On Nov. 15, Congressman Marlin Stutzman (IN-03) and his colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs worked to identify potential budgetary savings within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congressman Stutzman, a member of both budget and veterans committees, summarized the importance of the hearing.
“We have our work cut out for us. While our national debt climbs toward $15 trillion, we’re welcoming home servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he stated. “We must keep our promises to the men and women who have put their lives on the line. If we are to truly honor their sacrifices, we also have a responsibility to tackle our debt. That’s why today’s hearing is so important.”
In an effort to streamline taxpayer dollars, the committee heard from both veteran service organizations and VA officials. Numerous witnesses expressed concern regarding compensation issues within the VA. According to Belinda Finn, assistant inspector general for audits and evaluations, the VA paid nearly $111 million in “retention incentives” to 16,487 employees in FY2010.
“We need to look carefully for opportunities to streamline programs and cut overspending,” Stutzman stated. “Taxpayer dollars should be directed to programs that directly assist veterans. We need to make sure that these funds go to veterans and aren’t caught up in needless administrative costs. The growth of the general administration budget, the size and growth of the Veterans Integrated Service Networks administrations, and the Veterans Benefits Administration records managements and shredding practices need to be examined. We’ve already identified overspending in the area of conferences and meetings. Both the House and the Senate have called for reduced VA Central Office Spending for FY2012. I authored, and the House passed, H.R. 2302, to bring more transparency and accountability when it comes to the use of tax dollars at conferences. When it comes to spending tax dollars, veterans are priority one.”