedom; an increasing number of beneficiaries on the rolls, 
with resulting additional claims for increased benefits; 
improved and expanded outreach to active duty servicemembers, 
Guard and reserve personnel, survivors, and veterans of earlier 
conflicts; and implementation of Combat Related Special 
Compensation (CRSC) and Concurrent Disability and Retired Pay 
(CDRP) programs by the Department of Defense. A veterans' 
service organization witness acknowledged the strides made in 
the FY 2007 budget request, but recommended an additional 1,375 
FTE at VBA. See The Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2007 
Budget Request for the Compensation and Pension Business 
Lines--Serial No. 109-34.

Hearing on the accuracy of benefits information provided to, 
and the quality of service received by, individuals calling 
into the Veterans Benefits Administration outreach activities

    On March 16, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the accuracy of benefits information provided to, 
and the quality of service received by, individuals calling 
into the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). The 
Subcommittee also took testimony on VBA's outreach initiatives 
to make servicemembers, veterans, and their survivors aware of 
the benefits and services to which they may be entitled.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness acknowledged 
problems with the level of service provided by some VBA 
employees and detailed the department's focus on improving 
technical accuracy of telephone interviews. Veterans and 
survivors who testified made recommendations for improving the 
quality of service provided by VBA. One witness related her 
experiences in obtaining information about survivors' benefits 
following the death of her husband in 2005. See The Accuracy of 
Benefits Information Provided to, and the Quality of Service 
Received by, Individuals calling into the Veterans Benefits 
Administration Serial No. 109-40.

Hearing on the policy and operational issues facing Arlington 
National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments Commission

    On March 30, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the policy and operational issues facing Arlington 
National Cemetery (ANC) and the American Battle Monuments 
Commission (ABMC).
    Witnesses from ANC and ABMC each outlined their operational 
and management activities. Through questioning by Subcommittee 
members, the ANC witness acknowledged that the FY 2007 budget 
request was less than what was appropriated in FY 2006; 
therefore, several repair and replacement projects may have to 
be deferred. The ABMC witness explained that efforts and 
resources were directed at accomplishing strategic goals, to 
include maintaining high standards of excellence at its 
commemorative sites and constructing an Interpretive Center at 
the Normandy American Cemetery in France. See Arlington 
National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments 
Commission--Serial No. 109-43.

Hearing on the Veterans Benefits Administration's 
implementation of Title V of Public Law 108-454

    On June 8, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing 
on VBA's Fiduciary and Field Examination Program, including 
implementation of Title V of Public Law 108-454, which 
contained several provisions intended to enhance oversight of 
fiduciaries and protect VA beneficiaries who are determined by 
VA to be incompetent to manage their veterans' benefits.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness provided an 
over-view of the Fiduciary Program and discussed the actions 
taken to implement Title V of Public Law 108-454, including the 
development of instructional letters to be disseminated to 
employees at regional offices and collecting statistical data 
to be included in an upcoming report. In response to questions 
from the Subcommittee chairman and ranking member, the witness 
agreed to review the policy which prevents VBA from recognizing 
a person with a Durable Powers of Attorney as a representative. 
See Veterans Benefits Administration's fiduciary program, 
including implementation of Title V of Public Law 108-454--
Serial No. 109-50.

Joint hearing with Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on data 
security at the Veterans Benefits Administration

    On June 20, 2006, the Subcommittee held a joint hearing 
with the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity to explore the 
VBA's data security management program and procedures, as well 
as other VBA programs designed to protect sensitive information 
provided by veterans and their survivors.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness testified to 
thatagency's information security policies and initiatives 
prior to May 3, 2006, when a data breach caused the personal 
information of more than 26 million veterans to be lost. He also 
explained security policies for specific business lines as well as 
employees who work at locations outside VBA. The Department of Veterans 
Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability 
Office witnesses testified to the ongoing lapses in IT security, as 
well as recommendations both have made to VBA to strengthen data 
security. See Veterans Benefits Administration and Data Protection--
Serial No. 109-54.

Hearing on the role of national, state, and county veterans' 
service officers in claims development

    On July 19, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the role of national, state, and county veterans' 
service officers in claims development. The intent of the 
hearing was to better understand how veterans' groups assist 
veterans with filing fully developed claims so that Veterans 
Benefits Administration (VBA) staff could focus on the 
decision-making process.
    The veterans' representatives detailed their efforts to 
provide out-reach and other services to veterans and their 
families, stressing the importance of greater access to VBA's 
electronic claims files and training programs. The Veterans 
Benefits Administration witness discussed VBA's ongoing 
collaboration with national, state, and county veterans' 
service officers and their importance to VBA's mission. See The 
Role National and County Service Officers' Play in Claims 
Development--Serial No. 109-61.

Site Visit--Chicago Regional Office and Hines Benefits Delivery 
Network

    On the afternoon of August 14, 2006, and the morning of 
August 15, 2006, minority staff visited the VA Chicago Regional 
Office to review claims for compensation and pension decided 
within the past year for claims involving musculoskeletal 
conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic 
brain injuries (TBI). Claims reviewed did not suggest problems 
with fairness and overall quality, but several errors were 
identified which might have reasonably attributed to haste in 
the processing of the claim. In general, the quality of the 
work appeared to have improved since a site visit in December 
of 2004.
    In the morning of August 15, 2006, majority staff visited 
the National Acquisition Center (NAC), located on the campus of 
Hines VA Medical Center. The NAC has around 112 FTEE manning 
the center, who processed 1,600 contracts in 2005, and with 
3,800 modification requests amounting to approximately $13.3 
billion in sales. The NAC has been delegated authority by and 
is currently working with the General Services Administration 
(GSA) to develop their own electronic catalogue system, since 
they cannot fully utilize the MECA system at the Department of 
Defense. The NAC is also the Emergency Contract Support for 
FEMA and CDC for events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 
and the National Response Plan and CDC stockpile for acts of 
terrorism and natural disasters.
    On the afternoon of August 15, 2006, majority and minority 
staff visited the Benefits Delivery Network (BDN) facility in 
Hines, Illinois. Staff met with the Director of the Hines 
Information Technology Center. At this time, it is projected 
that the BDN will be necessary to pay checks until 2012. No 
hiring and training of new, younger staff for the BDN has been 
done in many years, and the BDN is facing a critical shortage 
of staff, particularly cross-trained and replacement staff for 
an aging workforce. The operation is highly people-dependent 
with over 500 jobs run manually each day. There is no automatic 
package which can support this without human intervention using 
the Honeywell/Bull system.
    Since current educational programs do not prepare employees 
to work on the older systems, it will be necessary to hire and 
train a replacement workforce which can also be cross-trained 
on newer applications. Since 1995, Hines has replaced only 49 
percent of the 158 staff members who have been lost. Additional 
staff has been approved, but not funded.
    Currently there is a VETSNET pilot project involving 
conversion of education code which includes all of the 
necessary pieces to determine if it can be done. Hines is also 
working on a data vault with Philadelphia for a backup site 
using virtual tape. Hines could accommodate VHA computer 
equipment in their current space and a tour of the ``raised 
floor area'' confirmed that there is substantial space 
available.

Site Visit Philadelphia, PA, Regional Office and Insurance 
Center

    On August 15, 2006, majority staff of the Subcommittee, 
along with staff of the full Committee, made a site visit to 
the Philadelphia, PA, Regional Office and Insurance Center to 
conduct oversight of VA's insurance operations. VA, which ranks 
as the fourth largest life insurer in the United States, 
administers and supervises eight different insurance programs 
providing nearly $1.42 trillion in life insurance and traumatic 
injury protection coverage. They collect approximately $900,000 
in premiums each day and deposits are made daily to the Federal 
Reserve Bank in Philadelphia so they can begin earning interest 
on the funds immediately; trust funds (reserves held to ensure 
the ability to pay all future claims) total $13.8 billion. More 
than 600 death and disability claims are paid each day, and the 
average processing time as of January 2006 was 2.26 days.

Hearing on the training provided to Veterans Benefits 
Administration claims adjudicators and the standards used to 
measure their proficiency and performance

    On September 13, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing to assess the training and performance standards of 
disability claims adjudicators. Testimony was received on the 
types of training provided, the standards used to measure 
proficiency, and what the Veterans Benefits Administration is 
doing to enhance the skills of claims examiners.
    The Veterans Benefits Administration witness acknowledged 
that effective training as a core element of VBA's 
infrastructure and detailed new training tools and programs to 
provide consistency in training to both experienced and new 
employees. The American Legion witness expressed concern that 
there appear to be too few experienced supervisors to provide 
mentoring to new employees, and that the adjudication process 
appears to be driven by quantity over quality. The American 
Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) witness testified 
that VBA is not collaborating with AFGE on training and 
performance measures, and made several recommendations to 
improve training. See Training and Performance Standards for 
VBA Claims Adjudicators--Serial No. 109-62.

Hearing on the administration of the Veterans Benefits 
Administration's pension program

    On September 27, 2006, the Subcommittee held an oversight 
hearing on the administration of VA's Pension Program. Of 
special interest was the reduction of the pension claims 
backlog. Original pension claims are now decided at the 
Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) 57 regional offices, 
while follow-up work on these claims, such as eligibility 
verification reports, is done at three VBA Pension Maintenance 
Centers.
    The Subcommittee also focused on how VBA is reaching out to 
veterans and their families. The VBA witness explained efforts 
to improve the effectiveness of outreach in connection with the 
pension program, to include strengthening its relationships 
with the Department of Health and Human Services' 
Administration on Aging, national cemetery directors, and the 
American Association of Retired Persons. See The VBA Pension 
Program--Serial No. 109-66.

                  Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity


                         LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

First Session

Hearing on H.R. 419 and three draft bills

    On Wednesday, May 4, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted a 
legislative hearing on H.R. 419, the Hire Veterans Act, 
introduced by the Honorable Michael K. Simpson on January 26, 
2005; and three draft bills, the Servicemembers Health 
Insurance Protection Act of 2005; the Homeless Veterans 
Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2005; and the 
Servicemembers Taxation Protection Act of 2005.
    The Honorable Michael K. Simpson testified in support of 
his bill, H.R. 419. In general, the public witnesses supported 
the introduced and draft legislation. Mr. Craig Duehring, 
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve 
Affairs, testifying on behalf of the Department of Defense, 
supported amendments to the Uniformed Services Employment and 
Reemployment Rights Act and the Servicemembers' Civil Relief 
Act through the Servicemembers Health Insurance Protection Act 
of 2005 and the Servicemembers Taxation Protection Act of 2005. 
Mr. John M. McWilliam, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Veterans' 
Employment and Training Service for the U.S. Department of 
Labor, testified on behalf of the Department, did not take a 
position on H.R. 419 and supported the Servicemembers Health 
Insurance Protection Act of 2005, the Homeless Veterans 
Reintegration Program Reauthorization Act of 2005, and the 
Servicemembers Taxation Protection Act of 2005. See Legislative 
Hearing on H.R. 419, Hire Veterans Act of 2005, H.R. 2046, 
Servicemembers' Health Insurance Protection Act of 2005, and 
two draft bills--Serial No. 109-6.

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 2046

    On May 5, 2005, the Subcommittee held a markup on H.R. 
2046, the Servicemembers' Health Insurance Protection Act of 
2005, introduced by the Honorable Steve Buyer, Honorable Lane 
Evans, Honorable John Boozman, and Honorable Stephanie Herseth 
on May 3, 2005. The bill was reported favorably to the full 
Committee.

Hearing on H.R. 717, H.R. 745, and H.R. 1207

    On May 25, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted a legislative 
hearing on H.R. 717, to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
expand the scope of programs of education for which accelerated 
payments under the Montgomery GI Bill may be used, and for 
other purposes, introduced by Honorable Michael Michaud and 
Honorable Jeff Miller of Florida on February 9, 2005; H.R. 745, 
the Veterans Self-Employment Act of 2005, introduced by 
Honorable Richard H. Baker on February 10, 2005; and H.R. 1207, 
the Department of Veterans Affairs Work-Study Act of 2005, 
introduced by Honorable Michael K. Simpson on March 9, 2005.
    The Honorable Michael E. Sodrel testified in support of 
H.R. 717. The Honorable Michael K. Simpson testified in support 
of his bill, H.R. 1207. In general, the public witnesses 
supported the bills. Mr. Jack McCoy, Director, Education 
Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified on 
behalf of the Department. Mr. McCoy did not support section 1 
of H.R. 717, stating that it would be a ``piecemeal change'' to 
the accelerated education benefit program to simply add courses 
for commercial drivers' licenses. However, Mr. McCoy supported 
section 2 of H.R. 717. Mr. McCoy appreciated the objective of 
H.R. 745; however, had concerns regarding the efficiency of the 
language as drafted and therefore did not support the bill. Mr. 
McCoy supported the extension of workstudy options to support 
Senior ROTC programs, however he had concerns with regard to 
the additional areas of work-study added in H.R. 1207, and did 
not support the pilot project that would allow veterans to 
receive workstudy allowance to work at on-campus workstudy 
positions. See Legislative Hearing on H.R. 717, H.R. 745, and 
H.R. 1207-- Serial No. 109-10.

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 419 and H.R. 3279

    On July 27, 2005, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
held a markup on H.R. 419, the Hire Veterans Act of 2005; and 
H.R. 3279, the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program 
Reauthorization Act of 2005, introduced by Honorable John 
Boozman, the Honorable Stephanie Herseth, Honorable Ginny 
Brown-Waite of Florida, Honorable Lane Evans, Honorable Jeb 
Bradley of New Hampshire, Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez, 
Honorable Henry E. Brown, Jr. of South Carolina, Honorable 
Corrine Brown of Florida, Honorable Jeff Miller of Florida, 
Honorable Bob Filner, Honorable Richard H. Baker, and Honorable 
Shelley Berkley on July 14, 2005. The bills were reported 
favorably to the full Committee.

Hearing on H.R. 3082, H.R. 1773, and Four Draft Bills

    On July 27, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted a legislative 
hearing on H.R. 3082, the Veteran-Owned Small Business 
Promotion Act of 2005, introduced by the Honorable John 
Boozman, Honorable Stephanie Herseth, Honorable Michael 
Bilirakis, Honorable Dan Burton and Honorable Terry Everett on 
June 28, 2005; H.R. 1773, the Native American Veteran Home Loan 
Act, introduced by Honorable Stephanie Herseth, Honorable Eni 
F. H. Faleomavaega, Honorable Lane Evans, Honorable Michael H. 
Michaud, Honorable Silvestre Reyes, Honorable Shelley Berkley, 
Honorable Tom Udall of New Mexico, Honorable Neil Abercrombie, 
Honorable Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Honorable Bernard Sanders, 
Honorable Raul M. Grijalva, Honorable Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, 
Honorable Ed Case, Honorable Frank Pallone, Jr., Honorable 
James L. Oberstar, and Honorable John Boozman on April 21, 
2005; and four draft bills: (1) to establish an Office of 
Disabled Veteran Sports and Special Events; (2) to require the 
Veterans' Employment and Training Service to establish 
qualification standards for Disabled Veteran Outreach Program 
Specialists (DVOPS) and Local Veteran Employment 
Representatives (LVER); (3) to increase the Disabled Veteran 
Adaptive Housing Grant; and (4) to provide for a Disabled 
Veteran Transitional Adaptive Housing Grant.
    The Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega testified in favor of 
H.R. 1773. In general, the public witnesses supported the 
bills. Mr. John M. McWilliam, Deputy Assistant Secretary for 
Veterans' Employment and Training Service of the U.S. 
Department of Labor, testified on behalf of the Department. Mr. 
McWilliam supported the establishment of national employment 
rules for DVOPS and LVERs as proposed in the draft bill to 
require the Veterans' Employment and Training Service to 
establish qualification standards DVOPS and LVER. However, Mr. 
McWilliam stated that the Department wanted to review the 
current standards in the states prior to mandating it in 
legislation. Mr. Keith Pedigo, Director of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs Loan Guaranty Service, testified on behalf of 
the Department, supported H.R. 1773 and the draft bill to 
increase the Disabled Veteran Adaptive Housing Grant. Mr. 
Pedigo generally supported H.R. 3082, however the Department 
did not support an established mandate on contracting and 
subcontracting percentages as provided in the legislation, and 
did not support the draft bill to provide for a Disabled 
Veteran Transitional Adaptive Housing Grant. Mr. Pedigo asked 
that VA have time to further study the need to provide grants 
to veterans living in a family home. See Legislative Hearing on 
H.R. 3082, H.R. 1773, and Four Draft Bills--Serial No. 109-20.

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 3665

    On September 8, 2005, the Subcommittee held a markup on 
H.R. 3665, the Veterans Housing Improvement Act of 2005, 
introduced by the Honorable John Boozman, Honorable Stephanie 
Herseth, Honorable Bob Filner, and Honorable Lane Evans on 
September 7, 2005. The bill was reported favorably to the full 
Committee.

Second Session

Hearing on H.R. 4791, three draft bills, and a proposed 
amendment to H.R. 3082

    On April 27, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted a legislative 
hearing on H.R. 4791, the Disabled Veterans Adaptive Housing 
Improvement Act, introduced by the Honorable Stephanie Herseth, 
Honorable Ed Case, Honorable Lane Evans, Honorable Corrine 
Brown of Florida,Honorable Luis V. Gutierrez, Honorable Jose E. 
Serrano, Honorable Bob Filner, Honorable Ted Strickland, Honorable 
Julia Carson of Indiana, Honorable Dennis J. Kucinich, Honorable Robert 
Wexler, Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Honorable Collin C. Peterson, 
Honorable Doris O. Matsui, Honorable Al Green of Texas, and Honorable 
Sam Farr on February 16, 2006; three draft bills: (1) the GI Bill 
Flexibility Act of 2006; and (2) the Veterans Licensing and 
Credentialing Act of 2006; and (3) a proposed amendment to H.R. 3082, 
the Veteran-Owned Small Business Promotion Act of 2005.
    In general, the public witnesses supported the bills. The 
Honorable Gordon Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs, testified on behalf of the Department. Mr. Mansfield 
did not support sections 2, 3, and 4 of the GI Bill Flexibility 
Act of 2006. Mr. Mansfield stated that the goals in section 1 
are already being achieved through VA's vocational 
rehabilitation program, and objected to section 3 as the 
Department saw ``no reason why veterans should be disadvantaged 
by not receiving refunds in appropriate circumstances merely 
because the institution involved is a governmental entity or 
supported with government funds.'' Mr. Mansfield also expressed 
concerns regarding the efficiency of the language as drafted in 
section 4 and therefore did not support it. Mr. Mansfield did 
support sections 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the GI Bill Flexibility Act 
of 2006, as well as H.R. 4791 if funds were identified. In 
general, Mr. Mansfield supported the proposed amendment to H.R. 
3082; however, the Department requested that staff meet to be 
advised on technical changes.
    The Honorable Charles Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary for 
Veterans' Employment and Training at the Department of Labor, 
testified on behalf of the Department, and supported sections 3 
and 8 of the draft bill, the Veterans Employment State Grant 
Improvement Act of 2006. Mr. Ciccolella expressed concern that 
the federally mandated qualifications established outside of 
the grant-negotiation process required in section 2, while 
potentially leading to better-qualified DVOP-LVERs, would 
decrease the staff to veteran ratio nationwide. The Department 
was concerned that a local performance information system that 
would be required in section 4 would be duplicative of a system 
already in place for all federally funded employment systems. 
Mr. Ciccolella stated that sections 5, 6, and 7 would have 
additional budgetary implications and found that the 
requirement to publish regulations implementing priority of 
service was unnecessary due to the policy guidance that the 
Department published in September 2003. See Legislative Hearing 
on H.R. 4791, Three Draft Bills, and a Proposed Amendment to 
H.R. 3082--Serial No. 109-46.

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 3082 and H.R. 5220

    On May 10, 2006, the Subcommittee held a markup on H.R. 
3082, the Veteran-Owned Small Business Promotion Act of 2005; 
and H.R. 5220, the Veterans Certification and Licensure Act of 
2006, introduced by Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida on 
April 27, 2006. Amendments in the nature of a substitute for 
both bills were reported favorably to the full Committee.

                          OVERSIGHT ACTIVITIES

First Session

Hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs' Vocational 
Rehabilitation and Employment program

    On April 20, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing on VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E;) 
program. The Subcommittee examined the performance of the 
program since the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
Task Force Report. The Subcommittee also explored ways to 
achieve closer integration between the Department's VR&E; 
program and the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and 
Training Service.
    The Subcommittee heard testimony about the successes and 
challenges of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
program and suggestions on how the program can improve. The 
Government Accountability Office commented on recent findings 
concerning the program's inability to put disabled veterans 
into jobs and the lack of the necessary staff skills to meet 
that goal. See the Department of Veterans Affairs' Vocational 
Rehabilitation and Employment program--Serial No. 109-3.

Site Visit--Austin, TX

    On May 5, 2005, majority staff traveled to Austin, Texas to 
attend the President's National Hire Veterans Committee (PNHVC) 
meeting. The PNHVC was created by Public Law 106-50 to increase 
employer awareness of veterans as a good source of employees. 
Majority staff participated in discussions regarding PNHVC 
programs and future events related to veterans employment.

Hearing on the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and 
Training Service

    On May 12, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing on the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and 
Training Service (VETS). The purpose of the hearing was to 
examine the performance of VETS in administering its several 
programs, its resource needs, and review the state grant 
program that funds Disabled Veteran Outreach Program 
Specialists (DVOPS) and Local Veterans Employment 
Representatives (LVER).
    The Assistant Secretary for VETS serves as the principal 
advisor to the Secretary of Labor on all policies and 
procedures affecting veterans. VETS furnishes employment and 
training services to certain servicemembers and veterans 
through a variety of programs, including grants to States, 
public entities and non-profit organizations to assist veterans 
seeking employment. VETS is also the primary agency tasked with 
investigating complaints under veterans' preference and re-
employment laws such as the Uniformed Services Employment and 
Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
    The Subcommittee was updated on the progress of the 
implementation by the Department of Public Law 107-288, the 
Jobs for Veterans Act. The National Association of State 
Workforce Agencies expressed concern that DVOPS and LVERs were 
being pulled away from veteran-related duties and that the 
States were receiving inadequate funding for the grants. See 
the Department of Labor's Veterans Employment and Training 
Service--Serial No. 109-7.

Site Visit--Jekyll Island, GA

    On May 17, 2005, majority staff visited the Georgia 
Department of Veterans Affairs. Majority staff provided an 
update on legislation pending before Congress and took 
questions from the Department's staff.

Joint hearing on veterans' entrepreneurship and procurement 
opportunities with the Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, 
and Government Programs of the Committee on Small Business

    On May 24, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted a joint 
oversight hearing with the Subcommittee on Workforce, 
Empowerment, and Government Programs of the Committee on Small 
Business on laws to assist veterans, especially service-
disabled veterans, in starting and growing a small business, 
and sharing in federal procurement opportunities.
    Public Law 106-50, the Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small 
Business Act of 1999, made improvements in access to capital, 
federal contracts, and government procurement information for 
veterans and service-disabled veterans who own or aspire to own 
small businesses. Public Law 106-50 also established the 
National Veterans Business Development Corporation (Veterans 
Corporation). P.L. 108-183 established a contract set-aside 
``tool'' for use by contracting officers to reach the three-
percent goal by furnishing federal agencies discretionary 
authority to create sole-source contracts for service-disabled, 
veteran-owned small businesses--up to $5 million for 
manufacturing contract awards and up to $3 million for non-
manufacturing contract awards. It also furnished federal 
agencies discretionary authority to restrict certain contracts 
to service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses if at least 
two such concerns are qualified to bid on the contract.
    The Subcommittee learned that to date, except for the State 
Department in FY 2004, no major department or agency of the 
federal government had met the contracting goal for service-
disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The departments and 
agencies testified regarding the steps they were taking to 
aggressively use the contracting tools that they have. Private-
sector witnesses, representing the veterans' community, 
testified how the laws were affecting service-disabled veteran-
owned small businesses. See Veterans' Entrepreneurship and 
Procurement Opportunities--Serial No. 109-4, and House 
Committee on Small Business Serial No. 109-17

Site Visit--Denver, CO

    On June 6, 2005, majority and minority staff visited the 
National Veterans Training Institute in Denver, Colorado. The 
purpose of the trip was to attend and participate in the annual 
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E;) Leadership 
Conference and to observe classes being conducted at the 
Department of Labor's National Veterans Training Institute.

Site Visit--Corpus Christi, TX

    On June 16, 2005, majority staff gave the keynote speech 
before the National Association of County Veterans Service 
Officers (NACVSO) in Corpus Christi, Texas and observed NACVSO 
training events for their veterans service officers. Majority 
staff also took questions from the NACVSO staff.

Site Visit--Las Vegas, NV

    June 20-22, 2005, majority staff attended the National 
Veterans Small Business Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 
750 people attended representing veteran-owned small 
businesses, large government contractors, administration 
officials, and veterans' service organizations. The conference 
mainly consisted of individual speakers and panels discussing 
what veterans need to do to be successful in government 
procurement.

Hearing on the Transition Assistance Program and Disabled 
Transition Assistance Program

    On June 29, 2005, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing on Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and Disabled 
Transition Assistance Program (DTAP). The recent U.S. 
Government Account-ability Office (GAO) report, Enhanced 
Services Could Improve Transition Assistance for Reserves and 
National Guard (GAO-05-544), highlighted several concerns 
regarding how TAP and DTAP is being provided for the Reserves 
and National Guard. The Subcommittee heard views from 
government and private sector witnesses on the overall TAP and 
DTAP programs specifically addressing issues in the 74 GAO 
report.
    All servicemembers who have been on active duty for at 
least 180 days are eligible for TAP, but those separating 
because of a disability are eligible regardless of the length 
of service. Upon demobilization from active duty status, Guard 
and Reserve members may receive TAP services similar to active 
duty servicemembers. However, providing TAP for Guard and 
Reserve members is a continuing challenge and the Subcommittee 
sought to hear information from the witnesses, especially DOD 
and the Guard Bureau with respect to their efforts to improves 
transition services for the Guard and Reserve members.
    GAO noted that there were plans to improve TAP for Guard 
and Reserve members and additional resources may be needed. The 
agencies present at the hearing represented most or all of the 
members of the TAP Steering Committee which is chaired by the 
Department of Labor. See the Transition Assistance Program and 
Disabled Transition Assistance Program--Serial No. 109-17 

Site Visit--Minneapolis, MN

    On June 30 through July 1, 2005, majority staff attended 
the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Minneapolis as part 
of the oversight of the VA's special events program. Majority 
staff also met with VA staff and disabled athletes to determine 
options for improving the program.

Site Visit--Denver, CO

    On August 10-11, 2005, the Honorable John Boozman, Chairman 
of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, along with 
majority staff, attended the Homeless Veterans Reintegration 
Program Competitive Grantees Training Conference in Denver, 
Colorado. Chairman Boozman spoke on the status of homelessness 
amongst veterans before the conference and took questions from 
the audience. After addressing the full conference, Chairman 
Boozman and staff met with six program directors along with 
staff of the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and 
Training Service.

