3:51 PM EDT

Jeb Hensarling, R-TX 5th

Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, first, I want to thank the chairman of the committee, and I want to thank all those who contributed to this underlying legislation. I thank them for their good work on behalf of our Nation's veterans.

I myself am not a veteran. I did not serve my Nation in uniform. My grandfather did. He served during World War II. My father did. He served during Korea. My brother did. He served during the Cold War. So I have the highest respect for the men and women who serve our Nation in uniform.

Mr. Chairman, as we approach the annual debate on our budget, one thing that I think that we hold in common, although there are many differences in our parties, is that we all believe that our veterans and especially our veterans health care ought to be one of the most important priorities that we have as a Nation. And as we continue to fight this war on terror, we know we are creating more veterans with more health care needs.

During the last congressional recess, I spent a lot of time visiting with the veterans of the Fifth Congressional District in Texas that I have the honor and pleasure of representing. I heard many good comments, frankly, about VA health care and some complaints. And I suppose, Mr. Chairman, that one of the most important complaints I heard was the complaint on the waiting time in order to actually get the appointment that the veteran has requested.

Now, I know that great strides have been made in reducing these waiting times. I know that the veterans health care system is serving entire new populations that they didn't serve years ago. And this is a good thing. But I still would hope that, number one, we could understand exactly the challenges that our veterans are facing and see if there are not some commonsense solutions, as earlier the gentlelady from Texas, my colleague, said, that essentially we can save time and save money and still

help our veterans.

This amendment is a very simple amendment. I hope it is a very noncontroversial amendment. It simply directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to study the average length of time between the desired date for which a veteran seeks a scheduled medical appointment and the date in which the appointment is actually completed.

Now, I know that the vast majority of appointments are completed within this 30-day window, but I don't believe this body knows if that means the bulk of them happened on day 29 or the bulk of them may happen on day six. This is important information we ought to have.

I represent a district that is urban, suburban, and rural; and this study would not just concentrate on our urban areas but our rural areas as well, where a number of our veterans go to retire.

Additionally, this amendment would ask for the Secretary's recommendations on what we might do to shorten the length of time to 15 days and provide recommendations to our body to do that. Not only veterans in the Fifth Congressional District of Texas, but if you look at the independent budget supported by numerous of our veterans service organizations, they speak to the need to see what we can do to reduce, in many cases, excess waiting times, something they flagged as a strong concern.

So I know the VA has made great strides, but there is still work that we can do to serve these people who serve us and protect freedom, the greatest commodity that we have in our land. And by supporting this amendment, Congress can make just one more small step in the direction of supporting our veterans.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:55 PM EDT

Robert Andrews, D-NJ 1st

Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the chairman of the committee, we thank the gentleman from Texas for offering this well-thought-out amendment. We support his efforts to try to reduce waiting time for our deserving veterans, and the majority will support the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.