Field hearing on transition assistance for members of the 
National Guard

    On September 19, 2005, at the 157th Air Refueling Wing's 
Maintenance Hangar, Pease Air National Guard Base, New 
Hampshire, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight hearing on 
transition assistance for members of the National Guard. The 
hearing focused on the ``Reunion & Reentry from Combat'' 
transition assistance model established by the New Hampshire 
National Guard Bureau for servicemembers returning from recent 
call-ups.
    The Subcommittee received testimony on the New Hampshire 
National Guard's model of TAP and found that NH offers career 
assistance and related services to separating servicemembers 
during their transition to civilian life. Four members of the 
N.H. National Guard who have participated in the program 
testified at the hearing. Major General Ronald G. Young, Acting 
Director, National Guard Bureau Joint Staff, stated that NH's 
process was one to be modeled in other states. See Transition 
Assistance for Members of the National Guard--Serial No. 109-
23.

Site Visit--Colorado Springs, CO

    On September 23, 2005, majority staff visited the United 
States Olympic Committee's training center to observe the first 
veterans paralympic training summit. This event was the first 
summit following the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding 
between VA and the United States Olympic Committee regarding a 
program to increase disabled veteran participation in sports in 
general and the Paralympic movement.

Site Visit--San Diego, CA

    On November 5, 2005, majority staff traveled to San Diego, 
California. The purpose of the trip was to discuss the 
employment initiative at Balboa Naval Hospital and to observe 
the 2nd Paralympics Veterans Summit at the U.S. Olympic 
Training Center in Chula Vista. Majority staff met with the 
Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital as well as 
representatives from the California Department of Employment 
Services, VA and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Second Session

Hearing on the VA's FY 2007 budget request for the education, 
vocational rehabilitation, and loan guaranty programs

    On February 14, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted a hearing 
on the VA's FY 2007 budget request for the education, 
vocational rehabilitation, and loan guaranty programs.
    The President requested $90.1 million in discretionary 
funding for administrative expenses and to support 930 Full 
Time Employee Equivalent (FTEE) for the Education Service, an 
increase of 46 FTEE (34 direct FTEE; 2 IT FTEE; 10 management 
and support FTEE) over FY 2006 levels. Education claims rose 
between FY 2000 and FY 2004 by nearly 328,000 claims--a 35 
percent increase; direct FTEE rose 14 percent for this same 
period. Mandatory spending obligations are expected to increase 
to $3.2 billion for FY 2007. VA's education programs assist 
veterans in readjusting to civilian life by helping them afford 
a wide range of vocational training and higher education 
options. These programs also enhance the Nation's 
competitiveness through the development of a more highly 
educated and productive workforce. VA projected that 
participation in its education programswould increase by about 
30,000 veterans, members of the Selected Reserves, and survivors in 
2007.
    The President requested $149 million in discretionary 
funding to support 1,255 FTEE for the Vocational Rehabilitation 
and Employment program (VR&E;), an increase of 130 FTEE (107 
Direct FTEE; 2 Information Technology; and 21 management and 
support FTEE) above FY 2006. Mandatory spending obligations 
were expected to increase to $666 million for FY 2007. The VR&E; 
program is intended to provide employment services and 
assistance to enable veterans with service-connected 
disabilities to obtain suitable employment, and to the maximum 
extent possible achieve independence in daily living continues 
to experience increased demands. VR&E; estimated providing 
services and benefits to more than 102,000 disabled veterans 
was approximately a 2.5 percent increase over FY 2006 workload 
of 100,098.
    The President requested $154.2 million in discretionary 
funding for administrative expenses and to support 971 Loan 
Guaranty FTEE a decrease of 17 FTEE below FY 2006. VA loan 
guarantees help veterans finance the purchase of a home with 
favorable loan terms and competitive loan rates. VA guaranteed 
a total of 150,895 loans in FY 2005, and estimates an increase 
to 230,000 in FY 2006. VA also expects an increase in defaults 
and foreclosures since historic lows in FY 2005. VA estimated 
similar workload levels for FY 2007. The Loan Guaranty Service 
had for the most part successfully implemented a host of 
efficiency and consolidation efforts through technological 
advances to provide quality services while maintaining low 
overhead costs.
    The Subcommittee found that the Veterans Benefits 
Administration (VBA) faced serious problems in delivering 
timely services to its vocational rehabilitation and education 
beneficiaries. It was noted that for the week ending 28 
January, the Education Service had a backlog of about 110,000 
claims or about the same as last year and that processing days 
are up. Vocational Rehabilitation had over 6,400 in application 
status. See Department of Veterans Affairs Bud-get Request for 
FY 2007 for the Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Loan 
Guaranty Program--Serial No. 109-31.

Hearing on the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
Service contract services and its coordination with the 
Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service

    On March 9, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing on the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
(VR&E;) contract services and its coordination with the 
Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service 
(VETS). VR&E; contracting processes, management, and associated 
costs were of particular importance to the Subcommittee. 
Witnesses also discussed the implementation of the recent 
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between VR&E; and VETS concerning 
improved communication and coordination efforts between the two 
agencies.
    On October 3, 2005, VETS and VR&E; signed an MOA to increase 
coordination efforts between the two Departments. The goal of 
the MOA was to provide a seamless employment transition and 
eliminate all duplication, fragmentation, or delay in delivery 
of needed employment services for disabled veterans 
participating in the VA VR&E; program.
    The Subcommittee heard testimony on how VR&E; and VETS are 
implementing their MOA to improve employment services for 
disabled veterans. The two agencies stated that they plan to 
cooper-ate in the closest possible manner to achieve higher 
employment and retention rates among disabled veterans. Their 
recent MOA established several working groups to address 
specific areas of cooperation; the Subcommittee heard how this 
process is evolving.
    Ms. Judy Caden, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and 
Employment Program at VA stated that contract services were 
vital to the success of the VR&E; program as a way to augment 
permanent VA staff and to increase geographic access to program 
services. Ms. Ca-den discussed how they contract for services, 
the rates they pay and how they conduct oversight of their 
contractors. See VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
Service contract services and its co-ordination with the 
Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training 
Service--Serial No. 109-38.

Field hearing on transition assistance for members of the 
National Guard and education benefits for the total military 
force

    On March 22, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing at the National Guard Armory in Rogers, Arkansas on 
transition assistance for members of the National Guard and 
Reserve forces. The Subcommittee also heard testimony on 
education benefits for the total military force from military, 
veterans and education organizations as a follow-up to the Full 
Committee hearing on March 15, 2006.
    The Arkansas Army and Air National Guard have mobilized 
over 7,500 members in various locations around the world since 
September 11, 2001. After a brief ``Welcome Home Ceremony,'' 
staff members from the AR National Guard, active duty 
installation, VA, and Veterans Employment and Training Service 
(VETS) worked hand-inhand to conduct demobilization. Once back 
home, servicemembers receive spiritual and legal assistance for 
problems arising from or aggravated by mobilization. A recently 
hired State Benefits Advisor (SBA) assisted with the Transition 
Assistance Program. The SBA 78 worked with servicemembers to 
advise the Adjutant General and en-sure Guard leaders and 
personal are aware of all available benefits. In March 2005 the 
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs directed that 
Post Deployment Health Re-Assessments be conducted for all 
soldiers deployed for greater than 30 days in support of 
contingency operations. These assessments were conducted three 
to six months post deployment.
    Four members of the Arkansas National Guard testified 
before the Subcommittee that they were not fully briefed on 
their VA benefits post-deployment, and not one knew of the new 
higher education benefits for those in the Selected Reserve who 
were deployed for 90 days or more. Education specialists who 
testified stated that the need for a new approach to education 
and training programs is warranted to meet the recruiting and 
retention goals of the Armed Forces, while also providing a 
high-quality readjustment benefit for active-duty and National 
Guard and Reserve personnel that is relevant to 21st Century 
education and workforce demands. See Transition Assistance for 
Members of the National Guard and Education Benefits for the 
Total Military Force--Serial No. 109-41.

Roundtable discussion on the Department of Labor's Veterans' 
Employment and Training program's response to the significant 
increase in veterans' unemployment due to the announced cuts in 
the automobile industry workforce

    On May 22, 2006, at Baker College of Owosso Welcome Center, 
Owosso, Michigan, the Subcommittee convened a roundtable 
discussion on Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and 
Training Service's response to the significant increase in 
veterans' unemployment in the state of Michigan due to closing 
of industrial plants in the state.
    The Honorable Charles Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary for 
Veterans' Employment and Training at the Department of Labor, 
announced at the beginning of the meeting that Michigan has 
lost over 250,000 jobs due to plant closures in the state. Mr. 
Ciccolella described the assistance that DOL is giving to the 
state by helping to developed ``Rapid Response Teams'' to deal 
with the mass lay-offs. These teams work with both employers 
and employees to develop plans to help soon to be laid-off 
workers.

Field hearing on transition assistance for members of active 
duty, Reserve, and National Guard servicemembers and education 
benefits for the total military force

    On June 19, 2006, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight 
hearing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. The 
Subcommittee explored transition assistance and demobilization 
services for active duty servicemembers and Reserve component 
personnel, as well asreviewed education and training benefits 
for the total military force. This was a continuation of a series of 
hearings concerning transition and demobilization services and 
potential improvements to the GI Bill.
    Since September 11, 2001, over 5,500 new veterans were 
created in South Dakota, of which over two-thirds were members 
of the National Guard and Reserves. The Department of Military 
and Veterans Affairs of South Dakota established a Readjustment 
Task Force to direct servicemember readjustment and transition 
in the state. Along with the Department of Military and 
Veterans Affairs, the Task Force included representation from: 
State Division of Veterans Affairs; National Guard; State 
Department of Human Services; State Council of Mental Health 
Centers; and VA. The Task Force provided assistance by 
conducting briefings on family support, demobilization, and 
welcoming servicemembers home. During each of the past four 
years the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has also 
hosted a Veterans Summit to bring together representatives from 
all major organizations that work with the military in South 
Dakota.
    The Subcommittee heard testimony regarding how post 
deployment issues for the Guard and Reserves were different 
from those facing the regular forces due to the dispersion of 
the unit upon return. Many attributed that to the current 90-
day restriction placed on drilling following extended 
deployment. This may foster higher rates of stress-related 
issues such as those involving other family members and risky 
behavior. See Transition Assistance for Members of Active Duty, 
Reserve, and National Guard Servicemembers and Education 
Benefits for the Total Military Force--Serial No. 109-53.

Joint hearing with Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and 
Memorial Affairs on Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) data 
security

    On June 20, 2006, the Subcommittees conducted an oversight 
hearing on the Veterans Benefits Administration's data security 
procedures. (Please see description under the Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs section on page 63).

Site Visit--Las Vegas, NV

    On June 26-28, 2006, majority staff visited Las Vegas, 
Nevada, to speak before the Department of Defense National 
Veterans Small Business Conference. Over 1,200 people attended 
representing veteran-owned small businesses, large government 
contractors, administration officials, and veterans' service 
organizations. The conference mainly consisted of individual 
speakers and panels discussing what veterans need to do to be 
successful in government procurement as well as an expo and 
business development center for businesses and contract 
specialists could meet.

Site Visit--Reno, NV

    On June 7-9, 2006, majority staff traveled to Reno, Nevada, 
to visit the Regional Office and to attend the National 
Association of County Service Officers Leadership and Training 
Conference. Majority staff visited with the VA Regional Office 
Director as well as staff members responsible for the 
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. Majority also 
observed NACVSO training events and assisted in the 
installation of new officers.

Site Visit--Anchorage, AK

    On July 6-9, 2006, majority staff traveled to Anchorage, 
Alaska, to visit the Regional Office, the Anchorage VA hospital 
and domiciliary, and attend the National Veterans Wheelchair 
Games. Majority staff held an oversight meeting with VA 
regional office staff responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation 
and Employment and conducted a site visit to a VA shelter for 
homeless veterans. This visit confirmed the value of the 
National Wheelchair Games the homeless shelter and the crafts 
workshop sponsored by the homeless shelter.

Site Visit--Orlando, FL

    On July 21, 2006, majority staff traveled to Orlando, 
Florida, to attend the DoD Worldwide Education Professional 
Certification and Training Advisory Committee meeting. Majority 
staff attended break-out workshops on DoD's management of 
service members' education programs and participated in the 
question and answer panel with attendees.

Site Visits--Air Force and Army bases in Germany

    On August 15-19, 2006, majority and minority staff traveled 
to Germany to visit Ramstein Air Force Base, Spangdahlem Air 
Force Base, and Landstuhl Army Medical Center to observe 
overseas transition assistance services offered to separating 
servicemembers. Staff spoke with personnel in charge of the 
services as well as those who were attending the Transition 
Assistance Program classes.

Joint Hearing on the Montgomery G.I. Bill for members of the 
Selected Reserve with the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of 
the Committee on Armed Services

    On September 27, 2006, the Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the 
Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the Committee on Armed 
Services conducted a joint hearing on the Montgomery G.I. Bill 
for members of the Selected Reserve (MGIB-SR). The 
Subcommittees heard testimony on the perspective of the 
Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) about 
the purpose, effectiveness, cost, benefit levels, and 
utilization of active duty and reserve G.I. Bills. The 
Subcommittee also gathered information about the issues of 
importance to the Congress as it considers potential 
legislative improvements to the MGIB-SR and the REAP and 
proposals to integrate those programs into a Total Force G.I. 
Bill.
    The Honorable Michael Dominguez, Principle Deputy Under 
Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, testified 
that the MGIB-SR educational benefit has been an enormous 
retention tool. He further stated that DoD has not identified 
any significant shortcomings in the structure and utility of 
the MGIB-SR program. Until the joint task force completes its 
report and presents its findings to the DoD and Department of 
Veterans Affairs leadership, it is premature for DoD to take a 
position on any changes to the programs.
    Retired Navy Vice Admiral Norbert Ryan, Jr., testifying on 
behalf of the Partnership for Veterans Education, suggested 
that Congress expand the benefits for the Selected Reserve and 
address the benefits gap between the active duty and Reserve 
program. See The Montgomery G.I. Bill for Members of the 
Selected Reserve--Serial No. 109-65 and House Armed Services 
Committee Serial No. 109-85.

Oversight Hearing to review the Departments of Veterans 
Affairs, Labor, and Defense actions regarding the 
recommendations of the 1999 Congressional Commission on 
Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance report

    On Thursday, December 7, 2006, the Subcommittee held an 
over-sight hearing to review the Departments of Veterans 
Affairs, Labor, and Defense's actions regarding the 
recommendations of the 1999 Congressional Commission on 
Servicemembers and Veterans Transition Assistance Report.
    In January, 1999, the Commission of Servicemembers and 
Veterans Transition Assistance (Transition Commission), chaired 
by former VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi, submitted its 
findings to the Congress containing over 100 recommendations. 
These recommendations addressed the complete spectrum of 
programs designed to improve the military-to-civilian 
transition process administered by the Departments of Veterans 
Affairs, Labor, and Defense. Some recommendations required 
legislation, some required policy changes within the 
Departments. The report's recommendations addressed 5 
categories: education, employment and training, healthcare, 
economic equity, and organizational structure.
    The Subcommittee considered many of the Transition 
Commission's recommendations still relevant. Therefore, the 
Report's focus on placing veterans in a position to 
successfully transition and obtain meaningful employment 
matches the goals of the Subcommittee.
    During the hearing each of the Departments provided short 
summaries outlining their efforts regarding each of the 
Transition Commission's recommendations within their 
jurisdiction. Additionally,the Subcommittee heard the 
Departments' views on how the transition process can be strengthened in 
the future, including possible opportunities for interagency 
cooperation.
    Former VA Secretary Principi provided a retrospective on 
the program looking back on what has been done and what 
opportunities still exist for the future. See The Department of 
Veterans Affairs' Actions Regarding the Recommendations of the 
1999 Transition Commission Report--Serial No. 109-68.

              Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations


                         LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

First Session

Subcommittee Markup of H.R. 2988, the Veterans Medical Care 
Revenue Enhancement Act of 2005

    On June 21, 2005, the Subcommittee met and marked up H.R. 
2988, the Veterans Medical Care Revenue Enhancement Act of 
2005. The bill was favorably reported to the full Committee by 
voice vote.
    On June 23, 2005, the full Committee met and marked up H.R. 
2988, and the text was incorporated into H.R. 1220, Section 5. 
The Committee favorably reported H.R. 1220, as amended (see H. 
Rpt. 109-162).
    On July 13, 2005, the House passed H.R. 1220, as amended, 
by voice vote.

Second Session

    There were no legislative activities during the second 
session of Congress.

                          OVERSIGHT ACTIVITIES

First Session

Congressional Delegation--Iwo Jima, Guam, and Hawaii

    On March 10-March 15, 2005, majority and minority staff 
accompanied Ranking Member Lane Evans, the Honorable Darrell 
Issa, and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo to join the official 60th 
Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima, to visit veterans' 
facilities, and to meet with veterans' representatives in Guam. 
The island of Iwo Jima belongs to Japan and hosts a small 
military airfield. There are no indigenous residents of the 
island.

Site Visit--Tampa, FL

    On March 30 and April 1, 2005, Chairman Michael Bilirakis 
and majority staff conducted a site visit at the New Port 
Richey Outpatient Clinic and James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital. 
The purpose of the visit was to receive an update on its 
Medical Care Collections Fund program, part-time physicians' 
time and attendance, Nursing Magnet program, and visit the 
Spinal Cord Injury Unit. At the Port Richey Clinic, staff 
learned that the clinic scans all proof of other health 
insurance (OHI) cards for insurance verification; 49 percent of 
veterans served had other insurance. Parking was a major 
problem for the Port Richey Clinic; however, the clinic was 
working to address the problem.
    The delegation toured the James A. Haley VA Medical Center 
in Tampa, Florida. The Haley VAMC is one of four polytrauma 
centers in the nation. The delegation received a briefing on 
Outpatient/Inpatient Outreach Team work that is conducted at 
the hospital. One of the key components of the outpatient 
outreach program is stress management. For inpatients, the 
Haley House is a program operated by the local PVA and DAV to 
provide support services to family members accompanying injured 
service members.

Site Visit--Walter Reed Army Medical Center

    On April 19, 2005, Chairman Bilirakis and Subcommittee 
staff conducted a site visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center 
(WRAMC) in Washington, DC.
    This trip was based on concerns raised by Chairman 
Bilirakis regarding the delayed transfer of polytrauma patients 
due to pending MEB/PEB disability processing and the lack of 
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) rehab. WRAMC instituted a new 
policy that allowed transfer of TBI and Spinal Cord Injury 
(SCI) patients to the VA for TBI rehabilitation while awaiting 
medical discharge. WRAMC has relied on VA for TBI and SCI 
rehabilitation services. WRAMC coordinates with VA through a VA 
social worker assigned by VHA and a benefits counselor assigned 
by VBA.

Site Visit--National Navy Medical Center

    On April 22, 2005, Subcommittee staff conducted a site 
visit to the National Navy Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, 
MD.
    This visit was held in coordination with the trip to WRAMC 
to review Seamless Transition of servicemembers between the 
Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA). Returning injured servicemembers from OIF and OEF are 
routed through WRAMC and NNMC and then transported to VA 
facilities. The site visit also reviewed the exchange of 
medical information between DOD and VA.

Oversight hearing on efforts between the Department of Veterans 
Affairs and the Department of Defense for a ``seamless 
transition'' from active duty to veterans' status

    On May 19, 2005, the Subcommittee held an oversight hearing 
regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs' and the 
Department of Defense's efforts to assist military personnel 
making a ``seamless transition'' from active duty to veterans' 
status. The hearing focused on the timely transfer of service 
members from military hospitals to VA medical centers, a review 
of the Benefits Delivery at Discharge program, and service 
specific initiatives.
    Testimony received on the challenges and initiatives in 
obtaining a ``seamless transition'' from active duty to 
veterans' status. Systemic problems were identified in the 
ability to obtain the medical information necessary from DOD to 
aid veterans pursuing VA benefits. Testimony from witnesses at 
the hearing stated that while efforts have been made to ease 
the transition of service members from DOD to VA, more needs to 
be done. See Department of Defense and Department of Veterans 
Affairs Seamless Transition from Active Duty to Veterans 
Status--Serial No. 109-9.

Roundtable discussion on VA-DOD seamless, bi-directional, and 
interoperable exchange of electronic medical information

    On July 14, 2005, the Subcommittee held a roundtable 
discussion to review VA and DOD progress towards achieving a 
seamless, bi-directional, and interoperable exchange of 
electronic health information for use by health care providers. 
Serving as an open forum for the participants, the roundtable 
sought to address problems identified between the Departments 
at the May 19, 2005 hearing on seamless transition.
    Participants included representatives from the U.S. 
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), VA, DOD, and 
technology corporations from the private sector. HHS shared 
that the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and 
Accountability Act should not be an impediment to the transfer 
of medical information between DOD and VA. Technology 
corporations presented to the Subcommittee the technologies 
that are available for electronic medical records and sharing 
information.

Site Visit--Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, NC

    On July 18-19, 2005, majority and minority staff visited 
Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to review 
benefits delivery at discharge and Army and Navy medical 
facilities treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The 
trip focused on efforts toward a seamless transition of active 
duty service members from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps to 
veteran status.

Site visit--Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, Minneapolis, MN

    On August 2, 2005, Chairman Steve Buyer, Honorable John 
Kline, and majority staff inspected the care provided to 
veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation 
Iraqi Freedom (OIF) recovering from combat wounds at the VA 
Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center (PRC) in Minneapolis, 
Minnesota. During their visit to the center, which is part of 
the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, they spoke with staff and 
patients. The center is one of VA's four regional PRCs. It 
provides rehabilitation care for veterans returning from combat 
with severe injuries that may include traumatic brain injuries, 
amputations, wounds, blindness, hearing disorders, complex 
orthopedic injuries, and mental health concerns.

Site Visit--Palo Alto, CA

    On August 9-11, 2005, majority staff visited the Department 
of Veterans Affairs polytrauma center in Palo Alto, California, 
and the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 
Menlo Park, CA.
    As of July 2005, the Palo Alto VAMC had treated 405 
Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) 
patients, as either inpatients or outpatients. Specifically, 
the facility had treated 58 in the traumatic brain injury (TBI) 
clinic, two in the spinal cord injury center (SCI) and 14 in 
the PTSD clinic. The National Center for PTSD administers both 
inpatient and outpatient programs to veterans diagnosed with 
PTSD. In addition, the Palo Alto facility is designated as the 
lead clinic, providing care to active duty personnel referred 
by a military treatment facility (MTF). A VA Hospital, a Vet 
Center, or a Military Treatment Facility (MTF) must refer all 
patients receiving care at the NC PTSD.
    At the time of the trip, the facility had received patients 
from Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), Washington, DC, 
the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC), Bethesda, MD, and the 
Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, CA. Also reviewing seamless 
transition, staff met with the Veterans Benefits Administration 
(VBA) official at the facility. The VBA official indicated that 
VA has sufficient medical data to assign a rating for VA 
disability compensation and pension once the patient is 
discharged from active duty. On average, the VBA indicated that 
veterans are awarded their rating within 30 days of separation. 
Staff also discussed MCCF and findings from the 2003 IG CAP 
report with the Palo Alto VAMC.

Site Visit--Richmond, VA, VA Medical Center

    On November 15, 2005, majority and minority staff from the 
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations traveled to the 
Richmond VA VAMC to conduct a no-notice inspection of the 
facility. Following the inspection of the facility, staff met 
with the VAMC Director. Findings were unremarkable.

Site Visit--VA Medical Centers, PA and OH

    On December 7-10, 2005, the minority staff traveled to six 
VA Medical Centers, five of which were on a no-notice basis for 
the purpose of reviewing the physical facilities, meeting with 
employees to discuss their working relationships with 
management and discussing anticipated changes to information 
technology management with senior VAMC leaders. Best practices 
of the VAMCs were also discussed. On December 7th, a no-notice, 
late afternoon visit to the Altoona, PA, VAMC was completed. On 
December 8th, the Minority Staff Director conducted no-notice 
visits of the two Pittsburgh, PA based VAMCs, University Park 
and Highland Drive. Discussions centered on accommodating the 
new parking garage construction at University Park and on 
building disposition at the Highland Drive facility. University 
Park evidences great cooperation with the affiliated University 
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the liver transplant 
program is world class. The Butler, PA, VAMC was also visited 
on a no-notice basis. On December 9th, 2005 the Minority Staff 
Director visited the Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland, OH 
for a ``walk through'' of the facility. This was followed with 
a visit to the VAMC at Brecksville, OH for a ``walk through'' 
of the facility and a planned meeting with VA information 
technology and contracting personnel and Contractor personnel 
to discuss the Patient Financial Services System. At all six 
VAMCs, management of VA information technology systems was a 
key topic.

Oversight hearing on VA's flu vaccination program

    On December 15, 2005, the Subcommittee held a hearing on 
VA's flu vaccination program and preparation for a pandemic flu 
epidemic. The purpose of this hearing was to learn more about 
VA's efforts in planning, budgeting and administering its 
annual flu vaccination program, as well as VA's current 
immunization efforts, including shortages of vaccination, if 
any, reported cases, and surveillance efforts to date. 
Additionally, this hearing reviewed interagency coordination 
and collaboration and VA's role in the event of an avian flu 
pandemic.
    VA testified on their annual flu plan and the preparedness 
plan for a possible avian flu pandemic that is based off the 
annual plan. For the 2005-2006 flu season, VA spent $18.4 
million for 2.24 million doses of the flu vaccination. The 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testified that 
seasonal flu could cause an average of 36,000 deaths and more 
than 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States. A pandemic 
influenza could cause major economic impacts on the United 
States and would require strong interagency coordination and 
collaboration. See The Department of Veterans Affairs' Flu 
Vaccination Program--Serial No. 109-29.

Second Session

Site Visit--Nebraska

    On January 5-6, 2006, majority and minority staff from the 
Sub-committee on Oversight and Investigations and the 
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity traveled to Nebraska to 
review the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) at Offutt Air 
Force Base and the VETSNET demonstration at the Regional Office 
in Lincoln, NE.

Site Visit--Denver, CO

    On January 23-25, 2006, minority staff visited the Health 
Administration Center (HAC) in Denver for the purpose of 
following up on the concerns of several individuals with regard 
to contracting and personnel practices of the organization. 
Many HAC personnel records were reviewed by the Minority Staff 
Director, who also met on site with representatives from the VA 
Office of the Inspector General to review contracting 
practices. Additionally, the VA's participation in the 
University of Colorado's Fitzsimons Project was reviewed in 
detail.

Site Visit--San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX

    On February 21-24, 2006, majority staff traveled to 
California to visit the VA Health Care System San Diego and 
Balboa Naval Medical Center. Staff also traveled to El Paso, 
Texas to visit the VA Health Care System El Paso and William 
Beaumont Army Medical Center. The purpose of this trip was to 
evaluate seamless transition and use of electronic medical 
records between DOD and VA.

Site Visit--Baltimore, MD

    On February 26-March 2, 2006, minority staff attended the 
Office of Personnel (OPM) Conference at the Convention Center 
in Baltimore, MD. The purpose of this visit was to review OPM 
policy with regard to veterans seeking federal employment, 
enforcement of that policy, and the impact of alternative 
personnel systems on statutory veterans' preference.

Site Visit--Clearwater, FL

    On February 27-28, 2006, subcommittee staff traveled to the 
6th Annual Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference 
jointly provided by the VISN 8 Patient Center of Inquiry, the 
University of South Florida College of Nursing, the American 
Nurses Association, the National Institute for Occupational 
Safety and Health and the National Back Exchange of the UK. The 
purpose of this travelwas to discuss ``no lift'' policies for 
nurses, and how this policy affects patient safety, employee safety, 
workers' compensation claims, and nurse retention.

Oversight hearing on VA's FY 2007 information technology budget

    On March 2, 2006, the Subcommittee held a hearing on VA's 
FY 2007 Information Technology (IT) Budget and the priority IT 
projects and programs for FY 2006.
    VA testified on the IT Realignment initiative, a move 
toward a more effective IT infrastructure that fulfills VA's 
mission to provide for the health and well-being of the 
nation's veterans. Secretary Mansfield reiterated the VA 
commitment to the reorganization of the IT infrastructure. The 
President's 2007 budget for VA requested $1.257 billion for the 
non-payroll costs associated with IT projects across the 
department. See The Department of Veterans Affairs Budget 
Request for FY 2007 Information Technology Budget--Serial No. 
109-36.

Subcommittee inquiry into VA's contracted Compensation and 
Pension exams

    On April 27, 2006, Chairman Buyer requested that the 
Subcommittee conduct a bipartisan preliminary inquiry into the 
contracts VA awarded to QTC Management, Inc., and the role of 
former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi, in 
QTC and any of its contracts with VA. During the course of the 
inquiry, the Subcommittee interviewed 24 witnesses, including 
the former Secretary and key VA employees and reviewed 85 
documents relating to the QTC contracts and the former 
Secretary. As part of the inquiry, the VA's Office of Inspector 
General conducted a technical review of the QTC contracts 
awarded on February 23, 1998 and May 1, 2003. The bipartisan 
preliminary inquiry by the Subcommittee did not find evidence 
of conflict of interest or improper influence by the former 
Secretary in VA's contracts with QTC for compensation and 
pension medical examinations. However, the inquiry revealed 
serious flaws in the management of VA's contracting process.

Oversight Hearing on recent patient safety issues at VA medical 
centers

    On Thursday, June 15, 2006, the Subcommittee held a hearing 
to review patient safety at VA medical centers, and safety of 
medical devices involved in incidents at two VA medical 
centers.
    Testimony from VA focused on VA initiatives to monitor 
patient safety and the quality of care at VA medical centers. 
Testimony also discussed recent incidents in Tampa, Florida, 
and Togus, Maine, on the safety of medical devices, where 
sterilization of these devices was questioned. Testimony from 
the Food and Drug Administration discussed regulatory policy on 
medical devices and illustrated how unclear package labeling 
and instructions contributed to patient safety errors. The 
Honorable Nathan Deal, Georgia, Chairman of the Subcommittee on 
Health for the Committee on Energy and Commerce, attended this 
hearing to help examine medical device labeling requirements. 
The Government Accountability Office testified on 
recommendations relating to health care employment screening, 
regarding privileging, credentialing, and criminal background 
checks that have not been implemented VA-wide. See VA's 
Oversight on Patient Safety--Serial No. 109-52.

Staff Site Visit--Indianapolis, IN

    On July 5-6, 2006, the majority staff made an unannounced 
visit to the Indianapolis Regional Counsel's office. During the 
site visit, it was observed that the room containing backup 
tapes should be locked. Chairman Buyer and the Subcommittee 
Staff Director also conferred with Dr. Eugene Spafford, 
Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director, Center 
for Education and Research in Information Assurance and 
Security at Purdue University.

Staff Visit--Salt Lake City, UT and Reno, NV

    On August 27-30, 2006, minority staff visited two veteran 
service organization conventions. On August 27-28, he visited 
the American Legion Convention in Salt Lake City, UT for the 
purpose of soliciting grassroots perspectives regarding 
veterans' issues and for the purpose of speaking before the 
American Legion's Legislative Committee. He was joined by the 
Committee's Chief Counsel. The remainder of the visit was spent 
in Reno, NV meeting with veterans at the VFW convention and 
soliciting grassroots perspectives regarding veterans' issues.

Site Visit--Tampa, FL

    On August 29-30, 2006, majority staff traveled to Tampa, 
Florida, to join Subcommittee Chairman Bilirakis on a follow-up 
visit to the James A. Haley VAMC. The purpose of this trip was 
to discuss Committee issues with medical center staff and 
assist in a forum with Subcommittee Chairman Bilirakis and the 
Honorable Ginny Brown-Waite. Veterans' issues and updates on a 
number of actions at Haley were discussed with area veterans. 
Patient waiting times, the polytrauma center and spinal cord 
injury unit, patient safety, background and credentialing of 
hospital staff, nursing shortage and retention, PTSD, Medical 
Care Collections Fund (MCCF), data security and other current 
events at the Haley VAMC were discussed at the forum. A VBA 
representative from the St. Petersburg Regional Office was 
present to provide an update on claims processing times.

Site Visit--Richmond, VA

    On October 13, 2006, majority and minority staff traveled 
to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, 
Virginia. The purpose of this visit was part of a systemic 
review of VA poly-trauma centers. Staff met with the medical 
center staff and toured the facility, focusing on the 
polytrauma and spinal cord injury (SCI) units. Issues 
concerning PTSD, nurse staffing and retention, workers' 
compensation, VA weapons policy, scarce medical resource 
contracts, emergency preparedness, research activities and 
protection of human subjects were discussed. Staff also 
discussed the supply inventory and recommendations from the 
2004 Inspector General Combined Assessment Program (CAP) review 
report. Medical center staff told the Committee staff that all 
of the issues found in the 2004 CAP report were closed.

                                                                          SUMMARY OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ACTION
                                                            BILLS AND RESOLUTIONS REFERRED AND HEARINGS/EXECUTIVE SESSIONS CONDUCTED
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                                 Congress
                                         -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                           91st     92d     93d    94th    95th    96th    97th    98th    99th    100th   101st   102d    103d    104th   105th   106th   107th   108th   109th
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bills and resolutions referred..........     740     693     839     719     709     339     273     229     198     147     194     215     174     128     134     146     194     253     239
Hearing Sessions........................      43      37      44      58      72      84      89      71      76      44      72      67      71      39      56      66      58      65      71
Meetings and markup sessions............      27      21      16      30      26      19      18      16      20      16      26      20      23      19      18      13      14      16      18
Bills reported..........................      34      26  \1\ 14      23      32      11      16      15      17      14      33      21      25      15      15      10      14      22      10
Bills in House..........................       1       4       1  ......       1       1       1       3       3       1       4       3      11  ......  ......       1  ......  ......  ......
Pending in Senate committees............       9       7       2   \2\ 9      17       3       6       6       8       9      23       7      11      10       1       1      10       7      11
Bills on Senate Calendar or in Senate...  ......  ......  ......  ......       1       1       1  ......       1       3       1       3       3  ......  ......       1  ......       4  ......
Recommitted.............................  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
Bills vetoed............................  ......       2       1  ......  ......       1  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
Bills passed over veto..................  ......  ......       1  ......  ......       1  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......  ......
Laws enacted............................      24      15      15      15      13       6       8       8       6       4       8      24      15       6       6      11      13       9      9
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ The difference in number of bills reported (14) and number of laws enacted (15) is due to the fact that S. 3705 did not go to the House Committee. However, the subject matter was included
  in H.R. 12628.
\2\ Includes H.R. 9576 subject matter of which was contained in S. 969, passed in lieu.

                    HEARINGS AND EXECUTIVE SESSIONS

    All hearings and executive sessions of the Committee are 
held in the Committee hearing room, Room 334, Cannon House 
Office Building unless otherwise designated.
    February 10, 2005. OPEN. 1:00 p.m. Full Committee. Meeting. 
Organizational and Oversight Plan.
    February 16, 2005, OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee, 
Hearing. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY 
2006. (Serial No. 109-1)
    February 17, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. Meeting 
To discuss Committee's views and estimates for the FY 2006 
budget for submission to the Budget Committee.
    March 8, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. House and Senate Veterans' 
Affairs Committees. Joint Hearing. Room 345 Cannon 110B. The 
Legislative Priorities of the Disabled American Veterans.
    March 9, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 am. House and Senate Veterans' 
Affairs Committees. Joint Hearing. Room 216 Hart SOB. The 
Legislative Priorities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
    March 10, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. House and Senate Veterans' 
Affairs Committees. Joint Hearing. Room 345 Cannon HOB. The 
Legislative Priorities of the Blinded Veterans Association, Non 
Commissioned Officers Association, Military Order of the Purple 
Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Jewish War Veterans.
    April 14, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. House and Senate Veterans' 
Affairs Committees. Joint Hearing. Room 345 Cannon HOB. The 
Legislative Priorities of the Military Officers Association of 
America, National Association of State Directors of Veterans 
Affairs, AMVETS, American Ex-Prisoners of War and Vietnam 
Veterans of America.
    April 20, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight hearing on 
the National Cemetery Administration. (Serial No. 109-2)
    April 20, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Oversight hearing on the Department of 
Veterans Affairs' Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment 
Program. (Serial No. 109-3)
    April 21, 2005 OPEN. 10:00 a.m. House and Senate Veterans' 
Affairs Committees Joint Hearing. Room 345 Cannon HOB. The 
Legislative Priorities of the Fleet Reserve Association, Air 
Force Sergeants Association, The Retired Enlisted Association 
and Gold Star Wives.
    May 4, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Legislative Hearing on H.R. 419, Hire 
Veterans Act of 2005, H.R. 2046, Servicemembers' Health 
Insurance Protection Act of 2005, and two draft bills. (Serial 
No. 109-6)
    May 5, 2005. OPEN. 9:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Markup. H.R. 2046, Servicemembers' Health 
Insurance Protection Act of 2005.
    May 5, 2005. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight hearing to 
review the operations of the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) 
and the Appeals Management Center (AMC). (Serial No. 109-5)
    May 11, 2005. OPEN. 11:00 a.m. Full Committee. Markup. H.R. 
2046, Servicemembers' Health Insurance Protection Act of 2005.
    May 12, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Oversight hearing on the U.S. Department 
of Labor, Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS). 
(Serial No. 109-7)
    May 18, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Health. 
Hearing. Oversight hearing on the use and development of 
telemedicine technologies in the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) health care system. (Serial No, 109-8)
    May 19, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Oversight 
and Investigations. Hearing. Oversight hearing regarding the 
Department of Veterans Affairs' and the Department of Defense's 
efforts to assist military personnel in making a ``seamless 
transition'' from active duty to veterans'' status. (Serial No. 
109-9)
    May 24, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Workforce, 
Empowerment, and Govemment Programs, Committee on Small 
Business, and Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Committee 
on Veterans' Affairs. Hearing. Room 311 Cannon HOB. ``How are 
our veteran-owned small business owners being served?'' (HSBC 
Serial No. 109-17/HVAC Serial No. 109-4)
    May 25, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Legislative hearing on H.R. 717, to 
expand the scope of programs of education for which accelerated 
payments of educational assistance under the Montgomery GI Bill 
may be used, and for other purposes; H.R. 745, the Veterans 
Self-Employment Act of 2005; and H.R. 1207, the Department of 
Veterans Affairs Work-Study Act of 2005. (Serial No. 109-10)
    June 9, 2005. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Markup. H.R. 1220, Veterans' 
Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2005.
    June 16, 2005. OPEN. 1:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs Hearing. Legislative hearing to 
consider draft legislation to amend the Servicemembers' Group 
Life Insurance (SGLI) program, the Traumatic Injury Protection 
provisions of Public Law 109-13, and H.R. 1618, the Wounded 
Warrior Servicemembers' Group Disability Insurance Act of 2005. 
(Serial No. 109-11)
    June 21, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Oversight 
and Investigations. Markup. To consider H.R. 2988, the Veterans 
Medical Care Revenue Enhancement Act of 2005.
    June 23, 2005. OPEN. 9:30 a.m. Full Committee. Markup. H.R. 
1220, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act 
of 2005.
    June 23, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. To 
examine the budget modeling and methodologies used by the 
Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and forecast 
veterans' health care costs and utilization projections for 
future years. (Serial No. 109-12)
    June 29, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Oversight hearing on the Transition 
Assistance and Disabled Transition Assistance Programs (TAP/
DTAP). (Serial No. 109-17)
    June 30, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs' 
necessity to reprogram SI billion to the medical services 
account in Fiscal Year 2005 and its implication for Fiscal Year 
2006. (Serial No. 109-16)
    July 13, 2005. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Markup. Markup of H.R, 3200, 
the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Enhancement Act of 
2005.
    July 14, 2005. OPEN. 1:00 p.m. Full Committee. Markup. H.R. 
3200, the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Enhancement Act 
of 2005, and H. Res. 361, a resolution recognizing the 75th 
anniversary of the establishment of the Veterans Administration 
on July 21, 1930.
    July 21, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Over-sight hearing on the amendment the Administration 
submitted to Congress for the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) FY 2006 budget, requesting $1.977 billion for higher-than-
expected veterans' health care needs. (Serial No, 109-18)
    July 27, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Over-sight hearing on the Department of Defense and Department 
of Veterans Affairs: The Continuum of Care for Post Traumatic 
Stress Disorder. (Serial No. 109-19)
    July 27, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Markup. H.R. 419, the Hire Veterans Act of 2005, 
and H.R. 3279, to amend title 38, U.S. Code, to reauthorize the 
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program for FY 2007 and FY 
2008.
    July 27, 2005. OPEN. 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity Hearing. Legislative hearing on several bills and 
draft bills regarding matters under its jurisdiction. (Serial 
No. 109-20)
    August 22, 2005. OPEN. 9:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Health 
Field Hearing. Rangley Hall, Eastern Maine Community College. 
Bangor, Maine. Oversight Hearing on Rural Veterans' Access to 
Primary Care: Successes and Challenges. (Serial No. 109-21)
    September 8, 2005. OPEN. 3:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Markup. Pending Legislation.
    September 14, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. 
Hearing. Oversight hearing regarding the Department of Veterans 
Affairs' (VA) information technology infrastructure 
reorganization, and proposed legislation to enhance the role of 
the Chief Information Officer (CIO). (Serial No. 109-22)
    September 19, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Economic Opportunity Field Hearing. Pease Air National Guard 
Base, New Hampshire. Oversight hearing on transition assistance 
for members of the National Guard. (Serial No. 109-23)
    September 20, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. House and Senate 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs. Joint Hearing. Room 345 Cannon 
House Office Building. Annual legislative presentation of The 
American Legion.
    September 26, 2005. OPEN. 9:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Health. 
Field Hearing. Solomon Conference Room, Thurmond Gazes Re-
search Building Medical University of South Carolina, 
Charleston, South Carolina. Oversight hearing on a formalized 
agreement between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the 
Medical University of South Carolina on shared facilities and 
resources. (Serial No. 109-24)
    September 28, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Full Committee. 
Hearing. Oversight hearing regarding the status of seamless 
transition between the Department of Defense and the Department 
of Veterans Affairs. (Serial No. 109-25)
    October 20, 2005. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight 
hearing on State-by-State variances of claims decisions. 
(Serial No. 109-26)
    October 20, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Full Committee. Markup. 
H.R. 3665, the Veterans Housing Improvement Act of 2005, H.R. 
1691, Designating the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient 
clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, as the ``John H. Bradley 
Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic,'' and H.R. 
4061, The Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology 
Management Improvement Act of 2005.
    November 3, 2005. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Budget 
Methodologies for Veterans' Benefits Administration 
Compensation and Pension Programs. (Serial No. 109-27)
    December 7, 2005. OPEN. 10:30 a.m., Full Committee. 
Hearing. Oversight hearing on the challenges and opportunities 
facing disability claims process at the Veterans Benefits 
Administration. (Serial No. 109-28)
    December 15, 2005. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Oversight and Investigations. Hearing. Oversight hearing on the 
Department of Veterans Affairs' annual flu vaccination program 
and its preparedness in the event of an avian flu pandemic. 
(Serial No. 109-29)
    February 8, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
The Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY 2007. 
(Serial No. 109-30)
    February 14, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Economic Opportunity Hearing. Department of Veterans Affairs 
Budget Re-quest for FY 2007 for the Education, Vocational 
Rehabilitation, and Loan Guaranty Programs. (Serial No. 109-31)
    February 14, 2006. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Health. 
Hearing. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for FY 
2007 for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). (Serial No. 
109-32)
    February 15, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. 
Hearing. Presentation of annual legislative agenda, views, and 
priorities for the following Veterans Service Organizations: 
Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, 
The American Legion, Jewish War Veterans, Blinded Veterans 
Association, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Military 
Order of the Purple Heart, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. 
(Serial No. 109-33)
    February 16, 2006. OPEN 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Presentation of annual legislative agenda, views, and 
priorities for the following Veterans Service Organizations: 
Gold Star Wives, Fleet Reserve Association, Air Force Sergeants 
Association, The Retired Enlisted Association, The Military 
Officers Association of America, The Vietnam Veterans of 
America, Association for Service Disabled Veterans, National 
Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, American 
Ex-Prisoners of War and National Association of County Veterans 
Service Officers. (Serial No. 109-34)
    February 16, 2006. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. The 
Department of Veterans Affairs FY 2007 Budget Request for the 
Compensation and Pension Business Lines. (Serial No. 109-35)
    February 16, 2006. OPEN. 3:00 p.m. Full Committee. Meeting. 
Business meeting to discuss the Committee's views and estimates 
for the FY 2007 budget.
    March 2, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Oversight 
and Investigations. Hearing. The Department of Veterans Affairs 
Budget Request for FY 2007 IT budget (Serial No. 109-36)
    March 8, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Department of Veterans Affairs Collaboration Opportunities with 
Affiliated Medical Institutions and the Department of Defense. 
(Serial No. 109-37)
    March 9, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Oversight hearing on the VA's Vocational 
Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E;) contract services 
and its coordination with the Department of Labor's Veterans' 
Employment and Training Service (VETS). (Serial No. 109-38)
    March 15, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on the Modernization of the GI Bill. (Serial 
No. 109-39)
    March 16, 2006. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. The accuracy of 
benefits information provided to, and the quality of service 
received by, individuals calling into the Veterans Benefits 
Administration (VBA). (Serial No. 109-40)
    March 22, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Field Hearing. National Guard Armory, 
Rogers, AR. Oversight hearing on transition assistance for 
members of the National Guard and education benefits for the 
total military force. (Serial No. 109-41)
    March 29, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on Enhanced Access to the Department of 
Veterans Affairs Health Care, (Serial No. 109-42)
    March 30, 2006. OPEN. 1:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight hearing on 
Arlington National Cemetery and the American Battle Monuments 
Commission. (Serial No. 109-43)
    April 6, 2006. OPEN. 1:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Legislative hearing 
on H.R. 23, H.R. 601, H.R. 2188, H.R. 5037, and H.R. 5038. 
(Serial No. 109-44)
    April 26, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Over-sight hearing on Corporate Commitment to Hiring Veterans. 
(Serial No. 109-45)
    April 27, 2006. OPEN 1:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Legislative hearing on H.R. 4791, three 
draft bills, and a proposed amendment to H.R. 3082. (Serial No. 
109-46)
    May 10, 2006. OPEN. 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Markup. Markup on H.R. 3082 and H.R. 5220. 
Amendments in the nature of a substitute offered for both 
bills. (Serial No. 109-47)
    May 11, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on Right-sizing the Department of Veterans 
Affairs Infrastructure and the Department's pending major 
medical facility project and lease authorization requests. 
(Serial No. 109-47)
    May 25, 2006. OPEN. 9:00 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. The 
Failure of VA's Information Management. (Serial No. 109-48)
    June 7, 2006. OPEN. 12:30 p.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Department of Veterans Affairs Research--From Bench to Bedside. 
(Serial No. 109-49)
    June 8, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight hearing on 
the Veterans Benefits Administration's fiduciary program, 
including implementation of Title V of Public Law 108-454. 
(Serial No. 109-50)
    June 8, 2006. OPEN. 11:30 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Markup. H.R. 601, H.R. 4843, 
and H.R. 5038.
    June 14, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Continued oversight on the Failure of VA's Information Security 
Management. (Serial No. 109-51)
    June 15, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Oversight 
and Investigations. Hearing. Oversight hearing on VA's 
Oversight on Patient Safety. (Serial No. 109-52)
    June 19, 2006. OPEN. 9:30 a.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Field Hearing. 29 Operation Support Squadron 
Auditorium, 1956 Scott Drive, Ellsworth AFB, SD 57706. 
Oversight hearing on transition assistance for members of 
active duty, Reserve, and National Guard servicemembers and 
education benefits for the total military force. (Serial No. 
109-53)
    June 20, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Joint Hearing. Oversight hearing on Veterans 
Benefits Administration and Data Protection. (Serial No. 109-
54)
    June 21, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Health. 
Over-sight hearing on Safeguarding veterans' medical 
information within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). 
(Serial No. 109-55)
    June 22, 2006. OPEN. 10:15 a.m. Full Committee. Markup. 
Markup of H.R. 4843, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living 
Adjustment Act of 2006.
    June 22, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on the legal aspects relating to compensation 
of veterans affected by the theft of data from a VA employee's 
home. (Serial No. 109-56)
    June 27, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on Health. 
Hearing. Oversight hearing to examine the Department of 
Veterans Affairs' efforts to provide high quality health care 
to veterans in rural communities. (Serial No. 109-57)
    June 28, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Oversight hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs' 
Information Technology Management. (Serial No. 109-58)
    June 29, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Continued oversight on the loss of data due to the theft at a 
VA employee's home. (Serial No. 109-59)
    July 13, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Markup. 
Markup on H.R. 3082, The Veterans Small Business and Employment 
Promotion Act of 2006.
    July 18, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Hearing. 
Legislative hearing on Veterans Identity and Credit Protection 
Legislation. (Serial No. 109-60)
    July 19, 2006. OPEN. 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight hearing on 
the role of national and county service officers in claims 
development. (Serial No. 109-61)
    July 20, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. Markup. 
Markup on H. Con. Res. 125, H. Con. Res. 347, H.R. 5815, and 
H.R. 5835.
    September 13, 2006. OPEN. 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Training 
and performance standards for VBA claims adjudicators. (Serial 
No. 109-62)
    September 20, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. 
Hearing. Hearing I to receive a look behind, and a look forward 
from the major Veterans Service Organizations in preparation 
for budget consideration. (Serial No. 109-63)
    September 21, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Full Committee. 
Hearing. Hearing II to receive a look behind, and a look 
forward from the major Veterans Service Organizations in 
preparation for budget consideration. (Serial No. 109-64)
    September 27, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. 2118 Rayburn House 
Office Building. Joint Hearing. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity and Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House 
Armed Services Committee. Joint hearing on the Montgomery G.I. 
Bill for Members of the Selected Reserve. (HASC Serial No. 109-
85/HVAC Serial No. 109-65)
    September 27, 2006. OPEN. 10:30 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. Hearing. Oversight 
hearing on the VBA Pension Program. (Serial No. 109-66)
    September 28, 2006. OPEN. 10:00 a.m. Subcommittee on 
Health. Hearing. Oversight hearing on Post-Traumatic Stress 
Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury. Emerging trends in 
force and veteran health. (Serial No. 109-67)
    December 7, 2006. OPEN. 2:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity. Hearing. Oversight hearing to review Departments' 
actions regarding the recommendations of the 1999 Transition 
Commission Report. (Serial No. 109-68)

                           COMMITTEE WEB SITE


                         WWW.VETERANS.HOUSE.GOV

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs operates, maintains, and 
up-dates a web site (veterans.house.gov) containing 
comprehensive and timely information on Committee activities, 
federal actions, and other news of interest to veterans. The 
web site contains thousands of pages of information, organized 
into nine sections: About the Committee; About the Chairman; 
Committee News; Committee Hearings; Committee Documents; 
Veterans' Legislation; VA Benefits; VA Health Care; and 
Veterans Links. The web site continues to be a resource for the 
veteran community for news and information relating to benefits 
and programs.
                   OVERSIGHT PLAN FOR 109TH CONGRESS

    In accordance with clause 2(d)(1) of Rule X of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs on February 
10, 2005, adopted its oversight plan for the 109th Congress. 
This oversight plan is directed at those matters most in need 
of oversight within the next two years. The Committee is 
cognizant of the requirement adopted for the 109th Congress 
that oversight plans ``have a view toward insuring against 
duplication of Federal pro-grams.'' The Committee will consult 
as necessary with other House Committees having jurisdiction 
over the same or related laws affecting veterans.
    Oversight will be accomplished through committee and 
subcommittee hearings, field and site visits by Members and 
staff, and meetings and correspondence with interested parties. 
Methods of oversight will include existing and requested 
reports, studies, estimates, investigations and audits by the 
Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget 
Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Offices 
of the Inspectors General of the Departments of Veterans 
Affairs and Labor.
    The Committee will seek the views of veterans' service 
organizations, military associations, other interest groups and 
private citizens. The Committee also welcomes communications 
from any individuals and organizations desiring to bring 
matters to its attention. While this oversight plan describes 
the foreseeable areas in which the Committee expects to conduct 
oversight during the 109th Congress, the Committee and its 
subcommittees will undertake additional oversight activities as 
the need arises.
    The full Committee may at the discretion of the Chairman 
after consultation with the Ranking Minority Member conduct any 
of the oversight activities planned by the subcommittees.

       SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY ASSISTANCE AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS

    1. Consistency Among Claims Decisions. The Committee is 
concerned about evidence of inconsistencies among VA's regional 
offices when making an initial decision on whether to award 
disability benefits and the rating assigned to similar 
disabilities. As GAO reported in August 2002 and November 2004, 
VA has not systematically assessed the consistency of regional 
offices' ratings of impairments. In December 2004, the VA 
Inspector General began a review of inconsistencies in the 
rating assigned to disability claims. Following the results of 
that assessment, the Committee intends to examine the measures 
VA is taking to assess and measure consistency and to assure 
that disability decision-making is consistent among all 57 
regional offices.
    2. Training of Claims Adjudicators. The Committee plans 
oversight of the training standards of claims adjudicators, to 
include how changes in law and regulation are transmitted to 
the field and disseminated to regional staff, how quality 
assurance is maintained, and the implementation of VA's new 
pilot authority under Public Law 108-454 to create structured 
on-job training for claims adjudicators under VA educational 
assistance programs.
    3. Nonservice-Connected Pension Program. The VA pension 
program provides financial assistance to more than 340,000 low-
income veterans. Benefits under the pension program provide 
assistance to veterans who are totally and permanently 
disabled, but whose disability is not service-connected. 
Veterans who are age 65 or older may qualify for a VA pension 
based upon age. To be eligible, veterans must have at least 90 
days of military service, including at least one day of wartime 
service. The Committee will examine the administration of these 
programs.
    4. Review of Board of Veterans' Appeals and Appeals 
Management Center. The Board of Veterans' Appeals reviews 
benefit claims determinations made by local VA regional 
offices, and issues decisions on appeals. In FY 2004, the Board 
decided 38,371 appeals and remanded 56.8 percent for additional 
action. In order to handle the large number of remands, the 
Veterans Benefits Administration established an Appeals 
Management Center. The Committee will review the operations of 
the Board of Veterans' Appeals and the Appeals Management 
Center through briefings and hearings.
    5. Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission. Public Law 
108-136 established the Veterans' Disability Benefits 
Commission. The commission will examine and make 
recommendations concerning, among other things, the 
appropriateness of the level of benefits and the appropriate 
standard or standards for determining whether a disability or 
death of a veteran should be compensated. The Committee will 
review the recommendations of the Commission through briefings 
and hearings.
    6. Maintenance, Appearance, and Upkeep of National 
Cemeteries. Many VA national cemeteries, both open and closed, 
are in a deplorable state of disrepair. A 2002 Logistics 
Management Institute study of improvements to veterans' 
cemeteries (entitled ``National Shrine Commitment'') identified 
928 full-scale cemetery restoration and repair projects. The 
Committee will examine the immediate and long-term needs of the 
national cemetery system.

                  SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

    1. Jobs and Business Opportunities for Servicemembers and 
Veterans. The Committee plans to conduct hearings to high-light 
servicemembers and veterans as a desirable business asset, with 
a focus on recently separated servicemembers returning from 
Iraq and Afghanistan. The Committee will also examine the 
results of the President's National Hire Veterans Committee, 
created by Public Law 107-288.
    2. Department of Labor Job Training and Transition 
Services. Public Law 107-288, the Jobs for Veterans Act, 
improved and modernized the Department of Labor's veterans' 
employment and training services, including providing veterans 
``first-in-line'' priority in all DOL funded employment and 
training programs. Public Law 108-183 requires DOL to furnish 
pre-separation job placement services to servicemembers serving 
overseas. The Committee will examine the effectiveness of each 
of these programs.
    3. Department of Labor Disabled Veterans Outreach Program 
Specialist and Local Veterans Employment Representative 
Programs. The Department of Labor funds state employment 
service positions, Department of Labor Disabled Veterans 
Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and Local Veterans 
Employment Representatives (LVERs). These positions are 
responsible for identifying employment opportunities for 
veterans and job placement. The Subcommittee will evaluate the 
results obtained by DVOPs and LVERs and program coordination 
with other government and non-governmental agencies tasked with 
ensuring veterans achieve and maintain gainful employment.
    4. State Approving Agencies. Veterans may only receive GI 
Bill benefits while attending a VA-approved course of 
instruction. VA contracts with state education agencies to 
approve and monitor education and training programs to ensure 
they meet the needs of veterans. The state agencies also 
provide local resources to investigate alleged violations of VA 
education regulations as well as a wide range of oversight 
functions on behalf of VA. The Subcommittee will assess the 
performance of the State Approving Agencies.
    5. Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment. VA's 
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E;) program 
provides services and assistance to enable veterans with 
service-connected disabilities to obtain and maintain suitable 
employment, and to enable certain other disabled veterans to 
achieve independence in daily living. The Committee will 
examine VR&E;'s focus on suitable employment, assistance to the 
most seriously disabled veterans, succession planning, 
contracted services, claims processing, employer outreach and 
quality assurance.
    6. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights 
Act. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act 
(USERRA) provides a broad range of employment rights and 
responsibilities for veterans and employers. The law was 
recently amended to establish a demonstration project for 
improved enforcement by the Federal government. The 
Subcommittee will assess the effectiveness of USERRA with 
special emphasis on National Guard and Reserve members 
returning to the workforce following activation.
    7. The Veterans Corporation. The Veterans Corporation (TVC) 
was created to promote entrepreneurial activities among 
veterans. The Subcommittee will review TVC programs, activities 
and plans for future expansion.
    8. VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business. Federal 
agencies are required to observe a veterans set aside for a 
portion of their supply and service contracts for small and 
disadvantaged businesses. The Subcommittee will determine 
whether VA is meeting its goals to expand opportunities for 
small, disadvantaged and veteran-owned businesses.
    9. Categorical Ranking System. The Office of Personnel 
Management has authorized implementation of a categorical 
ranking system that accords veterans' preference differently 
than the 5 or 10 point advantage required by the previous 
system. The subcommittee will review the effectiveness of the 
new system.

                         SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH

    1. Advisory Committee Review. VA has many advisory 
committees, often required by Congress, to provide advice and 
guidance on veterans programs and services. The Subcommittee 
will review the cost and effectiveness of advisory committees.
    2. Delivery Options for VA Health Care. The Subcommittee 
will examine the use of telemedicine and other innovative 
alternatives to provide quality and cost-effective care to 
eligible veterans.
    3. Home Improvements and Structural Alterations Program. 
The Subcommittee plans to review the operation of the program 
and whether there is a duplication of services in VA's adapted 
housing program.
    4. Homeless Assistance Programs for Veterans. The 
Subcommittee will evaluate the effectiveness of VA's homeless 
programs, coordination with other federal agency programs, and 
the need for better census and outcome data.
    5. Long-Term Care Programs. The Subcommittee will review 
VA's institutional and non-institutional programs and explore 
innovative ways to deliver long-term care for eligible 
veterans.
    6. Medical Research Programs. The Subcommittee will examine 
the extent to which VA's research programs meet the statutory 
requirement for conducting research into injuries and illnesses 
related to military service and benefit the clinical treatment 
needs of veterans.
    7. Meeting the Health Care Needs of Veterans. The 
Subcommittee will evaluate VA's priorities of care in 
fulfilling its mission to provide timely, high-quality health 
care.
    8. Post Deployment Health. Thousands of service members 
have recently returned and will continue to return from 
Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The 
Committee will assess VA's programs for meeting the health care 
needs of these veterans, including their mental health care 
needs.
    9. Prosthetics and Special-Disabilities Programs. The 
Subcommittee will assess VA programs, including research and 
technology development, that serve veterans with spinal cord 
injury, vision impairment, loss of or loss of use of 
extremities, hearing impairment, or other serious disabilities 
and injuries.
    10. VA Capital Asset and Facility Management. VA plans to 
invest $1 billion annually over the next several years to 
implement the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services 
(CARES) recommendations and modernize VA's health care system. 
The Subcommittee will continue to evaluate the CARES process 
and VA's capital asset plans, including those for Charleston, 
SC and Denver, CO. Additionally, the Subcommittee will review 
VA's implementation of section 411 of Public Law 108-422, which 
established the Capital Asset Fund and provided VA with 
additional authority to transfer unneeded VA real property.
    11. VA Nursing Quality and Recruitment. The Subcommittee 
will explore innovative measures VA medical centers may use to 
attract and retain nursing personnel and support quality 
patient care, including the Magnet Recognition Program.
    12. VA Physician and Dentist Issues. Public Law 108-445, 
the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Personnel 
Enhancement Act of 2003, established a reformed compensation 
system for VA physicians and dentists. The Subcommittee will 
conduct oversight to ensure VA is meeting Congressional intent, 
and to monitor the extent the reformed compensation system 
reduces VA's use of costly contract physicians.
    13. Women Veterans Programs. VA has many clinical programs 
that serve women veterans. The Subcommittee will evaluate VA's 
programs and the various care delivery options to provide 
services to women veterans.

              SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS

    1. VA's Acquisition Process. The VA spends approximately $6 
billion annually for pharmaceuticals, medical and surgical 
supplies, prosthetic devices, information technology, 
construction, and services. VA faces major challenges to 
implement a more efficient, effective, and coordinated 
acquisition program. The subcommittee will hold a hearing to 
review VA's procurement practices.
    2. Evaluating Management Efficiencies. The VA plans to 
achieve specified savings each FY by implementing various 
procedures to achieve cost avoidance. The subcommittee will 
examine the relationship of projected savings with demonstrated 
savings and assess the impact on delivery of quality services.
    3. Nursing Recruitment, Retention, and Staffing. VA 
continues to have nursing recruiting and retention problems, 
and nursing resource issues. The subcommittee will review what 
actions VA has taken to address these issues. The subcommittee 
will also review VA's staffing methodologies, standards, and 
data systems for nursing services to enhance recruiting, 
retention, and job satisfaction.
    4. VA Information Technology Programs. The subcommittee 
will continue its oversight of VA's IT programs, including the 
Core Financial and Logistics System, the integrated financial 
management and logistics system under development by VA. The 
Subcommittee will continue its review of this program and VA's 
development plans for the future.
    5. Recruiting and Retention of Medical Specialists. The 
subcommittee will examine whether VA has the proper medical 
specialists to meet the needs of veterans.
    6. Credentialing and Screening of VA Healthcare Employees. 
The subcommittee will examine VA's implementation of Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations for screening 
professional credentials of VA healthcare practitioners.
    7. VA/DOD Consolidated Mail Order Pharmacy Demonstration. 
The subcommittee has requested that GAO review the cost 
effectiveness of having VA consolidated mail order pharmacies 
handle DOD's prescription refills. The subcommittee will assess 
whether cost savings could be realized by consolidating similar 
programs within VA and DOD.
    8. Controlled Substances Security. The IG's Combined 
Assessment Program Reviews have repeatedly found material 
weaknesses in VA medical center security of controlled 
substances. Poor security or lack of security seriously 
increases the potential for waste, fraud, abuse, and drug 
diversion. The subcommittee will examine how VA is addressing 
this issue.
    9. Medical Care Collection Fund. The subcommittee will 
conduct a follow-up oversight on VA's progress in its medical 
care collection efforts including demonstrations, 
consolidations and outsourcing initiatives.
    10. Medical Appointment Waiting Times. VA states that 94 
percent of primary care appointments are made within 30 days, 
even with a 34 percent increase in health care users. The 
subcommittee will examine VA's progress in reducing waiting 
times and review the methodology utilized in these performance 
outcome measurements.
    11. Human Subjects Protection Program. GAO will evaluate 
VA's notification procedures for dealing with research 
misconduct, and the lessons learned from veterans' deaths as a 
result of research misconduct. The subcommittee will review 
what corrective actions have been implemented by VA system-
wide.
    12. Physician Time and Attendance. The IG has cited 
numerous problems with part-time physician time and attendance 
issues in its Combined Assessment Program (CAP) reports. In its 
Audit Part-Time Physician Time and Attendance, Report 02-01339-
85, April 23, 2003, the IG made recommendations to correct the 
problem. The subcommittee will continue to review corrective 
actions taken by VHA.
    13. VA/DOD Benefits Delivery at Discharge Program. The 
subcommittee will evaluate DOD's utilization of a single 
examination that meets both military services' separation 
requirements and VA's disability compensation criteria. The 
subcommittee will also review VA's efforts to co-locate 
Veterans Benefits Administration and Veterans Health 
Administration personnel involved in compensation and pension 
claims processing to provide more efficient one-stop claims 
processing centers. Further, the Subcommittee will examine 
whether there is duplication of physical examinations between 
VA and DOD.
    14. Force Protection and Seamless Transition. The process 
for determining eligibility for veterans' benefits, assessing 
health status and receiving VA health care once a servicemember 
separates from active duty should be seamless, timely and 
accurate. The subcommittee will review VA and DOD progress 
toward a seamless transition to veteran status.
    15. Electronic Medical Records. VA and DOD through their 
joint Health Executive Council have developed a plan to create 
an interoperable electronic medical record by 2005. The 
subcommittee will review the progress that has been made in 
interoperability and the timely bi-directional exchange of 
medical information.
    16. Workers' Compensation Program. The IG previously 
reported on VA's poor case management of workers' compensation 
claims. VA is at risk for program abuse, fraud, and unnecessary 
costs because it has not fully implemented IG recommendations 
issued in 1999. The subcommittee will examine what should be 
done to improve the Workers Compensation Program.
    17. EEO Complaint Resolution System. Public Law 105-114, 
the Veterans Benefits Act of 1997, included a requirement that 
the Department of Veterans Affairs take actions to improve its 
equal employment opportunity program and created the Office of 
Resolution Management. The subcommittee will review the 
effectiveness of the Office of Resolution Management.
    18. Enhanced Land Leases and Divestment of Federal 
Property. The subcommittee will review the adequacy of internal 
controls related to leasing or selling of Department of 
Veterans Affair's assets and assess the tangible benefit to 
taxpayers.
 REPORT TO THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET FROM THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' 
AFFAIRS, SUBMITTED PURSUANT TO SECTION 301 OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET 
   ACT OF 1974, ON THE BUDGET PROPOSED FOR FY 2006, FEBRUARY 23, 2005


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              

                          House of Representatives,
                            Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
                                 Washington, DC, February 23, 2005.
Hon. Jim Nussle,
Chairman, House Committee on the Budget,
Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: As Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs, I submit this letter on behalf of the Majority in response to 
the request of the Committee on the Budget that each standing committee 
submit views and estimates on all matters under its jurisdiction by 
February 23, 2005, with regard to the President's budget request for 
fiscal year 2006. The Ranking Minority Member of the Committee will 
submit a separate letter on behalf of the Minority. With its core 
values-based assessment of the budget submission for veterans' 
programs, the Committee on Veterans' Affairs is aware of the difficult 
choices that must be made at a time when our Nation is at war and faces 
fiscal constraints.
    In establishing priorities for veterans' services and assistance, 
Congress believes that the same military values that guided 
servicemembers on active duty should define how services and assistance 
are provided to them now as veterans. These values are similar for all 
of the Armed Services: Navy--Honor, Courage, Commitment; Marine Corps--
Honor, Courage, Commitment; Army--Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Service, 
Honor, Integrity, Courage; Air Force--Integrity First, Service Before 
Self, Excellence in All that We Do; Coast Guard--Honor, Respect and 
Devotion to Duty.
    Congress restructured the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
health care system in 1996 to include health care for lower priority, 
nonservice-connected categories of veterans based on their need and 
means to pay for those services, and to the extent resources and 
facilities were available. The 1996 veterans health care eligibility 
reform of Public Law 104-262 was based on assumptions that providing VA 
health care to lower priority veterans would be ``budget neutral'' and 
at best ``revenue enhancing.'' These assumptions have now proven to be 
in error. The VA has $3 billion in uncollected debts. Therefore, it is 
time for Congress to focus its commitment to veterans based on the 
clear priorities and ageless military values that should define the VA 
health care system. It is contrary to these values to have a system 
that allows nonservice-connected veterans to compete with service-
connected disabled veterans for health care. While we always honor 
service in and of itself, we should consider the effect of that service 
on the individual veteran to determine our priorities for VA health 
care. It follows, then, that disabled, injured, low income, and special 
needs veterans are to be given priority for their health care.
    The prospect is for continuing high levels of demand for government 
services and assistance, both from veterans of past wars and from 
servicemembers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts of the 
war on terror. This has led our Committee to begin a comprehensive 
reevaluation of the programs of the VA and the Veterans' Employment and 
Training Service at the Department of Labor. The Committee's objective 
is to ensure that the veterans most in need--those who are disabled, 
injured, low income, or have special needs--have priority for 
appropriate services and assistance. The Committee intends to protect 
the investment of tax dollars in veterans' programs by holding 
executive departments accountable for their performance by stressing 
quality and timeliness, and by requiring measurable performance 
outcomes and streamlining infrastructure.
    The President requests a total of $70.8 billion, including 
collections, for the fiscal year 2006 veterans' budget, an increase of 
$1.5 billion in budget authority. The President requests $37.4 billion 
for fiscal year 2006 in mandatory funding for veterans' disability 
compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and 
employment, housing, life insurance, and burial programs. Discretionary 
programs would receive $33.4 billion, including $30.7 billion for 
veterans' medical care. The President proposes an overall increase in 
discretionary budget authority of $880 million, including collections.
    The Committee recommends for fiscal year 2006 an increase in 
discretionary funding for veterans' health care funding of $317.2 
million. The Committee believes an increase in this amount is warranted 
during the war on terror to ensure adequate health care and mental 
health services for returning servicemembers and a large population of 
aging veterans. This amount includes $293.5 million to continue the 
strong State-Federal cost sharing partnership which currently exists 
for State Nursing Homes; $215 million to offset a reduced estimate of 
achievable management efficiencies; and $202.3 million to allow a more 
balanced and equitable enrollment fee system that takes into account 
the priority of care as set forth by Congress, and to maintain the 
current prescription drug co-payment at $7. Further, the Committee 
recommends an increase in discretionary funding of $12.6 million for 
medical and prosthetic research projects, and an additional $45.6 
million in minor construction to begin a five-year, $300 million 
National Shrine Commitment project to repair and restore existing 
national cemeteries. The Committee recommends an increase in mandatory 
funding of $117 million that also allows a more balanced and equitable 
enrollment fee system and the current prescription drug co-payment 
amount. The total mandatory and discretionary budget increase for 
fiscal year 2006 recommended by the Committee is $434.2 million.
    Disability Compensation.--The President requests $29.8 billion in 
mandatory funding for compensation payments by the Veterans Benefits 
Administration (VBA) to disabled veterans, certain survivors and 
eligible dependent children. The President requests $751 million in 
discretionary funding for administrative expenses and 7,628 full time 
equivalent employees (FTEE), an increase of 113 FTEE over fiscal year 
2005: Also, the President requests $4.9 million to support new and 
continuing initiatives to provide better customer service through 
improved accuracy and access to benefits. The President's request 
includes a full cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the same as the 
Social Security COLA, and estimates it will be 2.3 percent. The 
Committee supports the President's requests.
    Pension Program.--The President requests $3.5 billion in mandatory 
funding for pension payments to eligible veterans, and $147.7 million 
in discretionary funding for administrative expenses and 1,459 FTEE, an 
increase of 15 FTEE over fiscal year 2005. The Committee supports the 
President's requests.
    Education Service.--The President requests $100.3 million in 
discretionary funding for administrative expenses and 874 FTEE for the 
Education Service, a decrease of 14 FTEE over fiscal year 2005. VA's 
education programs assist veterans in readjusting to civilian life by 
helping them afford a wide range of vocational training and higher 
education options. These programs also enhance the Nation's 
competitiveness through the development of a more highly educated and 
productive workforce. VA projects that participation in its education 
programs will increase by about 27,000 in 2006. Therefore, the 
Committee recommends an additional $1.1 million in discretionary 
funding for fiscal year 2006 to maintain current staffing levels until 
the Education Service's new benefits management system, The Education 
Expert System (TEES), is fully deployed. TEES is designed to allow 
automated application and processing of VA education benefits to 
increase payment accuracy and meet VA's timeliness goals.
    Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service.--The President 
requests $147.1 million in discretionary funding to support 1,123 FTEE 
for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, an increase 
of 21 FTEE above fiscal year 2005. VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and 
Employment (VR&E;) program provides services and benefits to more than 
55,000 disabled veterans annually to enable them to obtain and maintain 
suitable employment to the maximum extent possible. VR&E; also offers 
services and benefits for severely disabled veterans who do not have 
employment potential to achieve the ability to live independently. 
Performance in the VR&E; program continues to be mixed, despite a VA 
task force established in 2003 to analyze the program's performance and 
to make recommendations to improve the program's outcomes. One of the 
main recommendations, the Five-Track Employment Process, focuses on 
finding suitable employment quickly. This would be a change from the 
current focus on long-term training and college-level education 
programs for over 90 percent of those receiving VR&E; services and 
benefits. The Committee commends this concept and intends to monitor 
closely its implementation. While the Committee supports the 
President's request, the Committee expects continued improvement in 
achieving vocational rehabilitation performance goals.
    Home Loan Guaranty Service.--The President requests $156.7 million 
in discretionary funding for administrative expenses and 1,076 FTEE for 
this transition benefit. VA loan guarantees help veterans finance the 
purchase of a home with favorable loan terms and competitive loan 
rates.
    As a result of outsourcing of the property management function and 
continued improvement in automation, this represents a decrease of 205 
FTEE below fiscal year 2005 and enables redistribution of personnel to 
correct prior imbalances among VBA business lines. The Committee 
supports the President's request. The Committee believes that the 
amount of the adaptive housing grant for disabled veterans may be 
insufficient, and based on oversight findings, may propose an increased 
level of assistance.
    Veterans Employment.--The President requests $224.3 million for 
Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) programs of the 
Department of Labor, a $1.5 million increase above fiscal year 2005. 
The purpose of VETS is to promote employment and training opportunities 
for veterans. To do this, VETS administers grants to States, public 
entities and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based 
organizations, to help veterans find jobs. The most recent Bureau of 
Labor Statistics data from 2004 shows that veterans of the U.S. Armed 
Forces were more likely to be employed than nonveterans, with an 
overall unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, compared with 5.0 percent for 
nonveterans, but it is not clear that this is an outcome of the VETS 
state grant program. The Committee believes that the VETS state grant 
program to fund Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialists and Local 
Veterans Employment Representatives continues to under perform. The 
Committee notes that authorization for the Homeless Veterans 
Reintegration Program (HVRP), administered by VETS, expires at the end 
of fiscal year 2006. The law currently authorizes up to $50 million per 
year for the program. HVRP is intended to provide shelter and a wide 
range of social and employment services to homeless veterans. The 
Committee will review the performance of the program as it considers 
reauthorization. The Committee supports the President's request with 
the qualifications discussed.
    National Cemetery Administration.--The President requests $170.5 
million in mandatory funding for veterans burial benefits and payments, 
an increase of $1.9 million over 2005, and $289.7 million in 
discretionary funding, an increase of almost $17 million over fiscal 
year 2005, for administrative expenses and 1,566 FTEE. The Committee 
supports the President's requests.
    National Cemetery Construction.--The President also requests $90.3 
million for major and minor National Cemetery construction projects. Of 
the $25 million for minor construction projects, $14.4 million would 
address cemetery infrastructure improvements. Pursuant to Public Law 
106-117, VA awarded a contract to Logistics Management Institute (LMI) 
to conduct an assessment of the current and future burial needs of 
veterans. The LMI study (Vol. 2), which includes photographs, reveals 
that many VA national cemeteries are in a deplorable state of disrepair 
after long neglect. The President requests $14.4 million to address 
cemetery infrastructure improvements, but this request would not 
include any funding for 928 needed full-scale cemetery restoration and 
repair projects identified by the LMI study and estimated to cost $279 
million. Therefore, the Committee strongly recommends an additional 
$45.6 million in minor construction funding for fiscal year 2006 to 
begin a five-year, $300 million National Shrine Commitment project to 
repair and restore existing national cemeteries.
    Board of Veterans' Appeals.--The President requests $53.1 million 
in discretionary funding for administrative expenses and 434 FTEE, an 
increase of $1.8 million above fiscal year 2005. FTEE would be 
decreased by 6. The Board's pending appeals backlog at the end of 
January 2005 was 31,665. The Board is now considering original appeals 
that were entered into the docket in October 2003. If current trends 
continue, the number of appeals filed is projected to be higher than 
dispositions, and the Board's estimated disposition time will increase 
from 170 days at the end of 2004 to 391 days by the end of 2006. 
Without additional FTEE, the Committee is concerned that the pending 
appellate workload will continue to grow and the Board's disposition 
times will more than double by 2008. Such a deterioration of service 
would not allow the Board to meet its performance goals. The Committee 
recommends an additional $6 million in fiscal year 2006 for an increase 
of 50 FTEE above the current level.
    Veterans Health Care.--The President requests $30.7 billion in 
discretionary funding for veterans' health care. The budget request 
focuses on the Veterans Health Administration's core medical care 
mission of caring for disabled, injured, low income, and special needs 
veterans. VA contracted with an actuarial firm, Milliman USA, and 
utilized modeling techniques similar to those used in the private 
sector to estimate the resources needed for veterans' health care in 
2006. VA's estimates are based on benchmarks that are adjusted to 
reflect the age, gender, and morbidity of veteran enrollees, their 
reliance on VA versus other health care providers such as Medicare, and 
VA management practices. VA also uses health care inflation and 
utilization trends to develop cost and utilization projections. The 
Committee will review the modeling and estimating methods that are 
being employed in making budget projections and proposals.
    Returning Servicemembers.--The Committee strongly supports the 
President's requests for a $100 million and 627 FTEE increase in 
discretionary funding for mental health services, and for a $100 
million increase for Prosthetics and Sensory Aids. Thousands of 
servicemembers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. VA must be 
equipped to provide them with the health care services they need in 
order to make a successful transition to civilian life.
    Medical Care Collections.--VA is authorized to bill some veterans 
and many health care insurers for nonservice-connected care provided to 
veterans enrolled in VA health care. These collections are retained in 
the Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF) to defray costs of delivering 
VA medical services. VA projects medical care collections of $2.2 
billion in fiscal year 2006, an increase of 11 percent over fiscal year 
2005. The Committee acknowledges VA's collection improvements in the 
past several years and supports VA's efforts to increase medical care 
collections. The Committee intends to continue oversight of VA's 
progress. The Committee recommends an additional $5 million in 
discretionary funding for fiscal year 2006 to initiate a total patient 
financial services pilot program for improvement of medical care 
collections. The Committee expects to report authorizing legislation 
for such a pilot program.
    Management Efficiencies.--The President's budget request includes 
management savings of $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2006, an increase of 
$590 million over the estimated savings in fiscal year 2005. The 
management savings are intended to partially offset the overall cost of 
VA health care. While the VA has made progress in implementing 
management efficiencies, the Committee is not confident that savings of 
this magnitude can be achieved during the fiscal year and recommends 
that the budget assume only $375 million in additional efficiencies. 
The Committee recommends that discretionary funding for veterans' 
health care be increased by $215 million, because in its view, 
management efficiencies are overestimated.
    Medical and Prosthetic Research.--The President requests $786 
million in discretionary funding for Medical and Prosthetic Research, 
an increase of $2 million over the 2005 fiscal year level. The 
Committee recognizes the significant benefit of VA research to improve 
the clinical treatment needs of veterans and recommends an additional 
increase of $12.6 million for medical and prosthetic research projects. 
The Committee also intends to review the extent to which VA's research 
programs meet the statutory requirement for conducting research into 
the injuries and illnesses related to military service.
    Major Medical Construction Projects.--The President requests $750 
million for major and minor construction projects. The Committee 
concurs with the President's request. The Committee expects increased 
cost sharing activities between the Departments of Veterans Affairs and 
Defense, and compliments the ongoing sharing projects in Anchorage, 
Alaska, and El Paso, Texas. The Committee intends to review the 
progress of planning for sharing and joint activities for future 
medical facilities in Denver, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; and 
Las Vegas, Nevada.
    State Veterans Nursing Homes.--The President proposes legislation 
to revise eligibility criteria for VA sponsored long-term care in State 
nursing homes. However, there is a long-standing partnership between VA 
and States for cost-sharing in caring for veterans in State nursing 
homes. Further, VA's per diem reimbursement to the States for nursing 
home care compares favorably to the cost of VA operated and community 
nursing homes. Therefore, the Committee does not expect to act on the 
legislative proposal.
    Emergency Care for Insured Veterans.--The President proposes 
legislation to authorize VA to reimburse eligible insured veterans for 
out-of-pocket expenses for emergency care obtained outside of VA's 
health care system, less the co-payment the veteran would have paid for 
care within VA. The Committee does not agree that VA should cover such 
additional expenses and does not expect to act on this proposal.
    Homeless Veterans.--The President's budget requests $1.33 billion 
to provide for the treatment, rehabilitation and residential needs of 
homeless veterans, a $30.4 million increase over fiscal year 2005. A 
$13 million increase in spending for the Homeless Grant and Per Diem 
(GPO) program is included in this amount. The President also proposes 
legislation to permanently authorize the GPD program and increase the 
authorized funding level from $99 million to $130 million. The GPD 
program has sustained significant growth in recent years, with 
expenditures increasing from $19.6 million in 2000 to an estimated $86 
million in 2005, over a 400 percent increase. The Committee is 
concerned that VA's estimate of the number of homeless veterans in 2000 
was about 250,000 and currently remains about the same. Therefore, the 
Committee intends to address the need for better census data and 
performance outcome measures, and recommends maintaining the GPD 
program at the fiscal year 2005 level.
    Magnet Recognition Program.--The American Nurses Credentialing 
Center's Magnet Recognition Program recognizes health care 
organizations that provide successful professional nursing practices 
and excellence in nursing care. Magnet Recognition is the 
organization's highest level of recognition. The Committee recognizes 
the importance of VA medical centers establishing magnet status to 
recruit and retain nursing personnel, and to support a proven level of 
quality patient care. All VA medical centers should attain magnet 
status. The Committee recommends an increase in discretionary funding 
of $700,000 to allow 20 facilities to achieve this objective. The 
Committee will consider the legislative proposal on pay comparability 
for the Director of Nursing Programs when significant progress toward 
magnet status has been achieved.
    Education and Training Programs on Medical Responses to 
Consequences of Terrorist Activities.--The Committee strongly 
recommends an additional $5 million to better support the training of 
current and future health care professionals in diagnosis and treatment 
of casualties exposed to chemical, biological or radiological agents, 
as authorized by Public Law 107-287.
    Enrollment Fees and Co-Payments.--The President proposes to require 
Priority 7 and 8 veterans to assume a greater share of the cost of 
their health care by paying an annual enrollment fee of $250 and higher 
co-payments for prescription drugs, from $7 to $15 for a 30-day supply 
of medication. These lower priority veterans do not have service-
connected disabilities, have higher incomes, and as a group are better 
insured than enrollees in Priorities 1-6. The increased cost-sharing 
for Priority 7 and 8 enrollees is estimated to generate $424 million in 
fees. In order to correct the inequity between DOD TRICARE 
beneficiaries, who pay an enrollment fee and deductibles and who have 
higher co-payments, and Priority 7 and 8 non-compensable or nonservice-
connected veterans who currently have no enrollment fee or deductible 
and a lower co-payment, the Committee recommends a $230 enrollment fee 
for Priority 7 veterans; however, at this time, the Committee 
recommends maintaining the present co-payment level for prescription 
drugs and will not institute a deductible. The Committee recommends a 
four tiered enrollment fee for Priority 8 veterans based on their 
income above the geographic means test. The fees would be: Tier 1--
$230; Tier 2--$250; Tier 3--$350; Tier 4--$500. The Committee will work 
with VA to achieve the appropriate income tiers. These enrollment fees 
would apply to both veterans who are currently enrolled and new 
enrollees.
    Co-payment for Hospice Care.--The President proposes legislation to 
eliminate required co-payments for hospice care provided in a VA 
setting. Public Law 108-422 authorized a similar exemption for hospice 
care delivered only in VA nursing homes. The Committee expects to act 
on the legislative proposal.
    Co-payment for Former Prisoners of War.--The President proposes 
legislation to exempt former prisoners of war (POWs) from required co-
payments for extended care services. The Committee expects to act on 
the President's legislative proposal that recognizes the extreme 
sacrifices of former POWs.
    First Party Offset.--The President proposes legislation to clarify 
that first party co-payment obligations should not be offset by third 
party reimbursements. Acceptance of this proposal would improve VA's 
operational performance and reduce administrative burdens. The 
Committee expects to act on this legislative proposal.
    Information Technology.--The President requests approximately $1.9 
billion for information technology (IT) programs throughout VA. VA 
management of IT programs has been ineffective as a result of their 
current organization. For example, last year VA experienced the failure 
of a $372 million financial management and logistics integration 
project, CoreFLS, in Bay Pines, Florida. The Department's Chief 
Information Officer (CIO) subsequently testified before the Committee 
that VA's IT programs are being reviewed. Therefore, the Committee 
recommends a reduction of $400 million for VA information technology 
programs until the CIO has completed the review. The Committee will 
consider legislation to provide the CIO direct line and budget 
authority over the IT budget and associated personnel within the entire 
Department.
    Office of Inspector General.--The President requests $70.9 million 
for administrative expenses and 468 FTEE for VA's Office of the 
Inspector General (OIG). The Committee recommends an increase in 
funding of $7.8 million and an additional 37 F 1'EE to support the 
OIG's fugitive felon program. This effective program has provided a 
return on investment of 30:1 and should be provided additional 
resources.
    The Committee believes that its recommendations provide the 
budgetary resources for veterans' programs necessary to fulfill the 
Nation's obligations for fiscal year 2006.
            Sincerely,
                                               Steve Buyer,
                                                          Chairman.

           Democratic Views and Estimates--February 23, 2005

Overview
    The Administration's budget submission for the Department 
of Veterans Affairs for FY 2006 is deficient in numerous areas. 
The following proposal aims to make critical increases in 
veterans' programs, including adding $800 million for direct 
spending (mandatory) veterans' benefits for a total request of 
$37.537 billion. For discretionary programs, including medical 
programs, benefits administration, construction, and 
departmental administration, we have requested additional funds 
in the amount of $3.2 billion ($2.6 billion, when a reasonable 
estimate of medical collections is included) for a total of 
$34.066 billion without collections and $36.066 billion, 
including collections.

Medical Programs
    The Administration has submitted a budget proposal that is 
inadequate by any measure. It is our belief that proposing 
$28.2 billion for medical programs under-funds critical 
programs by $3.0 billion--even when a reasonable estimation of 
collections ($2.0 billion) is included to offset this deficit, 
it is still short by $2.4 billion to fund current services to 
restore and revitalize programs for our veterans now using them 
and for the service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan 
now and in the near future.
    The Administration's FY 2006 request for discretionary 
funds without collections is a scant $105 million (or .3%) more 
than Congress appropriated for FY 2005. A flat-line budget for 
the programs developed on behalf of our nation's heroes is 
inappropriate under normal times; in a time of war it is 
disgraceful.
    The Administration would impose a new enrollment fee and 
increase existing fees for pharmaceutical drugs. These fees are 
designed for two purposes--first, to discourage almost half 
(1.1 mil-lion) of the current priority 7 and 8 veterans 
enrolled in the system from re-enrolling for health care in the 
Department of Veterans Affairs and second, to raise revenues in 
order to fund the ongoing operations of the Department.
    We categorically reject any increase in veterans' 
copayments and any enrollment fee specifically developed to 
discourage veterans' utilization of health care services.
    VA must fund the cost of increased workload, payroll, and 
inflation--by the Department's own estimation, these costs 
alone require $1.4 billion. Rather than ask for additional 
funds, however, the Administration proposes to meet these 
uncontrollable costs by in-creasing copayments and by limiting 
eligibility for any VA-provided or sponsored nursing home care 
to only service-connected veterans,non-service-connected 
veterans with catastrophic disabilities and those with a short-term 
need for care. It also proposes the adoption of poorly defined 
``management efficiencies'' to write off much of its need for 
resources. Since 2002, VA has required its medical care programs to 
absorb $1.2 billion of these efficiencies and to this amount already 
programmed into its baseline, it proposes to add another $590 million 
in FY 2006.
    VA has yet to offer any evidence that its estimates for 
savings due to management efficiencies have come to fruition. 
Neither has it provided a plan for finding further efficiencies 
in the future. We, therefore, do not recognize the FY 2006 
savings estimates based on management efficiencies that are 
forecast by VA, without any accounting or verification of these 
savings. Past attempts by this Committee to seek detail from 
either VA or OMB have not yielded results that can be checked 
or verified. They have, however, yielded admissions that 
planning factors or estimates in previous years may not have 
been accurate.
    In the FY 2004 Budget Submission (Vol. 4 pages 1-15), VA 
estimated management savings of $950 million to partially 
offset the overall cost of health care. The estimate was based 
on implementation of a rigorous competitive sourcing plan, 
reforming health care procurement, increasing employee 
productivity, shifting from inpatient to outpatient care, 
reducing employee travel, interagency motor pools, maintenance 
and repair services, and operating sup-plies. We have not been 
given any detailed analysis of savings from these areas.
    For example, competitive sourcing in VHA was very limited 
following the April 2003 General Counsel Opinion and actual 
savings from prior competitive sourcing actions has yet to be 
demonstrated. VA did save $25.2 million from pre- and post-
award audits (per-formed by VA Office of Inspector General), 
but this demonstrable efficiency should likely be offset by the 
well-publicized failures associated with the CoreFLS project 
pilot. For the near future, VA can no longer project 
significant savings from automation of finance, logistics, and 
supply functions. This may result in a significant adjustment 
to savings in the $200 million range for the FY 2004 budget and 
more in the out years. It is even possible that for FY 2004, 
the effect of all management ``actions'' is an additional 
burden on VHA rather than purported cost avoidance and savings. 
In the absence of data from VA to demonstrate its case for 
further cost savings, we will not credit it for further 
management efficiencies.
    In addition, the Administration fails to acknowledge 
additional funds needed to shore up some of VA's highest demand 
programs particularly mental health and other specialized 
services and long-term care programs. P.L. 104-262 required VA 
to maintain the capacity of its ``specialized services'' for 
some of its most seriously 115 disabled veterans--veterans with 
disorders such as amputations, spinal cord injury, blindness, 
traumatic brain injury, and serious mental illness. Yet, GAO 
report (GAO/HEHS-00-57) Disabled Veterans' Care: Better Data 
and More Accountability Need to Adequately Assess Care 
requested by Ranking Member Evans indicated that VA could not 
verify that it was preserving these programs. In past years, 
VA's Federal Advisory Committee on Special Disabilities and 
Prosthetics and the Under Secretary for Health's Advisory 
Committee on Care for the Seriously Mentally Ill have both 
disputed VA's assertions in yearly reports to Congress that it 
is maintaining capacity. In some years, VA's Inspector General 
has also failed to approve data VA uses to report on 
maintaining capacity. In fact, in testimony to the Committee, 
even VA officials have acknowledged some programmatic 
shortfalls, particularly in substance abuse programs.
    As troops return home from Operation Iraqi Freedom and 
Operation Enduring Freedom, VA will eventually become 
responsible for many of their health care needs, particularly 
for those with injuries that may last a lifetime. Many of these 
servicemembers will require ongoing rehabilitative care for 
their injuries both--mental and physical. As of December 2004, 
VA had treated roughly 32,684 of the 210,000 veterans from 
these deployments. We agree with the Independent Budget on the 
necessity of a significant infusion of funds to ensure that 
veterans are able to receive the best sustaining care available 
for their problems.
    Recent studies have shown that a significant number of 
returning troops (up to 17%) are demonstrating a need for some 
post-deployment mental health intervention. Troops' mental 
health issues range from acute and transitory anxiety and 
readjustment disorders to more chronic and severe problems--
even psychoses. We believe VA must stand ready to provide 
immediate relief to service members who return requiring its 
services. Experts indicate that immediate intervention may be 
the surest remedy to preventing more serious and chronic 
disorders later on.
    A February 16 report from the Government Accountability 
Office conducted at the request of Ranking Member Evans 
suggests that VA has not fully implemented any of its Special 
Committee on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder's recommendations. 
VA's stated reasons for delaying implementation of these 
recommendations often include fiscal limitations. As a result, 
VA may not be adequately prepared to meet troops' needs for 
services upon their return. An earlier report requested by 
Representative Evans asserts that VA's data does not verify its 
programs' current capacity. We recommend additional resources 
and oversight to expedite VA's progress toward implementing its 
experts' recommendations and better ensuring that veterans have 
timely access to quality post-deployment mental health 
services.
    P.L. 106-117 requires VA to maintain its in-house nursing 
home capacity at the level that existed in FY 1998 (average 
daily census [ADC] of 13,391). VA's programs have continued to 
erode since that time (in the current FY ADC is projected to be 
11,548) and, rather than take actions to redress this erosion, 
VA continues to propose to do away with the requirement and 
fund ways to reduce its institutional long-term care capacity 
even though we are now in the veteran population's peak need 
for such services. This year's proposal would result in the 
elimination of more than a third of the average daily census 
across VA's provided or sponsored institutional settings. As a 
substitute for $400 million worth of institutional services, VA 
proposes a modest increase ($60 million) in its home and 
community based long-term care programs. While we believe the 
non-institutional programs are a necessary part of VA's care 
continuum, we hold to the 1998 recommendations of the Federal 
Advisory Committee on the Future of VA Long-Term Care that VA 
should maintain its bed capacity, increase capacity in the 
state homes and double or triple capacity in its non-
institutional long-term care settings. To that end, we 
recommend funding to restore the 1998 baseline of services.
    We also are greatly dismayed by proposals in the 
President's budget that could literally bankrupt many of the 
109 veterans' state homes throughout the nation. For more than 
40 years, VA and states have viewed state homes as a mutually 
beneficial means of providing veterans with a long-term care 
safety net. Indeed, it has become the largest institutional 
long-term care venue for veterans relying on the VA for care 
and serves as the final home for many elderly and disabled 
veterans. VA estimates it will sponsor an ADC of 18,500 in 
2005. Shockingly, the Administration now proposes to eviscerate 
this program limiting the care it will sponsor to an ADC of 
7,217 (a reduction of 61%) in 2006! We reject this proposal and 
its companion--to place a virtual moratorium on state grants 
without further justification for these drastic proposals.
    As uninsurance rates continue to climb and other public 
health safety nets, such as Medicaid, become increasingly 
fiscally con-strained, we believe VA must reconsider its 
position on Priority 8 veterans. Contrary to the opinion that 
these ``wealthier'' veterans have other options, data from the 
2001 National Survey of Veterans found that a significant 
portion (6.4%) of its lowest priority users lacked other health 
care coverage. Since the time of this survey, rates of 
uninsurance in the general population have grown and it must be 
assumed that this is also the case with veterans. VA must 
revisit its policy to bar the enrollment of new Priority 8 
veterans. Included in this proposal are funds to allow 
approximately 85,000 new Priority 8 veterans to enroll in VA.
    The President's budget also cuts $9 million from VA's 
renownedmedical and prosthetic research program, whose 
achievements have benefited veterans and non-veterans alike. As 
advocates are quick to point out, without appropriated research 
dollars, these programs fail to draw competitively based funding from 
private and other government sources. With continued cuts to its 
appropriated funding levels the system continues to be challenged to 
fund merit-reviewed projects that could greatly benefit veterans and 
other Americans.
    Finally, many of us argue that the process for funding VA 
health care is irreparably broken. Year after year, Congress 
simply lacks adequate discretionary funds to address VA health 
care as a high priority. For the last three years, this process 
has yielded late and inadequate budgets that defy efforts to 
plan. Looking at the fix that, by many accounts, is working for 
the once troubled TRICARE for Life program, and was recommended 
by George W. Bush's own Task Force to Improve Health Care 
Delivery For Our Nation's Veterans, we conclude that assured 
funding is an avenue worth exploring and encourage the members 
of the Budget Committee to give H.R. 515 serious consideration.

Benefits Programs
    Funding for adjudication of veterans' claims is also 
inadequate. Although the budget includes some additional 
funding for compensation and pension staff, these positions are 
funded with one-year money. No additional funding is provided 
to address the huge and growing backlog of claims which has 
been remanded by the Board of Veterans Appeals and the United 
States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Currently 22,150 
remanded claims are assigned to the Appeals Management Center. 
Thousands of other claims are pending at VA regional offices. 
During the last four years, the number of claims in appellate 
status has almost doubled. The VA should use the one-year money 
provided in the Administration's budget to dramatically reduce 
the number of pending appeals and remands, and provide 115 new 
FTEE as permanent positions. An additional 10 FTEE should be 
devoted to addressing issues of quality and consistency in 
decision-making.
    The Administration's Budget reduces funding for training 
and travel related training during FY 2006. Although VA reports 
a relatively high rate of quality in its adjudication, this 
finding is inconsistent with other evidence such as the large 
percentage of claims appealed to the Board which are remanded 
for additional work, the Secretary's findings of non-compliance 
with the DeLuca criteria for evaluating musculoskeletal claims 
and the low pass rate on skills certification testing. An 
additional $2 million should be added to address these 
deficiencies.
    The reduction in FTEE proposed for staff at the Board of 
Veterans Appeals is projected to more than double the time it 
takes an appeal to be resolved at the Board from 170 days at 
the end of 2004 to 391 days at the end of 2006. Along with the 
majority we recommend an additional $6 million to support an 
increase of 50 FTEE to permit the Board to provide veterans 
with timely and accurate decisions on their appeals.
    Consistent with the majority we also recommend additional 
funding of $45.6 million over the President's FY06 budget 
request to equal a $60 million investment in the National 
Shrine Commitment. This amount is necessary for FY 2006 to 
complete the recommended improvements within the next five 
years, which are estimated to cost approximately $300 million. 
(See, Study on Improvements to Veterans Cemeteries, Volume 2: 
National Shrine Commitment Facility Condition Assessment--April 
2000).
    The President's FY06 budget request would eliminate 14 FTEE 
in the VA's Education Service. In agreement with the majority 
on this budget issue, we reject the Administration's funding 
level and recommend an increase in resources of $1.1 million to 
restore the projected FTEE cuts in VA's Education Service. 
Education claims are expected to increase due to more veterans 
seeking to take ad-vantage of Montgomery G.I. Bill education 
benefits, as well as the new Chapter 1607--Guard and Reserve 
education program enacted last year as part of the National 
Defense Authorization Act of 2005 (see, section 527 of the 
National Defense Authorization Act of 2005; Public Law 108-
375). Moreover, a number of senior VA Education Service 
employees are eligible to retire in the near future. Additional 
resources are needed to address the expected increases in 
education claims and hire new employees.
    The President's FY06 budget request provides no funding for 
additional FTEE designated to provide direct vocational 
rehabilitation and employment counseling services. Rather, the 
President's bud-get simply reflects a redistribution of 
``management support'' personnel. Veterans applying for 
vocational rehabilitation and employment services increased 
dramatically over the last decade--roughly a 75 percent 
increase. Demand for this service will surely continue due to 
the many injuries suffered by our troops serving in Iraq and 
Afghanistan. Former Secretary Anthony J. Principi, established 
a task force to review the vocational rehabilitation and 
employment program (VR&E;) from ``top-to-bottom.'' The VR&E; Task 
Force issued a comprehensive report in May of 2004. The report 
contained 102 recommendations to improve the VR&E; program and 
reform it to be responsive to 21st century needs of service-
connected disabled veterans.
    The Task Force recommended increasing full-time staff 
positions in the VR&E; program by approximately 200 FTEE; 
including 27 FTEE in headquarters; 112 in the regional offices 
to deliver direct services; 56 in the regional offices for 
contracting and purchasing;and 8 quality assurance staff. 
Consistent with the VR&E; Task Force Report, we suggest an increase of 
$5 million to provide for 57 additional FTEE--one full time staff 
position in each regional office.

Direct Spending Legislative Proposals
    We have included with our views and estimates legislative 
proposals that would increase mandatory spending by 
approximately $800 million. These proposals would increase 
important benefits earned by veterans, servicemembers and 
military families. (please see attached document for specific 
legislative proposals).
                    Lane Evans.
                    Bob Filner.
                    Luis Gutierrez.
                    Corrine Brown.
                    Vic Snyder.
                    Mike Michaud.
                    Stephanie Herseth.
                    Ted Strickland.
                    Darlene Hooley.
                    Silvestre Reyes.
                    Shelley Berkley.
                    Tom Udall.
                              ----------                              


             ADDITIONAL AND DISSENTING VIEWS AND ESTIMATES

    We have reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
Budget Submissions for the last four FYs and are greatly 
concerned with the impact that claimed, but unrealized 
management efficiencies may have on veterans' health care 
funding. While we have joined our Democratic Colleagues on the 
Committee in their request to augment the Administration's 
budget proposal by an additional $3.4 billion, we would like to 
take this opportunity to express our continued reservations 
about the legitimacy of claims of savings created by alleged 
management efficiencies claimed for this and prior years. We 
explain below why an additional $3.7551 billion is required to 
correct this unfounded offset to veterans' health care, a claim 
based on VA's unsubstantiated claims of finding and 
implementing management efficiencies.
    From 2003-2006 VA escalated its claims and projections of 
savings by implementing management efficiencies. The total 
offset to veterans' health care during this four-year period 
was $4.345 billion. As these savings have not been proven, and 
as significant evidence exists to refute the magnitude of 
savings claimed, the funds should be restored and no further 
offsets due to management efficiencies should be permitted 
until the detailed evidence and methodology is provided.
    The current Democratic views and estimates disallows only 
the proposed FY (FY) 2006 increase to claimed VA management 
efficiencies of $590 million and leaves in place for FY06 a 
baseline of approximately $1.2 billion in previously claimed 
efficiency savings. As many of the assumptions underlying this 
baseline savings estimate were never realized, we recommend 
disallowing claimed management efficiencies until proof of 
savings is demonstrated. After FY03, each subsequent year 
projects a new ``efficiency'' amount added to a baseline 
savings estimate created the prior year.
    FY 2003  $ 316.4 million--(FY 2003/book #2, page 2-136)
    FY 2004  $ 950.0 million--(FY 2004/book #2, page 2-164)
    FY 2005  $1.2900 billion--(FY 2005/book #2, page 2F-14)
    FY 2006  $1.7891 billion--(FY 2006/book #2, page 8-14)
    Examining the FY04 savings claim of almost one billion 
dollars as an example, we find that this amount of savings was 
based on competitive sourcing, procurement reform and employee 
productivity. While savings due to competitive sourcing are 
difficult to prove in the long-term, the basis for the claimed 
savings in FY04 never transpired because outsourcing has not 
occurred in VA since the VA General Counsel determined in April 
2003 that VHA could not engage in competitive sourcing absent 
specific authorization from Congress.
    Additionally in FY04, the VA Inspector General (IG) and 
Government Accountability Office published reports detailing 
problems with procurement, contracting and accountability in 
several different areas--they reflect serious management 
problems, not management efficiencies. An independent audit by 
Deloitte & Touche for FY04 found repeat material weaknesses and 
problems with operational oversight at VA that had not been 
corrected from the previous year. Additionally, the well 
publicized failure by VA to deploy the CoreFLS automated system 
resulted in $249 million in government obligations. The IG 
faulted both VA management and senior leadership in its August 
11, 2004, report regarding the CoreFLS failure. From the 
evidence now available, the proven management problems may 
outweigh the proven management efficiencies.
    In good conscience, we cannot allow illusory management 
efficiency claims to be deducted from veterans' health care 
based on ``efficiencies'' of the type listed above. It is 
incumbent on all Federal employees to be efficient managers, to 
always seek ways to become more effective. We all know that 
there are ``gives and takes'' in this process but we have 
little evidence of gains by VA to compare with the strong 
indications of management failure chronicled above. We should 
deduct only those efficiencies that are well-grounded and that 
are not offset by management errors, fraud, waste or abuse.
    VA has not proven its net efficiency claims. We therefore 
request that the Budget Committee disallow all VA claims of 
savings based on management efficiencies from FY 2003-2006 and 
fully restore the missing $4.3451 billion. When and if VA is 
able to detail legitimate management savings, then and only 
then should we consider such savings for purposes of developing 
the budget resolution.
                                   Ted Strickland.
                                   Bob Filner.
                                   Corrine Brown.
                                   Darlene Hooley.
                                   Michael Michaud.
                                   Tom Udall.
 REPORT TO THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET FROM THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' 
AFFAIRS, SUBMITTED PURSUANT TO SECTION 301 OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET 
   ACT OF 1974, ON THE BUDGET PROPOSED FOR FY 2007, FEBRUARY 23, 2006


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL

                              ----------                              --
--------

                          House of Representatives,
                             Committee on Veterans Affairs,
                                                 February 23, 2006.
Hon. Jim Nussle,
Chairman, Committee on the Budget,
House of Representatives Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Pursuant to the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 
and House Rule X, clause 4(f), I herewith submit to the Committee on 
the Budget the Views and Estimates of the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs regarding the Administration's FY 2007 budget request for 
veterans' programs, along with the Additional Views and Estimates of 
the Minority on the Committee, as provided by the Ranking Minority 
Member of the Committee.
    The Committee's views and estimates take into consideration the 
written statements and testimony at a full Committee hearing on 
February 8, 2006. by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and 
representatives of veterans service organizations, including those who 
present the Independent Budget. The full Committee heard testimony from 
veterans' and military service organizations (VSOs and MSOs) on 
February 15 and 16, 2006, to further examine the budget request and 
their legislative priorities. On February 14 and 16, 2006, the 
Committee's subcommittees heard testimony on these topics from VSOs and 
VA's Under Secretaries. The Committee's views and estimates were 
discussed at our business meeting of the full Committee on February 16, 
2006.
    As Chairman, I am pleased that the Administration's request places 
the appropriate focus on high priority benefits and services for the 
men and women in uniform who have borne the battle in defense of our 
nation, both in the past and in the Global War on Terrorism.
    The Administration's request will further strengthen the delivery 
of high quality health care for the core constituency of veterans 
served by VA--service-connected disabled, special needs, and low income 
veterans--while preserving quality care for all enrolled veterans. The 
Administration's request will also provide additional resources to help 
ensure that servicemembers have a smooth transition from active 
military duty to civilian life, and it will expand access to national 
and state veterans' cemeteries.
    Reflecting concerns brought to the Committee by VSOs and MSOs in 
the budget and legislative hearings, we recommend funding for 
additional disability claims processors to help reduce the growing 
backlog in compensation and pension claims. We also recommend increased 
funding for medical research, non-recurring maintenance for facilities, 
collections, and other activities outlined in more detail in the 
attached views and estimates.
    Further, I will propose for consideration by the Committee 
legislation to modernize education benefits for servicemembers and 
veterans to help them take full advantage of the opportunities they 
have protected for all Americans. There is much consensus that the 
Montgomery GI Bill does not reflect the realities facing today's 
servicemembers, especially those in the National Guard and Reserves.
    The Committee looks forward to working with you and other members 
of the Budget Committee as we formulate a FY 2007 budget that will 
continue to ensure a strong Veterans Affairs system for those to whom 
we all owe so much.
            Sincerely,
                                               Steve Buyer,
                                                          Chairman.

                 BUDGET VIEWS AND ESTIMATES FOR FY 2007


                                OVERVIEW

    The Committee recommends $1.9 billion above the 
Administration's FY 2007 request. This number includes $600 
million in a new legislative initiative to modernize the GI 
Bill.

                           MANDATORY FUNDING


                    Veterans Benefits Administration

    The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) administers a 
broad range of non-medical benefits to veterans, their 
dependents, and survivors through 57 regional offices. These 
programs include disability compensation, nonservice-connected 
pension, education, vocational rehabilitation, burial, 
insurance, and home loan guaranty.
    The Committee supports the Administration's FY 2007 budget 
request of $42.1 billion in mandatory funding for VBA, a 14.5 
percent increase over the enacted level for FY 2006.

                         DISCRETIONARY FUNDING


                    Veterans Benefits Administration

    With the exception of the recommendations noted below, the 
Committee supports the Administration's FY 2007 budget request 
of $1.2 billion in discretionary funding for the management of 
the benefits programs administered by the VBA, an 11 percent 
increase over the enacted level for FY 2006.
    Disability Compensation.--The Administration requests 
$924.4 million in budget authority to fund the discretionary 
portion of the Disability Compensation, Pension, and Burial 
programs, which will provide funding for the administrative 
expenses of 9,445 Full Time Equivalent Employees (FTEE)--an 
increase of 14 FTEE over the FY 2006 level; however, direct 
compensation FTEE--those who process disability compensation 
claims--would decrease by 149.
    In FY 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs projects it 
will provide monetary benefits to 2.87 million service-
connected veterans, an increase of 10 percent over FY 2005, and 
348,479 surviving spouses and dependent children, an increase 
of 7 percent over FY 2005. The number of veterans filing claims 
for compensation has increased every year since 2000. In FY 
2007, VBA projects claims receipts of 828,186--2 percent more 
than in 2006. Between September 2003 and February 11, 2006, the 
pending workload for rating-related claims grew from 253,000 to 
more than 368,900.
    The current backlog of pending claims is expected to rise 
to more than 396,000 at the end of FY 2007. The Committee 
strongly recommends an additional 200 FTEE in direct 
compensation at a cost of $17.1 million.
    The Committee recognizes that additional direct 
compensation FTEE will not improve quality, accuracy, and 
timeliness in claims processing without corresponding increases 
in training resources. Therefore, the Committee strongly 
recommends an additional $200,000 for Training and Performance 
Support Systems and an additional $200,000 for Skills 
Certification.
    The Committee recommends 6 FTEE in management and support 
personnel, at a cost of $500,000, to support the additional 200 
FTEE recommended for direct compensation.
    The Department has spent more than $600 million over the 
past decade in an attempt to automate the compensation and 
pension claims processing system. This complicated paper-driven 
process is over 25 years old. With the growing demands on the 
system, VBA needs to reexamine its Business Process 
Reengineering (BPR) focus to implement changes necessary in the 
field. The Committee recommends $18 million for BPR to 
reengineer and streamline the claims process and implement 
major business process changes.

                    National Cemetery Administration

    National Shrine Commitment. The Administration requests 
$161 million for operations and maintenance of VA's national 
cemeteries, of which $9.1 million will fund cemetery 
infrastructure projects. Additionally, the Administration 
requests $18.7 million in minor construction to address 
cemetery infrastructure improvements.
    In 2002 and pursuant to Public Law 106-117, the Logistics 
Management Institute (LMI) conducted a study on the burial 
needs of veterans which revealed that many VA national 
cemeteries are in a state of disrepair. As a result, LMI 
identified 928 full-scale cemetery restoration and repair 
projects estimated to cost $279 million. To date, the National 
Cemetery Administration (NCA) has completed 35 percent of the 
improvements.
    The Committee strongly recommends an additional $14 million 
in NCA operations and maintenance and an additional $16 million 
in NCA minor construction in FY 2007.

                       Board of Veterans' Appeals

    The Administration requests $55.3 million in discretionary 
funding for the Board of Veterans' Appeals (BVA) to support 444 
FTEE, an increase of $2.4 million above the FY 2006 level. BVA 
provides independent reviews of VA regional office decisions 
and makes the final administrative decision on behalf of the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In FY 2005, BVA issued 34,175 
decisions and conducted 8,576 hearings. Of those, 94 percent 
(32,207) involved disability compensation. These include not 
only claims for service-connection, but also claims for 
increased ratings and earlier effective dates.
    While BVA has made many improvements, it continues to 
experience significant difficulties meeting the production 
levels needed to reduce the backlog of over 37,500 appeals. The 
average response time for FY 2005 was 622 days, well above the 
goal of 365 days. The Committee believes that additional staff 
is necessary if BVA is to provide timely and accurate decisions 
to veterans and their families.
    The Committee strongly recommends an additional $6.4 
million in FY 2007 for an increase of 56 FTEE above the current 
level to bring BVA staffing to 500.

                     Veterans Health Administration

    The Administration's request will enable VA to provide 
timely and accessible high-quality health care to its core 
constituency--the service-connected disabled, injured and 
indigent. VA's health care mission covers a wide range of 
services, such as pharmacy, prosthetics, mental health, long-
term care. Construction funding for the medical care program 
allows VA to renovate and modernize its health care 
infrastructure to provide greater access to care.
    With the exception of the recommendations noted below, the 
Committee supports the Administration's FY 2007 budget request 
of $38.5 billion in discretionary funding.
    Medical and Prosthetic Research. The Administration 
proposes reducing the medical and prosthetic research account 
by $13 million to $399 million for FY 2007. While the 
Department intends to place additional reliance on outside 
federal grants to realize a net gain in research funding, the 
Committee recommends a $28 million increase above the 
Administration's request.
    Medical Facilities. The Administration's proposal for 
medical facilities totals approximately $3.5 billion. The 
Committee however, believes the request underestimates the non-
recurring maintenance required in a large number of the nearly 
4,900 buildings owned, leased or operated by the VA. The 
Committee recommends an additional $100 million for these 
purposes.
    Enrollment Fees, Co-Payments, and Third-Party Offset of 
First-Party Debt.--While the Committee understands the policy 
arguments providing the basis for the Administration's proposal 
for Priority 7 and 8 veterans to assume a greater share of the 
costs for their health care in the VA system, a majority of the 
Committee does not support these legislative proposals. The 
Committee recommends that the Administration's request be 
increased by $795.5 million.
    Medical Care Collections Fund.--The Balanced Budget Act of 
1997 (Public Law 105-33) established the VA Medical Care Cost 
Collections Fund (MCCF), and requires that amounts collected or 
recovered after June 30, 1997, be deposited in this fund. The 
Committee believes that VA has overestimated its ability to 
collect what they have projected, based on comparisons of 
previous years' actual collections and projected collections. 
Therefore, the Committee recommends adding $63 million to 
projected MCCF collections for Fiscal Year 2007.
    Emergency Care.--The Administration's proposal anticipates 
the passage of legislation authorizing VA to compensate insured 
veterans for all out-of-pocket cost associated with seeking 
emergency care outside the VAMC setting. The Committee does not 
support expanding VA's authority in this area and recommends a 
decrease of $23.5 million.
    Nurse Magnet Recognition.--Hospitals with magnet status 
have repeatedly demonstrated greater recruitment and retention 
of their nursing staff. The Committee believes that all VA 
medical centers should attain magnet status. The Committee 
recommends an increase in discretionary funding of $0.7 million 
to allow 20 facilities to achieve this objective.
    Clinical Efficiencies.--The Administration's proposal 
includes nearly $1.1 billion in clinical efficiencies for FY 
2007. The Committee accepts that $848 million is achievable 
savings due to pharmaceutical procurement, formulary management 
and advanced clinic access initiatives. However, due to recent 
GAO reviews noting the lack of sound methodologies in attaining 
and accounting for the savings, the Committee rejects the 
additional $232.5 million claimed as management efficiencies. 
Therefore, the Committee recommends an additional $232.5 
million above the Administration's proposal.

                  Office of Information and Technology

    The Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs 
Appropriations Act, 2006 (Public Law 109-114) mandated that VA 
IT funding be set-up as a new and separate account (IT Systems 
account) within VA. The Administration requests $1.3 billion 
for information technology.
    Eliminating Funding.--The Committee recommends eliminating 
$198.1 million in funding from the following programs: Health 
Data Repository, HealtheVet Vista, Pharmacy Re-engineering and 
IT Support, Scheduling Replacement, Vista Imaging, Vista 
Laboratory IS System Re-engineering.
    Reducing Funding.--The Committee recommends a reduction of 
$45 million from the ``Pay Account'' of the 20-year-old VistA 
legacy system, and $33 million from FLITE.
    Increasing Funding.--The Committee recommends a $32 million 
increase in the Benefits Delivery Network Maintenance 
Operations and Enterprise Cyber Security Program, adding $12 
million and $20 million to the programs respectively. 
Additionally, the Committee recommends an increase of $0.2 
million in IT resources for BVA to support the recommended 56 
additional FTEE.
    Adding Funding.--The Committee recommends adding $90 
million in new telecommunications funding for the VA Office of 
the Chief Information Officer for increased bandwidth, 
redundant back-up and Continuity of Operations Plans and new 
data center consolidations funding for the VA Office of the 
Chief Information Officer for data center consolidations, $30 
million and $60 million respectively.
    Therefore, the Committee recommends a total funding level 
for the VA IT Systems account of $1.1 billion, providing $154.4 
million less than the Administration's request for Fiscal Year 
2007. Further, the Committee recommends the $154.4 million be 
transferred to the Medical Services account.

                    Office of the Inspector General

    VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) is responsible for 
the audit, investigation, and inspection of all VA programs and 
operations. For FY 2007, the Administration requests $69.5 
million and 458 Full Time Equivalent Employees (FTEE) to 
support the activities of the OIG. The Committee recommends an 
increase of $3.5 million in discretionary funding to support 
485 FTEE.

                          DEPARTMENT OF LABOR


            Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS)

    VETS manages employment and training related programs and 
services to veterans primarily through administering the 
Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist (DVOPS) and Local 
Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) state grant program. 
DOVPS and LVERs are state workforce agency employees whose job 
is to provide intensive case management services to disabled 
veterans and outreach to employers on behalf of all veterans.
    VETS funds the National Veterans Training Institute (NVTI) 
in Denver through a contract with the University of Colorado 
Denver. The Institute trains DVOPS and LVERs in their statutory 
duties as well as providing training to other federal personnel 
regarding veterans employment rights and responsibilities as 
part of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment 
Rights Act (USERRA) enforcement program.
    The Administration's request of $1.9 million will fund a 
current services level of effort. Additional resources will 
provide training opportunities for several hundred veterans 
employment specialists. Given the additional need for well-
trained DVOPS, LVERs, and USERRA enforcement investigators, the 
Committee recommends an increase of $200,000 over the 
Administration's FY 2007 request.

                  LEGISLATION THE COMMITTEE MAY REPORT

    Modernized GI Bill.--Congress passed the modern day 
education benefit for veterans, the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), 
in 1985 to aid in recruitment, retention, and transition for 
the Cold War All-Volunteer Force. The program provides benefits 
for both the Active Duty and Reserve Forces. The active duty 
benefit is administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs 
and under the jurisdiction of the Veterans' Affairs Committee 
(title 38, United States Code). Benefits for the Reserve 
Components are funded by the Department of Defense and under 
the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee (title 10, 
United States Code) and administered by the Department of 
Veterans Affairs on a reimbursable basis.
    The Committee believes that too many of those leaving the 
military both active duty and Reserve members--are not able to 
use their GI Bill education benefits. For those veterans who 
cannot or choose not to attend a typical college degree 
program, the current benefit restricts the types of education 
and training available to them.
    The Committee proposes a new approach to the education 
benefit that supports national security and recognizes the 
earned nature of veterans' benefits while remaining mindful of 
the need to restrain increases in direct spending.
    National Guard and Reserves education benefits are 
authorized under title 10 as discretionary spending. Active 
duty GI Bill benefits are authorized under title 38 as 
mandatory spending. VA does not have an account for 
discretionary funding for education benefits at this time. VA 
administers the title 10 payments through a Memorandum of 
Understanding with DoD on a reimbursable basis.
    Based on an informal costing, the Committee estimates that 
a modernized GI Bill may cost up to $600 million in the first 
year, $2.5 billion over five years, and $4.5 billion over ten 
years. The Committee will explore funding options.
                          House of Representatives,
                            Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
                                 Washington, DC, February 23, 2006.
Hon. Jim Nussle,
Chairman, Committee on the Budget, House of Representatives, 
        Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Pursuant to section 301(d) of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974, and clause 4(f) of rule X of the Rules of the House 
of Representatives, the minority of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
hereby submits its Minority, Additional, and Dissenting views and 
estimates with regard to programs and matters within the jurisdiction 
of the Committee to be set forth in the concurrent resolution on the 
budget for fiscal year 2007.
    Providing for veterans is a continuing cost of war and a continuing 
cost of our national defense. We simply have no excuse for not meeting 
their needs. It is sometimes easy to forget that budgets and numbers 
ultimately come down to real people. We must not forget them. We hope 
that you will carefully consider these Democratic views and estimates. 
Working together, we can make sure that our veterans are not forgotten, 
and that we meet our obligations to them as a nation.
                                        Sincerely,
Lane Evans,
Ranking Democratic Member.
                                   Steve Buyer,
                                           Chairman.
                                ------                                


                   SECTION 1--DISCRETIONARY ACCOUNTS

                     DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

    We are recommending a total increase in VA discretionary funding of 
$4.477 billion over the Administration's FY 2007 request, including an 
increase of appropriated dollars over this request for VA medical care 
of $3.627 billion.

                            VA Medical Care

    Although the Administration's FY 2007 request for VA medical care 
is an improvement over its FY 2006 request, which included a 
recommended increase in appropriated dollars of less than one percent, 
in the final analysis we do not believe it provides the necessary 
resources to fully meet our obligation to our veterans.
    We are recommending an increase in appropriated dollars for the 
three accounts comprising VA medical care (Medical Services, Medical 
Administration, and Medical Facilities) of $3.627 billion above the 
Administration's FY 2007 budget request. This recommended level is also 
above the amount recommended by the Independent Budget, co-authored by 
AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and 
the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
    The majority of the recommended increase results from merely 
providing, in actual dollars, what the Administration claims to be 
providing in its budget submission. In fact, $2.4 billion of the $3.6 
billion recommended increase is attributable to these costs. 
Specifically, we provide appropriated dollars for the Administration's 
legislative proposal scheme, the same proposals that we see each year 
and which have been rejected time and time again by Congress ($796 
million), resources to correct the Administration's ``double-counting'' 
the same $544 million from its legislative proposal scheme to augment 
its collections estimate and fill the gap between appropriations and 
obligations ($544 million), and dollars added back to cover estimated 
``efficiencies'' that the Administration has claimed but has provided 
no justification that savings were realized ($1.1 billion). We also 
provide funding to lift the Administration's enrollment ban on new 
Priority 8 veterans and increases to VA's priority programs.
    Last year, we saw the VA face shortfalls in both its FY 2005 and FY 
2006 health care budgets, shortfalls that had a direct impact upon the 
care received by veterans. Ultimately, the Administration begrudgingly 
admitted these shortfalls and requested additional resources. In fact, 
the final FY 2006 amount appropriated came close to the level we 
recommended in our Views and Estimates last February.

                            Medical Services

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation  vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   22,547,141,000         24,716,000,000         25,990,463,000         28,155,477,000        +3,439,477,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FY 2007 Request--is reduced from $25,511,509,000, This budget submission states that the ``President's budget
  includes a legislative proposal section that reduces the appropriation by $795 million as a result of three
  legislative proposals that will increase user fees.'' The amount listed as the FY 2007 request is the amount
  of the reduced appropriation request.
Independent Budget--The Independent Budget recommendation of $25,990 billion does not include costs attributable
  to removing the enrollment ban on new Priority 8 veterans instituted by the Administration in January, 2003,
  The Independent Budget includes an estimate of $684 million to remove this ban as part of its total
  discretionary funding recommendation, but not as part of its Medical Services account recommendation.

    The Medical Services appropriation provides for medical services of 
eligible veterans and beneficiaries in VA medical centers, outpatient 
clinic facilities, contract hospitals, State homes, and outpatient 
programs on a fee basis.'' H. Rept. 109-95, to accompany H.R. 2528, the 
Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies 
Appropriations Bill, 2006. Note that all account descriptions, unless 
noted, are from this Report.
    The Medical Services account comprises the majority of funding for 
VA health care--nearly 80 percent of the total of the three accounts 
that make up ``VA medical care.'' We are recommending a total increase 
in appropriated dollars, above the Administration's request of $3.4 
billion. As stated above, the majority of this recommended increase 
seeks to provide real dollars for the Administration's claims regarding 
what it is providing in its request.
    We are concerned that the Administration may have once again 
underestimated the total number of unique patients it expects to see in 
FY 2007. In FY 2005, the VA had 5.3 million unique patients. Its most 
current estimate for FY 2006 is 5.4 million. On July 14, 2005, the 
Administration requested additional resources for FY 2006, citing, 
among other expenses:
          A $677 million increase for VA to cover an estimated 2.0 
        percent increase in the number of patients expected to seek 
        care in FY 2006. The President's Budget assumed 5.2 million 
        patients in FY 2006 and VA now predicts this number to be 5.3 
        million patients.
    In its FY 2007 submission, the Administration claims a total number 
of unique patients of 5.3 million, down from the 5.4 million for its FY 
2006 estimate. Even when the number of veterans the VA claims will 
leave the system because of its legislative proposal to charge a $250 
enrollment fee (199,667) are added back to the total, the VA estimates 
that it will essentially see the same number of patients in FY 2007 as 
it now believes it will see in FY 2006. We believe that the VA, over 
the course of the upcoming year, must work closely with this Committee 
to ensure that it has enough resources to care for all of its enrollees 
in both FY 2006 and FY 2007.
    Although the Administration has indeed requested an increase in 
this account, we believe it falls short of meeting the health care 
needs of veterans. For this reason, we are recommending the following 
increases to the Administration's FY 2007 request:
Legislative proposals
    We recommend providing appropriated dollars to cover the costs of 
the Administration's legislative proposals. These proposals are 
estimated by the Administration to result in a decrease in obligations 
of $251 million and an increase of $544 in collections, for a total of 
$796 million. We understand the Majority will also be recommending that 
these proposals be rejected and the Administration's request be 
increased. The Administration has used this $796 million to decrease 
its request for appropriated dollars in the Medical Services account.
     Increase to cover estimated costs of legislative 
proposals--$796 million.
Efficiencies
    During the FY 2006 budget cycle, Minority Members of the Committee 
expressed concern regarding VA's practice of claiming ``management 
efficiencies'' and using these claimed ``savings'' to offset 
Administration requests for appropriated health care funding. Members 
made several requests for VA to support the efficiencies claimed, but 
received little supporting evidence to buttress the VA's estimates. 
Claimed efficiencies have offset a total of $5.426 billion dollars in 
appropriations requests for veterans' health care between FYs 2003-
2007. During this same period of time, third-party auditors and 
investigators found significant losses due to fraud, waste, abuse and 
mismanagement at the Department. The Government Accountability Office 
(GAO) released a report, Veterans Affairs: Limited Support for Reported 
Health Care Management Efficiency Savings, GAO-06-359R (``GAO 
Report''), on its audit of management efficiency savings assumptions 
claimed by VA for FYs 2003-2006 and was told by VA officials that:
          The management efficiency savings assumed in these requests 
        were savings goals used to reduce requests for a higher level 
        of annual appropriations in order to fill the gap between the 
        cost associated with the VA's projected demand for health care 
        and the amount the President was willing to request. GAO 
        Report, p.3.
    As the data for management efficiency savings are unreliable and as 
it would be reasonable to offset savings by well documented episodes of 
management difficulties at VA, we conclude that it is not clear if VA 
has even produced a ``net'' savings.
    Therefore, we recommend providing appropriated dollars to cover the 
costs associated with the Administration's estimates for 
``efficiencies.'' The Administration includes a total of $1.1 billion 
in ``efficiencies'' in this year's budget. To quote from its budget 
submission, ``VA is estimating cumulative efficiencies of $1.1 billion 
in 2007 which results in additional efficiencies of $197 million over 
the 2006 level of $884 million'' (Department of Veterans Affairs FY 
2007 Budget Submission, Medical Programs, Volume 1 of 4, at 1-12).
    The GAO Report concluded the ``VA lacked a methodology for making 
the health care management efficiency savings assumptions reflected in 
the President's budget requests for fiscal years 2003 through 2006 and, 
therefore, was unable to provide [GAO] with any support for those 
estimates.'' According to the GAO, there is no justification that this 
$884 million attributable to FY 2006 exists, but it is in the budget 
this year, and is used to offset increased appropriations.
    The additional $197 million in new claims ($138 million in the 
Medical Services account) are, as VA has testified, not management 
efficiencies, rather they are called ``Clinical and Pharmacy 
Efficiencies.'' As VA has changed its nomenclature for these savings 
five times inthe last five years, we are able to recognize no 
distinction. The newly claimed $197 million in overall forecast savings 
should not be allowed to offset health care because we do not believe 
VA could have established a methodology and tracking system since the 
February 1, 2006 release of the GAO report.
    We remain unconvinced that the Administration can adequately 
justify estimated ``savings'' of $138 million in the Medical Services 
account for FY 2007. Until detailed justifications that are acceptable 
to us can be offered, we propose an increase in appropriated dollars to 
cover this estimate in order to assure that veterans' medical care is 
not compromised.
     Increase to fund ``savings'' attributable to unjustified 
``efficiencies''--$1 billion
Priority programs
            Mental health
    While the Administration has taken important steps to address the 
mental health needs of veterans, the proposed Administration increase 
of $339 million is inadequate in several respects. It fails to address 
the mental health care needs of veterans and those returning from Iraq 
and Afghanistan.
    We are concerned that VA's model for projecting demand fails to 
recognize that OIF/OEF veterans are disproportionately represented in 
its Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) population. These veterans 
represent two percent of the overall patient population but nearly six 
percent of the veterans in treatment for PTSD. Mental health experts 
indicate that between 17 percent and 26 percent of troops returning 
from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may experience symptoms 
related to a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or 
PTSD. Our recommendations include funds to support increased demand and 
utilization in PTSD outpatient and inpatient programs.
    We do not support the Administration's proposed cuts in the number 
of patients for which it will have the capacity to provide substance 
abuse treatment. Given that one out of five PTSD patients also has a 
substance abuse disorder, we believe that cutting substance abuse 
treatment levels does harm to VA's PTSD program.
    We are concerned that the Administration's budget fails to respond 
to the growing mental health needs of our aging veterans' population. 
VA's own study for FY 2007 projects an estimated 66,730 cases of 
dementia in VA patients age 85 or older.
    We believe that the Administration's budget fails to provide 
resources for Veterans Health Administration (VHA) staff to support the 
Post-Deployment Health Re-Assessment program to screen servicemembers, 
three to four months post-deployment, for mental and physical concerns.
    We commend the VHA for developing a Comprehensive Mental Health 
Strategic Plan designed to implement the recommendations of the New 
Freedom Commission and to address significant gaps between demand and 
services. We are concerned that actual dollars committed to support the 
initiatives in the plan have fallen short of the promised levels of 
funding. Our recommendation includes funds to not only ensure the full 
promise of the comprehensive mental health plan, we provide for needed 
staff in the Medical Administration account to help implement and 
monitor the plan.
    We are recommending an increase for Vet Centers. The Readjustment 
Counseling Service program consists of 207 community-based Vet Centers 
located outside of the larger medical facilities, in easily accessible, 
consumer-oriented facilities. The Vet Centers have been on the vanguard 
of outreach efforts to returning veterans from service in Afghanistan 
and Iraq. In view of the Vet Center's existing authority to provide 
family readjustment counseling and the value of such family counseling 
to help strengthen and support traumatized veterans and their families, 
we recommend an additional $6.9 million above the President's 
recommendation to strengthen the Vet Centers' capacity with 100 family 
therapists. This is consistent with the repeated recommendations of 
both the Advisory Committee on the Readjustment Counseling of Veterans 
and the Special Committee on PTSD.
    We recommend an additional $210 million for mental health, to 
enhance capacity to meet the needs of new veterans and veterans from 
previous conflicts who bear the psychological wounds of war.
     Increase of $7 million to support additional FTEE for 
increased demand and to expand veterans' access to family therapy--$7 
million
     Increase of $140 million to fulfill the promised money to 
implement the Comprehensive Mental Health Strategic Plan--$140 million
     Increase of $20 million to increase VA's capacity to 
provide substance abuse treatment by 5 percent above FY 2006 levels. 
VA's proposed budget would cut capacity below FY 2006 levels, even 
though early reports suggest that alcohol misuse will have a profound 
impact on returning soldiers' reintegration--$20 million
     Increase of $28 million to increase capacity to treat 
returning OIF/OEF veterans who need outpatient mental health services--
$28 million
     Increase of $13 million to adjust for VA's underestimation 
of PTSD special inpatient programs workload. VA projects 3.4 percent 
increase for specialized PTSD programs. Our projection reflects a 10 
percent increase, to provide capacity to serve returning veterans with 
no diminishment in capacity to serve patient populations from previous 
wars--$13 million
     Increase of $2 million to increase FTEE to support VA 
efforts for seamless transition through the Post-Deployment Health 
Reassessment--$2 million
Long-term care
    The Administration is in violation of its statutory responsibility 
to maintain FY 1998 levels for the Average Daily Census (ADC) for VA 
nursing home care, as mandated by P.L. 106-117, the Veterans Millennium 
Health Care and Benefits Act, The VA requests resources to support an 
estimated 11,100 ADC--2,291 below the 1998 figure. We recommend an 
increase of $471 million to enable the VA to meet its statutory 
obligations.
    The non-institutional programs are indeed a necessary part of VA's 
care continuum, but we should hold to the 1998 recommendations of the 
Federal Advisory Committee on the Future of VA Long-Term Care that VA 
should maintain its bed capacity, increase capacity in the state homes 
and double or triple capacity in its non-institutional long-term care 
settings. While telemedicine and home care are important components of 
long-term care, telemedicine cannot help a veteran to get out of bed or 
take a shower. Home care may not be suitable for many severely disabled 
veterans who need 24-hour care for complex medical and psychiatric 
conditions.
     Increase for VA nursing home care--$471 million
    While increasing the funding for VA to meet the statutory 
requirements of VA operated nursing home care, we also recommend that 
VA develop a long-term plan to meet the extended care needs of its 
patient population. VA projects that in FY 2007, the demand for VA-
sponsored nursing home care among VA's patient population will be 
80,511 ADC. Neither VA, nor Congress, can ignore the urgent and 
increasing needs consequent to the exponential growth in the population 
of veterans who are frail and aging.
Prosthetics
    We recommend providing an additional five percent increase above 
the Administration's request for prosthetics. This total increase would 
be more in line with VA's past increases in this account. We remain 
very concerned that we are not providing the necessary resources to 
fund this area, especially in light of the increased needs of our 
servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
     Increase for prosthetics--$56 million
Collections
    We remain concerned that VA is not realizing all it could in its 
collection efforts. We are concerned that VA has failed to provide an 
accurate cost for its collection efforts. We believe that in the 
future, the VA should provide details regarding the net amount that VHA 
receives through Medical Care Cost Collections Fund (MCCF), not just 
the gross amounts provided in its budget submissions.
    We note that the Majority is concerned that VA is again over-
estimating its collection amounts for FY 2007 and plans on providing 
for a lower collections estimate more in line with the VA's past annual 
increases. The VA estimates that it will achieve an increase in 
collections of more than 11 percent (not including collections 
associated with its legislative proposals), a figure higher than the 
eight percent realized from FY 2005 to its current estimate for FY 
2006. We agree with the Majority's efforts in this regard, andhope that 
we can work together this session to obtain a clearer picture of the 
VA's efforts in this area.
     Increase to cover the estimate of collections attributable 
to the Administration's legislative proposals, used once to decrease 
its recommended appropriation for Medical Services, then used again to 
augment its collection estimates--$544 million
Priority 8 veterans
    We recommend funding to do away with the Administration's ban on 
enrollment of Priority 8 veterans, instituted in January 2003. This 
increase is calculated to care for the number of veterans the VA has 
stated have been turned away from the door, offset by the increased 
amount of collections they will bring into the VA.
    The VA claims that 241,876 veterans have been affected by its 
decision to deny enrollment to new Priority 8 veterans. Our cost 
estimate assumes that all of these veterans will seek health care in FY 
2007. The cost of these veterans are then offset by the estimated 
amount of collections they will bring with them to the VA. We believe 
the net cost to the VA is $341 million for this initiative.
    We note that the authority of the Administration to deny enrollment 
to an entire class of veterans was never meant to extend ad infinitum, 
but was provided to the VA as a management tool in order for it to 
address unexpected shortfalls that might arise during the course of the 
year.
    Finally, we note that these veterans are not necessarily ``high 
income'' veterans, as they are often described by some. These veterans, 
who may be combat-decorated, can make as little as $27,000 per year and 
be categorized as Priority 8 veterans and therefore shut out of the 
system.
     Increase to lift the Administration's enrollment ban on 
new Priority 8 veterans--$341 million
Other issues of concern
            Nurse staffing levels
    We agree with the Majority that VA needs to take steps to improve 
its nurse staffing levels. Before VA embarks on the Magnet Status 
program, however, we believe that the VA should first comply with P.L. 
107-135 and establish a nationwide Veterans Health Administration 
staffing plan to ensure the provision of high-quality care and 
services. The VA Office of Inspector General found that VHA has failed 
to mandate the use of a national nurse staffing methodology. Given that 
the Magnet program does not have any minimum staffing standards to hold 
hospital administrators accountable or to ensure high-quality care, we 
recommend that VHA first comply with the 2002 law and establish a 
national nurse staffing methodology before budgeting funds to seek 
Magnet recognition.
            State veterans homes per diems
    Last year VA proposed a different standard for eligibility for per 
diem for State veterans homes which would have essentially destroyed 
the State Home program. We continue to support the current eligibility 
standards for per diem payments to State Veterans Homes.

                         Medical Administration

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2,858,442,000          3,177,000,000          2,939,403,000          3,216,635,000            +39,635,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Medical Administration appropriation provides funds for the 
expenses of management and administration of the VA health care system. 
Included under this heading are provisions for costs associated with 
operation of VA medical centers, other facilities, and VHA 
headquarters, plus the costs of VISN offices and facility director 
offices, chief of staff operations, quality of care oversight, all 
information technology hardware and software, legal services, billing 
and coding activities, and procurement.
    We are recommending two increases above the Administration's 
request:
     Restore $38 million in claimed FY 2007 management 
efficiencies
     Increase of $0.6 million to add FTEE for the National 
Center for PTSD to increase education and training efforts on PTSD, and 
an increase of $0.6 million to support VA Central Office staff to 
implement and monitor the Mental Health Comprehensive Strategic Plan--
$1.2 million

                           Medical Facilities

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    3,297,669,000          3,569,000,000          3,461,348,000          3,716,793,000           +148,000,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Medical Facilities appropriation provides funds for the 
operation and maintenance of the VA health care system's vast capital 
infrastructure. Included under this heading are provisions for costs 
associated with utilities, engineering, capital planning, leases, 
laundry and food services, groundskeeping, garbage, housekeeping, 
facility repair, and property disposition and acquisition.
    We recommend a $148 million increase above the Administration's 
request. This recommendation allows for increases attributable to three 
items: providing resources for the Administration's claimed 
``efficiencies'' in this account, additional resources to better enable 
the VA to address increased energy costs in FY 2007, and an increase 
for non-recurring maintenance. We note that the Majority plans to 
recommend an increase in this account above the Administration's 
request, and is also concerned that the non-recurring maintenance 
account needs additional resources.
     Restore assumed management efficiencies--$21 million
     Provide additional resources to better ensure against 
energy cost inflation--$24 million
     Provide a 20 percent increase for Non-Recurring 
Maintenance obligations-- $103 million

                    Medical and Prosthetic Research

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      412,000,000            399,000,000            460,000,000            450,464,000            +51,464,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This account includes medical, rehabilitative and health services 
research. Medical research is an important aspect of the Department's 
programs, providing complete medical and hospital services for 
veterans. The prosthetic research program is also essential in the 
development and testing of prosthetic, orthopedic and sensory aids for 
the purpose of improving the care and rehabilitation of eligible 
disabled veterans, including amputees, paraplegics and the blind. The 
health service research program provides unique opportunities to 
improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the health care delivery 
system. In addition, budgetary resources from a number of areas 
including appropriations from the medical care accounts; reimbursements 
from the Department of Defense; and grants from the National Institutes 
of Health, private proprietary sources, and voluntary agencies provide 
support for the Department's researchers.
    Last year we recommended $460 million for this account, which also 
matched the amount requested by the Independent Budget and the Friends 
of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA). Both the Independent 
Budget and FOVA are recommending $460 million again this year. We are 
recommending a $38 million increase above the enacted level for FY 
2006, and $51 million in additional funding above the Administration's 
FY 2007 request of $399 million.
    Our recommendation for an increase to medical research, unlike the 
Administration's request, relies upon the inflation adjustment of the 
Biomedical Research and Development Price Index, which was developed by 
the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis for use by the 
National Institutes for Health (NIH). We believe this inflation 
adjustment is more appropriate and necessary to preserve the value of 
VA research and development dollars. By restoring funds cut from the FY 
2006 level and by more accurately projecting the impact of inflation on 
VA's research dollars we signal a strong commitment to VA's research 
program and achieve stability for ongoing projects.
    We note that the VA's expectation of receiving additional federal 
dollars outside of monies appropriated in this account may not be 
realized with the Administration's proposed flat FY 2007 budget for 
NIH. This makes increased appropriated dollars in the Medical and 
Prosthetic Research account even more vital to this important program.
    The work of VA's Centers for Excellence is essential to VA's 
ability to maintain its world-class quality of care. In the brief time 
since their inception, VA's six Parkinson's Disease Research Education 
and Clinical Centers have made significant contributions to the care 
and research of Parkinson's disease, and training. The VA Multiple 
Sclerosis (MS) Centers of Excellence provide state-of-the-art 
multidisciplinary health services for veterans with MS and serve as a 
prototype for provision of excellent clinical care throughout the VA 
health care system.
    In the past, a successful effort was made to double the NIH's 
budget. We would like to see a similar effort to double the VA's 
research budget. Although this may not be possible, we believe we 
should strive to provide annual increases in order to further the work 
of VA research and signal our commitment and backing for this program.
    The Democratic recommendation of $450 million, an increase of $51 
million above the Administration's request, is comprised of the 
following increases:
     Restore the account to the FY 2006 enacted level--$13 
million
     Provide a 3.5 percent increase to account for estimates of 
biomedical research inflation--$14 million
     Restore cuts in VA's Centers of Excellence and provide a 
modest increase--$2 million
     Provide a five percent increase from FY 2006 enacted 
levels--$21 million
    Provide $1 million to contract with the National Academy of 
Sciences to review the National Vietnam Veteran Longitudinal Study and 
determine whether, as designed, it would yield scientifically valid 
information and conclusions on the long-term course and medical 
consequences of PTSD--$1 million

                       General Operating Expenses

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1,435,391,000          1,480,764,000          1,826,745,000          1,553,975,000            +73,211,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The General Operating Expenses appropriation provides for the 
administration of non-medical veterans benefits through the Veterans 
Benefits Administration (VBA) and Departmental management and support.
Veterans Benefits Administration
            Compensation and Pension Service
    VA provides service-connected compensation to veterans with 
disabilities incurred or aggravated during military service, dependency 
and indemnity compensation (DIC) to surviving spouses, children and 
low-income dependent parents of veterans, pension benefits to elderly 
and disabled low-income wartime veterans, death pension to the 
surviving spouses and children of wartime veterans and benefits to 
certain children of veterans who were disabled by spina bifida or other 
congenital conditions related to their parent's military service.
    For FY 2007, the Administration's budget would cut staffing by 149 
FTEE who handle claims for service-connected compensation. This 
decrease is proposed despite the fact that the Administration's budget 
predicts the backlog of claims at the end of FY 2007 will reach 
396,834--far in excess of the 250,000 pending claims which VA has 
historically considered to be a normal pending workload.
    We believe it is unrealistic to assume that claims resulting from 
specific outreach to six states as required by the Military Quality of 
Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2006, P.L. 109-114, 
(which has not yet been initiated) will be completed in 2006. We are 
also concerned that as additional disabled servicemembers leave 
military service, resources will not be adequate to provide timely and 
accurate service.
    Consistent with the Majority, we are recommending the following 
increase for the Compensation and Pension Service:
     Increase of additional 200 FTEE for direct compensation 
work to retain the 2006 levels and to reduce the pending claims to a 
more acceptable level than the expected 396,834 level, as well as an 
additional six FTEE for management direction and support staff, as well 
as increased obligations to support the FTEE increase--$17.6 million
     In addition, in light of the recommendation for increased 
staffing, we are recommending an increase of $37.1 million to restore 
non-payroll accounts which the Administration has proposed to cut from 
the estimated 2006 levels. These include obligations in the Equipment 
and Other Services accounts--$37.1 million
            Education Service
    VA provides education assistance to servicemembers, veterans, and 
certain eligible survivors and dependents in exchange for military 
service. VA education assistance, popularly known as the Montgomery GI 
Bill, is used by the Armed Forces as a recruiting and retention tool, 
as well as a readjustment benefit for servicemembers seeking to achieve 
educational and vocational goals in the civilian workforce.
    Consistent with the Majority, we support the Administration's 
request of $90.1 million in discretionary funding to support 930 FTEE 
for the Education Service--an increase of 46 FTEE (34 direct FTEE; two 
IT FTEE; 10 management and support FTEE) over the FY 2006 level. 
Education claims rose between FY 2000 and FY 2004 by nearly 328,000 
claims--a 35 percent increase; direct FTEE rose 14 percent for this 
same period. Additional FTEE are necessary to meet the increase in 
education claims, especially in light of VA's implementation of the new 
Guard and Reserve Education Program (chapter 1607 of Title 10, U.S.C.)
     We support an additional increase of $11 million for 
Information Technology-related services (attributable to TEES system)--
$11 million
            Housing (Loan Guaranty Service)
    VA assists veterans and servicemembers to purchase and retain homes 
in recognition of their service to the Nation.
    We cautiously accept the Administration's funding request of $127 
million to support 971 FTEE--a decrease of 17 FTEE within the Loan 
Guaranty Service. The Committee recognizes that the Loan Guaranty 
Service has, for the most part, successfully implemented a host of 
efficiency and consolidation efforts to provide quality services while 
maintaining low overhead costs, thereby saving federal resources.
    Specifically, the Loan Guaranty Service has leveraged technological 
advances to provide enhanced services with fewer resources and has 
benefited from low foreclosure rates. We are concerned that if the 
housing market deteriorates during or before 2007, VA will need to 
provide additional resources to address the increase in foreclosure 
workload that would accordingly follow. Total loans guaranteed in FY 
2005 were 150,895 and are estimated to increase to 230,000 in FY 2006. 
VA also expects an increase in defaults and foreclosures since historic 
lows in FY 2005. VA estimates similar workload levels for FY 2007. The 
Committee continues to be interested in VA providing proper oversight 
over property management contractors and accordingly recommends that 
sufficient FTEE be provided to carry out this inherently governmental 
activity.
            Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E;)
    VR&E; provides employment services and assistance to enable veterans 
with service-connected disabilities to obtain suitable employment and, 
to the maximum extent possible, achieve independence in daily living.
    Consistent with the Majority, we support the Administration's 
budget request of $149 million to support 1,255 FTEE, an increase of 
130 FTEE (107 Direct; two IT; and 21 management and support FTEE) over 
the FY 2006 level. The increase in staffing is necessary to implement 
the 2003 VR&E; Task Force recommendations, which requires additional 
staff in VA regional offices, as well as Central Office staff, to 
improve services, oversight and outreach efforts. VR&E; workload is 
projected to increase to 102,601, approximately a 2.5 percent increase 
over FY 2006 workload of 100,098.
            Insurance
    We accept the Administration's recommended appropriation of $4.4 
million, an increase of $71,000 above the FY 2006 current estimate. 
This will maintain the current FTEE of 503.
General Administration
    The General Administration component of the General Operating 
Expenses account is comprised of a number of sub-accounts: Office of 
the Secretary, Board of Contract Appeals, Board of Veterans' Appeals, 
Office of the General Counsel, Assistant Secretary for Management, 
Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Assistant Secretary 
of Human Resources and Administration, Assistant Secretary for Policy 
and Planning, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental 
Affairs, and Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative 
Affairs. With the exception of the Board of Veterans' Appeals, we 
accept the Administration's request for General Administration.
            Board of Veterans' Appeals
    The Board of Veterans' Appeals (the Board) decides appeals of 
claims filed by veterans and other beneficiaries who are dissatisfied 
with compensation and pension benefits decisions made by VA regional 
offices and a much smaller number of decisions for VA Education, 
Vocational Rehabilitation, Insurance, Home Loan Guaranty Programs, and 
medical benefits. During the past few years, both the number and 
percentage of appeals filed has almost doubled. In addition, claims 
appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the 
Court) in 2005 markedly increased from a historical average between 
2200 and 2400 to 3466. This trend has continued into 2006. The Board is 
responsible for assembling the record filed with the Court when claims 
are appealed and for addressing the more than 70 percent of merit 
decisions remanded to the Board by the Court. Consistent with what we 
understand to be the recommendation of the Majority, we support an 
additional $6.4 million above the Administration's request to support 
an additional 56 FTEE to bring the Board's FTEE staffing to 500.
    In addition, we note that many of the non-personnel accounts at the 
Board, including obligations for training, travel board hearings, 
supplies and equipment are proposed to be cut from the current FY 2006 
levels. In light of our recommendation for increased staffing levels, 
we are recommending, at the very least, an additional $1.1 million to 
restore these obligations to their FY 2006 current estimate level.
     Increase attributable to increased FTEE--$6.4 million
     Increase to restore obligations proposed to be decreased 
to FY 2006 current estimate levels--$1.1 million

                     Information Technology Systems

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1,213,820,000          1,257,000,000          1,252,119,000          1,248,558,000             -8,442,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Information Technology Systems account was first instituted in 
the FY 2006 appropriations bill for the VA (P.L. 109-114). Congress has 
provided two-year funding for this account. Many aspects of this new 
account need to be refined and worked out.
    We are recommending a decrease in this account below the 
Administration's request, comprising a decrease in the Financial and 
Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE) program and an 
increase for enterprise cyber security.
    Two information technology programs warrant special attention, the 
FLITE program and the VA Enterprise Cyber Security Program. 
Additionally, many information technology systems at VA require re-
hosting in FY 2007; previously, we have advocated the need for 
centralized control of these assets and continue to recognize that the 
need for accountability exists during the re-hosting period.
    The FLITE program will integrate and standardize financial/
logistical data and key processes across all VA offices to provide 
timely and accurate financial, logistics, budget, asset and related 
information on VA-wide operations and will establish an advanced 
technology environment which provides the greatest capability and an 
extended life cycle. This program will fill the need for an integrated 
financial management system at VA that was originally to be filled by 
the failed CoreFLS system. VA must thoroughly articulate its business 
processes for accounts payable and related processes before embarking 
on other aspects of the system design and deployment process. VA 
requests $34.4 million in FY 2007, but has not yet corrected the 
planning problems that eventually led to failure of the CoreFLS system. 
We believe $6 million should be provided in FY 2007 for FLITE planning 
and business model determination. This results in a reduction of $28 
million below the Administration's request.
    The Enterprise Cyber Security Program within the VA's Office of 
Information and Technology should receive $20 million in additional 
funding, to bring the appropriated level to $77 million.
     Decrease attributable to recommendations regarding FLITE 
program--($28 million)
     Increase for enterprise security--$20 million

                    National Cemetery Administration

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      156,447,000            160,733,000            213,982,000            174,733,000            +14,000,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The National Cemetery Administration was established in accordance 
with the National Cemeteries Act of 1973. It has a fourfold mission: to 
provide for the interment in any national cemetery with available grave 
space the remains of eligible deceased servicepersons and discharged 
veterans, together with their spouses and certain dependents, and to 
permanently maintain their graves; to mark graves of eligible persons 
in national and private cemeteries; to administer the grant program for 
aid to States in establishing, expanding, or improving State veterans' 
cemeteries; and to administer the Presidential Memorial Certificate 
Program. This appropriation provides for the operation and maintenance 
of 158 cemeterial installations in 39 states, the District of Columbia, 
and Puerto Rico.
    The Administration's requested level for FY 2007 of $161 million 
represents a 2.7 percent increase over the FY 2006 level of $156 
million.
    We concur with what we understand to be the Majority's 
recommendation and we support an additional $14 million for this 
account. This additional funding is needed to make adequate progress on 
the National Shrine Commitment, as recommended by the VA study, 
National Shrine Commitment, the final of three reports mandated by the 
Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act (P.L. 106-117) 
released in October, 2002.
     Recommended increase for National Cemetery 
Administration--$14 million

                      Office of Inspector General

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       70,174,000             69,499,000             72,778,000             77,492,000             +7,993,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Office of Inspector General was established by the Inspector 
General Act of 1978 and is responsible for the audit, investigation and 
inspection of all Department of Veterans Affairs programs and 
operations. The overall operational objective is to focus available 
resources on areas which would help improve services to veterans and 
their beneficiaries, assist managers of Department programs to operate 
economically in accomplishing program goals, and prevent and deter 
recurring and potential fraud, waste and inefficiencies.
    The FY 2007 budget request for the VA Office of Inspector General 
(OIG) includes a $2.8 million decrease in total obligations from the FY 
2006 enacted level and would cause a reduction in staffing of greater 
than five percent from the FY 2006 estimate. The OIG reports generating 
revenues for VA, historically yielding a return on every dollar 
invested of 20-30 times the investment. Currently, the OIG is staffed 
at a level relative to the workforce of the parent agency that is among 
the lowest among the statutory Inspectors General. A more robust OIG 
will help VA create and document best practices while having a positive 
impact upon the organization by limiting fraud, waste, abuse and 
mismanagement of resources. We are recommending the following increase:
     Increase attributable to restoring decreased obligations--
$2.8 million
     Increase of five percent over FY 2006 enacted level--$3.5 
million

                      Construction, Major Projects

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      974,600,000            399,000,000          1,447,000,000            924,900,000           +525,900,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The construction, major projects appropriation provides for 
constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of the facilities 
under the jurisdiction or for the use of the VA, including 
planning,architectural and engineering services, Capital Asset 
Realignment Enhanced Services (CARES) activities, assessments and site 
acquisition where the estimated cost of a project is $7 million or 
more. Emphasis is placed on correction of life/safety code deficiencies 
in existing Department medical facilities.
    We note the Administration's proposed appropriations language omits 
amounts attributable to CARES, although the VA budget justification 
volume for this account states ``the medical care construction request 
includes $457 million for VA's nationwide infrastructure initiative 
(CARES) to ensure that the VA can put facilities and services where 
veterans live.''
    We believe the Administration should provide funding to build the 
top ten projects prioritized for FY 2007 in the VA's Five-Year Capital 
Plan. We note that the VA has included a few of these projects in its 
request: a Spinal Cord Injury Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; seismic 
corrections in American Lake, Washington; medical facility improvements 
in St. Louis, Missouri; and, seismic correction in Long Beach, 
California. We further note that the Long Beach project funded is 
different from the project accorded priority number six, but both make 
seismic corrections to the Long Beach facility, hence we have delayed 
requesting additional funding for this project.
    Our recommended increase would fund the following projects:

Bay Pines, FL--Inpatient/Outpatient Renovation and Construction
Dallas, TX--Clinical Expansion and Renovation
Butler, PA--Outpatient Clinic and Demolition
East Bay, CA--New Outpatient Clinic
Seattle, WA--Mental Health and Research Building
Loma Linda, CA--Outpatient Clinical Building

     Increase to fund priority CARES projects--$526 million
    We note that the VA has promised this Committee that it will 
request the additional funding it needs to complete the Las Vegas 
replacement medical facility in its FY 2008 request.

                      Construction, Minor Projects

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      200,737,000            198,000,000            505,000,000            314,000,000           +116,000,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The construction, minor projects appropriation provides for 
constructing, altering, extending, and improving any of the facilities 
under the jurisdiction or for the use of the Department, including 
planning, CARES activities, assessment of needs, architectural and 
engineering services, and site acquisition, where the estimated cost of 
a project is less than $7 million.
    We recommend a total increase above the Administration's request of 
$116 million. Consistent with the Majority, we support a $16 million 
increase in Construction, Minor Projects for cemeteries. This 
additional funding is needed to make adequate progress on the National 
Shrine Commitment as recommended by the Study on Improvements to 
Veterans Cemeteries (October 2001).
    We are also recommending a general increase for this account of 
$100 million, in order for the VA to begin to address its minor 
construction responsibilities to expand veterans' access, including 
rural veterans access, to VA health care.

       Grants for Construction of State Extended Care Facilities

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       85,000,000             85,000,000            150,000,000            150,000,000            +65,000,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This program provides grants to assist States to construct State 
home facilities, for furnishing domiciliary or nursing home care to 
veterans, and to expand, remodel or alter existing buildings for 
furnishing domiciliary, nursing home or hospital care to veterans in 
State homes. A grant may not exceed 65 percent of the total cost of the 
project.
    We recommend funding at the level recommended by the Independent 
Budget.
     Increase for Construction of State Extended Care 
Facilities--$65 million

          Grants for Construction of State Veterans Cemeteries

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       32,000,000             32,000,000             37,000,000             37,000,000             +5,000,000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This program provides grants to states 100 percent of the cost for 
the establishment, expansion or improvement of state cemeteries. The 
states are responsible for on-going maintenance. State cemeteries 
provide a last resting place for veterans who live in areas not 
reasonably served by a national cemetery. Consistent with the 
recommendation of the Independent Budget, we recommend $37 million for 
this account, $5 million above the Administration's request.
     Increase for Construction of State Veterans Cemeteries--$5 
million

                          DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

                    Veterans Employment and Training

  department of labor--veterans employment and training service (vets)
    The Assistant Secretary for VETS serves as the principal advisor to 
the Secretary of Labor on all policies and procedures affecting 
veterans' employment matters. VETS furnishes employment and training 
services to servicemembers and veterans through a variety of programs, 
including providing grants to States, public entities and non-profit 
organizations, including faith-based organizations, to assist veterans 
seeking employment. Congress also tasked Department of Labor VETS as 
the primary agency to investigate complaints filed under veterans 
preference and re-employment laws. Specifically, VETS administers the 
following programs: DVOP\LVER state grant program; Transition 
Assistance Program; Veterans' Preference and Uniformed Services 
Employment and Reemployment Rights Act; Homeless Veterans' 
Reintegration Program (HVRP); Veterans Workforce Investment Program 
(VWIP); Federal Contractor Program; and the National Veterans' Training 
Institute (NVTI). The Administration requests a total of $224.9 million 
in FY 2007 to support the staffing and grant-making ability of VETS. 
This is a $2.7 million (or 1.3 percent) increase over FY 2006 
appropriations. We recommend an increase of $20 million for VETS to 
support increased staff to provide management and oversight over 
employment and training programs, expand HVRP and VWIP grants, as well 
as provide increased resources for training NVTI training resources.

                             OTHER AGENCIES

                  American Battle Monuments Commission

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request     Independent  Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       51,500,000             40,738,000                    N/A             40,738,000                     0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Includes appropriation for salaries and expenses, and foreign currency fluctuations.

    The American Battle Monuments Commission is responsible for the 
administration, operation and maintenance of cemetery and war memorials 
to commemorate the achievements and sacrifices of the American Armed 
Forces where they have served since April 6, 1917. In performing these 
functions, the Commission maintains 24 permanent American military 
cemetery memorials and 31 monuments, memorials, markers and offices in 
15 foreign countries, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 
and the British dependency of Gibraltar. In addition, six memorials are 
located in the United States: the East Coast Memorial in New York; the 
West Coast Memorial, the Presidio in San Francisco; the Honolulu 
Memorial in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, 
Hawaii; and, the American Expeditionary Forces Memorial and the World 
War II and Korean War Veterans Memorials in Washington, D.C.
    The appropriation for the American Battle Monuments Commission is 
comprised of two separate accounts: salaries and expenses, and foreign 
currency fluctuations. The Administration's requestrepresents a 
decrease of $412,000 in salaries and expenses, and a decrease of 
$10,350,000 in the foreign currency fluctuations account. The agency 
has a currency fluctuation account that insulates its appropriation's 
buying power from changes in exchange rates. The current exchange rate 
of 0.80 Euros to the U.S. dollar would require $4.9 million for foreign 
currency fluctuations.

               U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      FY 2007  Democratic    Recommendation vs.
   FY 2006  Enacted       FY 2007  Request      Independent Budget       Recommendation            Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       18,795,000             19,790,000                    N/A             19,790,000                      0
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Veterans' Judicial Review Act established the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for Veterans Claims (the Court). The Court has exclusive 
jurisdiction to review decisions of the Board of Veterans' Appeals. The 
Court may affirm, modify or reverse the decision of the Board or remand 
the case for additional proceedings. More than 70 percent of the 
Court's decisions on the merits are remanded to the Board each year.
    This appropriation includes $1,260,000 for the Pro Bono 
Representation Program. The Court, an Article I court, states in its 
budget submission that the Court includes the Program's FY 2007 request 
as an appendix to its submission, ``but offers no comment as to its 
substance other than to note that the Program has been highly 
successful in reducing the percentage of unrepresented appellants to 
the Court. Since 1997, the percentage of veterans who are unrepresented 
at the disposition of their appeals has dropped from 48 percent to 29 
percent or less.'' We remain supportive of this program, and of the 
Court's recommended increase of $995,000.

                     SECTION 2--MANDATORY ACCOUNTS

    We are recommending an increase in mandatory, or direct spending, 
of $2.340 billion above the Administration's estimates.
    There are a number of veterans' programs which are not providing 
the benefit intended. This includes a number of VA programs whose value 
has eroded over time due to the loss of purchasing power when costs 
have increased, but the benefit has remained stagnant.
Compensation and pension benefits
    Increase monthly Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) for 
survivors with dependent children under 18 by $250 per month, indexed 
for inflation.
    In May of 2001, the Program Evaluation of Benefits for Survivors of 
Veterans with Service-connected Disabilities recommended that surviving 
spouses with dependent children receive an additional $250 per month 
for the first five years after the veterans' death. Public Law 108-422 
provided an increase, but only for the first two years of eligibility. 
Currently, 1,944 surviving spouses receive this additional $250 per 
month which is frozen at the 2005 benefit level. An additional 700 
survivors have had their $250 per month benefit terminated, but 
continue to receive DIC. The families of those children who lost a 
parent due to their military service should be provided with the 
minimum amount recommended and that amount should be indexed for 
inflation, to avoid a devaluation of the benefit.
     Increase for DIC--$24 million
    Increase pension and death pension benefits for veterans and 
surviving spouses and children to 125 percent of the poverty level.
    Veterans who have honorably served the Nation during a period of 
war and who have reached age 65 or who are under age 65 and are totally 
and permanently disabled as the result of nonservice-connected 
disabilities are eligible to receive a pension benefit if they meet 
certain income criteria. Surviving spouses and children of such wartime 
veterans, including adult disabled children are eligible for a death 
pension. According to a 2004 evaluation of VA's pension program, the 
pension program is not meeting Congressional intent because it is not 
allowing veterans and their survivors to live in dignity without having 
to turn to welfare. Although the evaluation recommended increasing the 
pension benefit to 185 percent of the poverty level, we propose to 
begin the process of improving the benefit by recommending an 
additional $1.7 billion to provide a benefit equal to 125 percent of 
the poverty level for pensioners.
     Increase for pension and death pension benefits--$1.7 
billion
    Allow World War II Filipino veterans to qualify for a nonservice-
connected pension based upon age or disability.
    World War II Filipino veterans who served alongside United States 
Forces in World War II have not received comparable benefits as the 
result of a decision rescinding promised benefits. In order to restore 
these benefits, we recommend that an additional $106 million be 
included in the budget resolution to permit these veterans to receive a 
nonservice-connected pension benefit, We are alert to the possibility 
that this proposal might generate a slight increase in associated 
health care costs to the VA which we would expect the Department to 
assume.
     Increase for Filipino veterans--$106 million
Burial benefits
    Increase burial plot allowance to $745.
    Certain veterans who are buried in a private or state cemetery are 
eligible for a plot allowance of $300. A 2001 Independent Study of 
Burial Benefits recommended increasing the plot allowance to $563. The 
current amount is less than half of the cost of providing the plot. The 
amount should be raised to at least $745 to recognize the costs which 
have increased since the recommendation was made. The benefit should 
also be indexed for inflation.
     Increase for burial plot allowance--$30 million
    Increase burial benefits for veterans who die of a service-
connected disability to $4,100.
    The families of veterans who die of a service-connected disability 
currently receive burial benefits of $2,000. Even with the proposed 
increase, only about 70 percent of the average funeral cost would be 
covered for veterans who die of a service-connected disability. The 
Secretary of Defense pays the cost of burial, or a sum based upon that 
normally incurred by the Secretary for servicemembers who die on active 
duty.
     Increase for burial benefits for service-connected 
disability--$30 million
    Increase burial benefits for veterans who die of a nonservice-
connected disability to $1,270.
    The families of veterans eligible for burial benefits for deaths 
due to a nonservice-connected death currently receive $300. This amount 
has not been increased since 1978, This amount should be increased to 
$1,270 in order to provide adequate funds for burial expenses.
     Increase for burial benefits for nonservice-connected 
disability--$80 million
Insurance
    Base premiums for Service-disabled Veterans Life Insurance (SDVI) 
on current actuarial tables.
    The SDVI program provides life insurance to veterans with service-
connected disabilities who apply within two years of being service-
connected and who would be insurable but for their service-connected 
disabilities. At the time the SDVI program began, premium rates were 
based on the then current (1941) actuarial tables used by commercial 
life insurance companies. Although commercial life insurance tables 
have been updated several times since 1941 (most recently in 2001), 
service-connected disabled veterans, including those injured in 
Afghanistan and Iraq are subjected to premiums approximately three 
times higher than the original program intended because the actuarial 
tables are more than 60 years out of date.
    In May of 2001, the Program Evaluation of Benefits for Survivors of 
Veterans with Service-connected Disabilities recommended that veterans' 
premiums should be based on current mortality rates.
     Increase for SDVI--$21 million
    Increase SDVI maximum insurance to $50,000.
    In May of 2001, the Program Evaluation of Benefits for Survivors of 
Veterans with Service-connected Disabilities recommended that SDVI 
coverage limits should be increased to $50,000 to cover at least two 
years worth of income following the veteran's death. The basic amount 
of SDVI available has not been increased from $10,000 since 1951. 
Adjusted for inflation, $10,000 in 1951 dollars would require an 
increase to $76,751. The estimated cost includes costsassociated with 
updating the actuarial tables, and would be lower if the outdated 
tables were maintained.
     Increase for SDVI maximum insurance to $50,000--$225 
million
    Increase coverage for Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) to 
$200,000.
    VMLI is a type of mortgage life insurance available only to those 
veterans disabled enough by a service-connected disability to qualify 
for a specially adapted housing grant. In May of 2001, the Program 
Evaluation of Benefits for Survivors of Veterans with Service-connected 
Disabilities recommended that the amount of VMLI insurance should be 
increased to between $150,000 and $200,000. This amount has not been 
increased since 1992. VMLI covers only about 55 percent of the 
mortgages of these veterans. Raising the coverage to $200,000 would 
allow the survivors to pay off the mortgage on approximately 96 percent 
of their homes.
     Increase for VMLI--$2 million
Readjustment Benefits
    Specially Adapted Housing Grants
    Proposed legislation would increase the amount of assistance 
available to severely disabled veterans for specially adapted housing 
from its current limit of $50,000 to $60,000 and from $10,000 to 
$12,000 for less severely disabled veterans. In addition, legislation 
would establish a price index that reflects a uniform, national average 
annual increase in the costs of residential home construction, so that 
future veterans eligible for this grant would continue to maintain 
their purchasing power.
     Increase for Specially Adapted Housing Grants--$10 million
    Total Force GI Bill
    Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the 
Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), a landmark piece of legislation that 
provided education and training benefits to many veterans. The time has 
come to update, modernize, and provide greater flexibility within the 
VA's educational assistance programs. For GI Bill education benefits to 
remain a relevant recruitment, retention, as well as readjustment 
benefit, we must ensure that VA's education and training programs 
reflect the manner in which individuals earn and learn in the 21st 
Century. Congress, other than providing benefit increases, has not 
significantly modified administrative or process provisions of the GI 
Bill since 1985. Due to advances in technology, recognition of the 
lifetime learning concept, dynamic workforce changes, and ever-
increasing demands on military recruiting efforts, Congress should 
review the current veterans' education system and make necessary 
changes to provide servicemembers, veterans and their families relevant 
education and training benefits that meet their educational and 
vocational goals for success. The Committee plans on a bipartisan basis 
to explore a number of options to improve and modernize the GI Bill. 
The VA's Advisory Committee on Education and the Partnership for 
Veterans Education--a group made up of traditional veterans and 
military service organizations, as well as higher education advocates 
all have endorsed a proposal termed the ``Total Force GI Bill.'' The 
proposal has three features; one, a clearer alignment of education 
benefit rates according to service rendered; two, establishment of a 
readjustment element to reservists' MGIB benefits earned during 
activation for a contingency operation (presently, activated reservists 
eligible for the new `Chapter 1607' MGIB can only retain unused 
entitlement by remaining in the Selected Reserve--there is no 
portability of benefits after completion of a Selected-Reserve service 
contract; three, to achieve the first and second objectives and to 
ensure future correlation of active duty, veterans, and National Guard 
and Reserve benefits in an equitable and proportional manner, Chapters 
1606 and 1607 in Title 10 and Chapter 30 in Title 38 need to be 
reorganized together under Title 38. CBO has not provided an official 
cost estimate with respect to the proposal, however, informal cost 
estimates have been stated between approximately $100 to $200 million. 
The VA has estimated first-year costs of actual benefit outlays of $112 
million.
     Increase for Total Force GI Bill--$112 million

                            SECTION 3--CHART

    Department of Veterans Affairs Discretionary Accounts FY 2007 (on 
following page)

                                          MINORITY VIEWS AND ESTIMATES
                                             (dollars in thousands)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       FY 2007        FY 2007       Democratic
                                             FY 2006      FY 2007    Independent    Democratic    Recommendation
                                             Enacted      Request       Budget    Recommendation   vs.  Request
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Veterans Benefits Administration
Veterans housing benefit program fund
 account (indefinite)
    Administrative expenses..............      153,575      153,185                     153,185               0
Vocational rehabilitation loans program             53           67                          67               0
 account.................................
    Administrative expenses..............          305          305                         305               0
Native American Veteran Housing Loan               580          615                         615               0
 Program Account.........................
                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total, Veterans Benefits               154,513      154,172      158,747        154,172               0
         Administration..................
Veterans Health Administration
Medical Services.........................   22,547,141   24,716,000   25,990,463     28,155,477      +3,439,477
Medical Administration...................    2,858,442    3,177,000    2,939,403      3,216,635         +39,635
Medical Facilities.......................    3,297,669    3,569,000    3,461,348      3,716,793        +147,793
                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Subtotal, Medical Care...............   28,703,252   31,462,000   32,391,214     35,088,905      +3,626,905
Medical and Prosthetic Research..........      412,000      399,000      460,000        450,464         +51,464
                                          ======================================================================
        Total, Veterans Health              29,115,252   31,861,000   32,851,214     35,539,369      +3,678,369
         Administration..................
Departmental Administration
General operating expenses...............    1,435,391    1,480,764    1,826,745      1,553,975         +73,211
Information technology systems...........    1,213,820    1,257,000    1,252,119      1,248,558          -8,442
National Cemetery Administration.........      156,647      160,733      213,982        174,733         +14,000
Office of Inspector General..............       70,174       69,499       72,778         77,492          +7,993
Construction, major projects.............      974,600      399,000    1,447,000        924,900        +525,900
Construction, minor projects.............      200,737      198,000      505,000        314,000        +116,000
Grants for construction of State extended       85,000       85,000      150,000        150,000         +65,000
 care facilities.........................
Grants for construction of State veterans       32,000       32,000       37,000         37,000          +5,000
 cemeteries..............................
                                          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        Total, Departmental                  4,168,369    3,681,996    5,504,624      4,480,658        +798,662
         Administration..................
                                          ======================================================================
        Total, VA Discretionary Programs    33,438,134   35,697,168   38,514,585     40,174,199     +4,477,031
         (without collections)...........
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: The Independent Budget included costs associated with Priority 8 veterans denied enrollment as part of its
  total discretionary recommendation, and not part of Medical Services, for a total discretionary recommendation
  of $39,199,028,000.

        MESSAGES FROM THE PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

                                ------                                


                         Presidential Messages

March 1, 2005:
    Communication from the President of the United States, 
transmitting the Administration's 2005 National Drug Control 
Strategy, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 1705.
                                ------                                


                        Executive Communications

February 2, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Management, Veterans 
Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting the Department's final rule Increase in Rates 
Payable Under the Montgomery GI Bill Active Duty (RIN: 2900-
AM08) Received December 15, 2004, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
February 9, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, National 
Cemetery Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting the Department's final rule--Relocation of 
National Cemetery Administration Regulations (RIN: 2900-AM10) 
Received January 31, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
February 15, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulation Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management, VBA, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Loan 
Guaranty: Implementation of Public Law 107-103 (RIN: 2900-AL23) 
Received January 27, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
February 17, 2005:
    Letter from The American Legion, transmitting the financial 
statement and independent audit of The American Legion 
proceedings of the 86th annual National Convention of the 
American Legion, held in Nashville, Tennessee from August 31, 
September 1, and 2, 2004 and a report on the Organization's 
activities for the year preceding the Convention, pursuant to 
36 U.S.C. 49.
March 1, 2005:
    Letter from the Deputy Secretary, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Special Medical Advisory Group's 
Annual Report to Congress for FY 2004, pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 
4112(a).
March 8, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulations Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Payment for 
Non-VA Physician and Other Health Care Professional Services 
Associated with Either Outpatient or Inpatient Care Provided at 
Non-VA Facilities (RIN: 2900-AK94) Received February 2, 2005, 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
March 8, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulations Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Board of 
Veterans' Appeals: Appeals Regulations, Rules of Practice; 
Delegations of Authority (RIN: 2900-AL96) Received February 24, 
2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
April, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Labor, 
transmitting the second annual report of the President's 
National Hire Veterans Committee, pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 4100 
Note.
April 13, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting the biennial report describing the administration 
of the Montgomery GI Bill education assistance program, 
covering the program through September 30, 2004, pursuant to 38 
U.S.C. 3036.
May 4, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Development, Office of 
Regulations Policy & Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Exclusions 
from Income and Net Worth Computations (RIN: 2900-AM14) 
Received March 28, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
May 23, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Labor, 
transmitting the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment 
Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) Annual Report to Congress for FY 
2004, pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 4322.
May 24, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a letter reporting the FY 2004 expenditures from 
the Pershing Hall Revolving Fund for projects, activities, and 
facilities that support the mission of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, pursuant to Public Law 102-86, 403(d)(6)(A).
May 24, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a draft bill, ``To amend title 38 United States 
Code, to improve veterans' health care benefits and for other 
purposes.'' June 9, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management, VA, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Veterans 
Education: Non-payment of VA Educational Assistance to Fugitive 
Felons (RIN: 2900-AL79) Received May 17, 2005, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
June 16, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Presumption 
of Sound Condition: Aggravation of a Disability by Active 
Service (RIN: 2900-AL90) Received May 4, 2005, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
July 14, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Presumptions 
of Service Connection for Disease Associated with Service 
Involving Detention or Internment as a Prisoner of War (RIN: 
2900-AM09) Received June 27, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
July 18, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretaries, Departments of Defense and 
Veterans Affairs, transmitting a report on the implementation 
of the health resources sharing portion of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Health Resources 
Sharing and Emergency Operations Act for FY 2004, pursuant to 
38 U.S.C. 8111(f).
July 19, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a draft bill, ``to amend Title 38, United States 
Code, to provide authority for the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to release individually-identified medical information 
to assist in the donation of organs, tissue and eyes for the 
purposes of transplantation.''
July 19, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretaries, Departments of Defense and 
Veterans Affairs, transmitting a report on the implementation 
of the health resources sharing portion of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Health Resources 
Sharing and Emergency Operations Act for FY 2004, pursuant to 
38 U.S.C. 8111(f).
July 20, 2005:
    Letter from the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for 
Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense, transmitting 
the Department's annual report on entitlement transfers of 
basic educational assistance to eligible dependents under the 
Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 3020(1).
July 22, 2005:
    Letter from the Deputy Secretary Under Secretary for 
Personnel and Readiness, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
Department of Defense, transmitting a report for FY 2004 
regarding the activities and accomplishments of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense Joint 
Executive Committee, pursuant to PublicLaw 108-136 Section 583.
July 25, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a draft of proposed legislative changes to 38 
U.S.C. 8110(a).
July 25, 2005:
    Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and 
Under Secretary for Benefits, Departments of Defense and 
Veterans Affairs, transmitting an interim report on the 
Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs' pilot 
program on separation physicals, pursuant to Public Law 107-
107, Section 734.
July 28, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, ORPM, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Loan Guaranty: Hybrid Adjustable Rate Mortgages 
(RIN: 2900-AL54) Received May 2, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
September 27, 2005:
    Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, 
Under Secretary for Benefits, Departments of Defense and 
Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Departments' report 
entitled, ``VA/DOD Single Separation Examinations at Benefits 
Delivery at Discharge Sites,'' pursuant to Public Law 107-107, 
Section 734.
October 6, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Exceptions to Definition of Date of Receipt Based 
on Natural or Man-made Disruption of Normal Business Practices 
(RIN: 2900-AL12) Received September 2, 2005, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
October 6, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Jurisdictions and Addresses of Regional Counsels 
(RIN: 2900-AM20) Received September 2, 2005, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
October 6, 2005:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Management, Department 
of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--
Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit 
Organizations; Grants and Agreements with Institutions of 
Higher Education, Hospitals, and other Non-Profit Organizations 
(RIN: 2900-AJ62) Received August 25, 2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
October 24, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a copy of a draft bill, ``To amend title 38, 
United States Code, to improve veterans' health care benefits 
and for other purposes.''
October 24, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a copy of a draft bill, ``Veterans Programs 
Improvement Act of 2005.''
October 24, 2005:
    Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Reserve Affairs, 
Department of Defense, transmitting the biennial report 
entitled, ``Report on the Montgomery G.I. Bill for Members of 
the Selected Reserve'' for FY 2004, pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 16137 
Public Law 106-65, Section 546.
December 14, 2005:
    Letter from the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting a copy of an editorial entitled, ``U.S. Veterans 
Health Care Healed Itself--So Can Our (Canadian) Medicare 
System.''
December 18, 2005:
    Letter from the Director, SHRP, Office of Personnel 
Management, transmitting the Office's final rule--Veterans 
Recruitment Appointments (RIN: 3206-AJ90) Received December 8, 
2005, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
January 31, 2006:
    Letter from the National Adjutant, the Disabled American 
Veterans, transmitting 2005 National Convention Proceedings of 
the Disabled American Veterans, pursuant to 36 U.S.C. 90i and 
44 U.S.C. 1332.
January 31, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, 
Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Use of 
Diagnostic Code Numbers: Schedule of Ratings--Neurological 
Conditions and Convulsive Disorders (RIN: 2900-AM32) Received 
January 3, 2006, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
January 31, 2006:
    Letter from the Director, Office of Personnel Management, 
transmitting the Office's FY 2004 annual report on Veteran's 
Employment in the Federal Government, pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 
4214(e)(1).
March 13, 2006:
    Letter from the Assistant Secretary for Veterans' 
Employment and Training, Department of Labor, transmitting the 
Department's final rule--Uniformed Service Employment and 
Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, As amended \1/8\ Docket No. 
VETS-U-04 (RIN: 1293-AA09) Received January 17, 2006, pursuant 
to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
March 13, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulations Policy and 
Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the 
Department's final rule--Traumatic Injury Protection Rider to 
Servicemembers' Group Line Insurance (RIN: 2900-AM36) Received 
January 3, 2006, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
March 13, 2006:
    Letter from the Secretary for Regulation Policy and 
Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the 
Department's final rule--Filipino Veterans' Benefits 
Improvements (RIN: 2900-AK65) Received February 15, 2006, 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
March 13, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Reservists' Education: Revision of Eligibility 
Requirements for the Montgomery GI Bill--Selected Reserve (RIN: 
2900-AL69) Received January 9, 2006, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
March 16, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulations Policy and 
Management, VBA, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting 
the Department's final rule--Dependency and Indemnity 
Compensation: Surviving Spouse's Rate; Payments Based on 
Veteran's Entitlement to Compensation for Service-Connected 
Disability Rated Totally Disabling for Specified Periods Prior 
to Death (RIN: 2900-AL86) Received February 1, 2006, pursuant 
to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
March 28, 2006:
    Letter from the Acting Assistant to the Secretary for 
Regulation Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Eligibility 
for Health Care Benefits for Certain Filipino Veterans in the 
United States (RIN: 2900-AM03) Received February 13, 2006, 
pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
April 4, 2006:
    Letter from the Under Secretary for Personnel and 
Readiness, Department of Defense, transmitting the Department's 
annual report on entitlement transfers of basic educational 
assistance to eligible dependents under the Montgomery GI Bill 
(MGIB).
May 24, 2006:
    Letter from the Secretary for Regulation Policy and 
Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the 
Department's final rule--Board of Veterans' Appeals: Rules of 
Practice: Public Availability of Board Decisions (RIN: 2900-
AM31) Received April 6, 2006, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 
801(a)(1)(A).
June 21, 2006:
    Letter from the Secretary for Regulatory Policy and 
Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the 
Department's final rule--Individuals and Groups Considered to 
Have Performed Active Military, Naval, or Air Service (RIN: 
2900-AM39) Received May 18, 2006, 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
June 21, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulatory Policy and Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Remarriage of a Surviving Spouse (RIN: 2900-AM24) 
Received May 18, 2006, 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A).
June 21, 2006:
    Letter from the Office of Regulatory Policy and Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Amended Delegation of Authority--Property 
Management Contractor (RIN: 2900-AM38) Received May 24, 2006, 5 
U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
July 27, 2006:
    Letter from the Chief, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy T Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, 
transmitting the Department's final rule--Definition of 
Psychosis for Certain VA Purposes (RIN: 2900-AK21) Received 
July 27, 2006, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
September 15, 2006:
    Letter from the Regulation Policy and Management, VBA, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Schedule for Rating Disabilities; Guidelines for 
Application of Evaluation Criteria for Certain Respiratory and 
Cardiovascular Conditions; Evaluation for Hypertension with 
Heart Disease (RIN: 2900-AL26) Received September 8, 2006, 5 
U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
September 15, 2006:
    Letter from the Regulation Policy and Management, VBA, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Claims Based on Aggravation of a Non Service-
Connected Disability (RIN: 2900-AI42) Received September 8, 
2006, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
September 15, 2006:
    Letter from the Tracking and Control, Regulation 
Management, VBA, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting 
the Department's final rule--New and Material Evidence (RIN: 
2900-AM15) Received September 8, 2006, 5 U.S.C. 
Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
September 15, 2006:
    Letter from the Secretary for Regulatory Policy and 
Management, VBA, Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting 
the Department's final rule--Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 and 
Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 (RIN: 2900-AM27) 
Received August 4, 2006, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
September 29, 2006:
    Letter from the Director, Regulations Management, Office of 
Regulation Policy and Management, Department of Veterans 
Affairs, transmitting the Department's final rule--Board of 
Veterans' Appeals: Clarification of a Notice of Disagreement 
(RIN: 2900-AL97) Received September 27, 2006, 5 U.S.C. 
Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
December 8, 2006:
    Letter from the Director of Regulations Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Phase-In of Full Concurrent Receipt of Military 
Retired Pay and Veterans Disability Compensation for Certain 
Military Retirees 164 (RIN: 2900-AM13) Received November 29, 
2006, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
December 8, 2006:
    Letter from the Director of Regulations Management, 
Department of Veterans Affairs, transmitting the Department's 
final rule--Medical: Informed Consent--Extension of Time Period 
and Modification of Witness Requirement for Signature Consent 
(RIN: 2900-AM19) Received November 28, 2006, pursuant to 5 
U.S.C. Sec. 801(a)(1)(A).
             STATISTICAL DATA--WAR VETERANS AND DEPENDENTS

    Current information on statistical data on War Veterans and 
Dependents can be found on the web at http://wwwl.va.gov/opa/
fact/amwars.asp. Listed below is the current information as of 
November 2006.
                     American Revolution (1775-1783)

Total U.S. Servicemembers........................................217,000
Battle Deaths......................................................4,435
Non-mortal Woundings...............................................6,188

                         War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Total U.S. Servicemembers........................................286,730
Battle Deaths......................................................2,260
Non-mortal Woundings...............................................4,505

                     Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (VA estimate)..........................106,000
Battle Deaths (VA estimate)........................................1,000

                         Mexican War (1846-1848)

Total U.S. Servicemembers.........................................78,718
Battle Deaths......................................................1,733
Other Deaths in Service...........................................11,550
Non-mortal Woundings...............................................4,152

                          Civil War (1861-1865)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Union)..............................2,213,363
Battle Deaths (Union)............................................140,414
Other Deaths in Service (Union)..................................224,097
Non-mortal Woundings (Union).....................................281,881
Total Servicemembers (Cont.)...................................1,500,000
Battle Deaths (Confederate).......................................74,524
Other Deaths in Service (Confederate) \1\.........................59,297
Non-mortal Woundings (Confederate)...............................Unknown

                    Spanish-American War (1898-1902)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)............................306,760
Battle Deaths........................................................385
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)..............................2,061
Non-mortal Woundings...............................................1,662

                         World War I (1917-1918)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)..........................4,734,991
Battle Deaths.....................................................53,402
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater).............................63,114
Non-mortal Woundings.............................................204,002
Living Veterans.............................................Less than 25

                        World War II (1941-1945)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide).........................16,112,566
Battle Deaths....................................................291,557
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)............................113,842
Non-mortal Woundings.............................................671,846
Living Veterans................................................3,242,000

                         Korean War (1950-1953)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)..........................5,720,000
Battle Deaths.....................................................33,741
Other Deaths (In Theater)..........................................2,833
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater).............................17,672
Non-mortal Woundings.............................................103,284
Living Veterans................................................3,086,400

                         Vietnam War (1964-1975)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)..........................8,744,000
Deployed to Southeast Asia.....................................3,403,000
Battle Deaths.....................................................47,424
Other Deaths (In Theater).........................................10,785
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater).............................32,000
Non-mortal Woundings.............................................153,303
Living Veterans................................................7,286,500

                 Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)..........................2,322,000
Deployed to Gulf.................................................694,550
Battle Deaths........................................................147
Other Deaths (In Theater)............................................235
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)..............................1,590
Non-mortal Woundings.................................................467
Living Veterans................................................2,260,000

                    America's Wars Total (1775-1991)

U.S. Military Service during Wartime..........................43,185,893
Battle Deaths....................................................653,708
Other Deaths (In Theater).........................................14,560
Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater)............................525,930
Non-mortal Woundings...........................................1,447,281
Living War Veterans...........................................17,835,000
Living Veterans (Periods of War & Peace)......................23,976,000

             Global War on Terror (as of Sept. 30, 2006) \3\

Total U.S. Servicemembers (Worldwide)..........................1,384,968
Deployed to Iraq & Afghanistan...................................165,000
Battle Deaths......................................................2,333
Other Deaths (In Theater)............................................707
Non-mortal Woundings..............................................50,508
Living Veterans \2\..............................................588,923

\1\ Does not include 26,000 to 31,000 who died in Union prisons.
\2\ VA estimate does not include those still on active duty and may 
include veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
\3\ For the most current GWOT statistics, visit: http://
siadapp.dior.whs.mill personnel CASUALTY/castop.htm
Source: Department of Defense (DoD), except living veterans, which are 
VA estimates. Estimates are as of September 30, 2006.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                ------                                


                                 U.S. Veterans and Dependents on Benefits Rolls
                                             (As of September 2006)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                                      SURVIVING
                                                                VETERANS     CHILDREN     PARENTS      SPOUSES
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Civil War...................................................  ...........            3  ...........  ...........
Indian Wars.................................................  ...........  ...........  ...........  ...........
Spanish-American War........................................  ...........          113  ...........          125
Mexican Border..............................................  ...........           18  ...........           70
World War I.................................................            9        3,831  ...........        7,596
World War II................................................      429,518       15,636          227      232,745
Korean Conflict.............................................      226,467        3,423          419       61,423
Vietnam Era.................................................    1,103,561        9,819        3,614      151,507
Gulf War \1\................................................      700,560       12,461          776       12,826
Nonservice-connected........................................      329,856       20,362            2      186,074
Service-connected...........................................    2,725,824       28,362        6,418      313,091
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
\1\ For compensation and pension purposes, the Persian Gulf War period has not yet been terminated and includes
  veterans of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.