Clause 2(d)(1) of Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives for the 111 th Congress requires each standing committee, not later than February 15 of the first session, to adopt an oversight plan for the 111 th Congress. The oversight plan must be submitted simultaneously to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on House Administration.

The following agenda constitutes the oversight plan of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for the 111 th Congress. It includes areas in which the Committee and its subcommittees expect to conduct oversight during this Congress, but does not preclude oversight or investigation of additional matters or programs as they arise. Because the Committee generally conducts oversight through its subcommittees, the plan is organized by subcommittee. The full Committee may, at the discretion of the Chairman, after consultation with the Ranking Republican Member, conduct any of the oversight activities planned by the subcommittees.  

Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

1.  Modernizing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Disability Benefits Claims Processing System – The Subcommittee plans to continue its oversight activities centered on modernizing and revising the VA disability benefits claims process, as well as the implementation of P.L. 110-389.

2.  Benefits The Subcommittee will examine veterans’ benefits programs, such as special monthly compensation, home, auto, and clothing allowances, and burial benefits, to ensure effective operation and sufficient benefit levels.

3.  Examination of the Nonservice-Connected Pension Programs – The Subcommittee plans to examine whether pension programs are benefiting those who need it most.  In addition, this Subcommittee will explore the need to expand the pension program to include certain veterans or survivors who may have been previously omitted and the pay-go costs associated with any expansion.

4.  Outreach – The Subcommittee plans to look at the outreach efforts conducted by the VA to ensure that eligible veterans, survivors and other beneficiaries are aware of benefits to which they may be entitled, paying special attention to geographic limitations and considerations.

5. Appeals – The Subcommittee will further explore the compensation and pension claims appeal process at the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), the Appeals Management Center (AMC) and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The Subcommittee plans to focus on exploring avenues to simplify the current appeal process, increase accountability and reduce avoidable remands.

6.   National and Overseas Cemeteries – The Subcommittee will examine the immediate and long-term needs of the VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to provide burial or commemoration to America’s fallen heroes. The Subcommittee will review the need for additional VA national cemeteries or grants to state cemeteries, standards used to establish national cemeteries and the condition of existing cemeteries to determine if their condition befits their status as national shrines to our nation’s veterans. Additionally, the Subcommittee will review the adequacy of benefits for the provision and placement of headstones and markers provided by VA and the expansion of the ABMC’s interpretative program.

7.  Information Technology – The Subcommittee will continue to review current information technology systems and software applications being used by the VBA with a focus on VETSNET and Virtual VA.  The Subcommittee will explore the potential for web-based claim application capabilities and benefits management portals. It will also explore the applicability of rules-based and other expert systems to automate the adjudication of disability claims.

8. Insurance Matters – The Subcommittee will examine the insurance programs under the jurisdiction of VA to ensure the provision of the proper level of indemnification and appropriate categories of coverage. Additionally, the Subcommittee will review the overall operation of these insurance programs.

9. Presumptions – The Subcommittee will continue to examine the process for establishing presumptions of service-connection for the purpose of providing disability benefits compensation, focusing on veterans from both current and past conflicts.

10. Seamless Transition – The Subcommittee will continue to examine and support efforts to ensure that wounded warriors and other transitioning servicemembers are able to receive benefits in an accurate and timely manner, including the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP), Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program and implementation of a single VA/DoD disability exam process.

Subcommittee on Economic Opportunities

1. Employment and Self-Employment Opportunities for Veterans – The Subcommittee plans to review the efforts of the Department of Labor and the VA in providing employment opportunities to veterans, with a focus on recently separated service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including demobilizing Reserve and National Guard personnel.  The Subcommittee also plans to review federal contracting efforts to ensure veterans’ employment.

2. Department of Labor Workforce and Transition Services The Subcommittee plans to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the Veterans Employment, Training and Employer Outreach Advisory Committee within the Department of Labor, including the progress of the Credentialing Work Group.

3. Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) – VETS oversees several programs for the Department of Labor that directly impacts veterans’ benefits and employment. VETS is currently provided funding for the State Grants for Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERs) and Disabled Veterans’ Program (DVOPs) Specialists, the National Veterans Training Institute (NVTI), the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP), the Veterans’ Workforce Investment Program (VWIP), and program administration.

4. 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 Subcommittee will examine VR&E’s recent efforts to implement its 5-track program throughout the 57 regional offices. In addition the Subcommittee will likely focus on areas such as suitable employment including self employment assistance to the most seriously disabled veterans, contracted services, claims processing, and employer outreach.

5. Transition Assistance to Demobilizing Reserve and National Guard Personnel Due to the increased utilization of the Selected Reserve since September 11, 2001, many more citizen soldiers are being activated and serving on active duty. Consequently, as the Reserve and National Guard forces demobilize after their activation period, they like active duty troops require period of readjustment and transition services. The Subcommittee will continue to examine and focus its efforts to ensure that Selected Reserve personnel receive the assistance and benefits they may need to successfully transition into civilian workforce and lifestyle. The Subcommittee is also interested in reviewing the demobilization process and the recommendations from the Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes Report.

6. Veterans Preference in Federal Hiring/Categorical Ranking Systems Veterans have complained that the Federal Veterans Preference program is ineffective. The Office of Personnel Management has implemented an alternative personnel system to enlarge applicant selection pools. The Subcommittee will be reviewing the current personnel system.

7. Veterans’ Priority of Hiring and Federal Contractors – Title 38 requires Federal contractors to provide hiring priority to certain qualified veterans and to report job openings to state and local employment services. The Subcommittee will review the effectiveness of current law with a view towards enforcement.

8. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act – The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides a broad range of employment rights and responsibilities for veterans and employers.  The Subcommittee will assess the effectiveness of USERRA with special emphasis on employers’ willingness to hire National Guard and Reserve members and employment-related issues related to returning to the workforce following activation as well as issues related enforcement. 

9. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) – As more Reservists and National Guard members are activated there is an increasing reliance on the protections offered under SCRA. The Subcommittee will continue to provide oversight over the SCRA.

10. GI Bill – The Subcommittee plans to closely monitor the VA’s efforts to implement the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008, with a focus on ensuring that the VA will be ready to meet its August 2009 deadline for implementation. The Subcommittee will also examine ways in which to improve veterans’ educational benefits and ensure that these benefits are available to veterans when they need them.

11. State Approving Agencies The Subcommittee will examine how State Approving Agencies can be streamlined, reduce areas of responsibility, become more accountable for expenditures and reduce multiple agency overlap in services to better improve education benefits for veterans.

12. Small Business Contracting Goals for Veteran and Service Connected Disabled Business Owners The Federal government has poor results in assuring that small business contracting goals with service-connected disabled veteran small business owners are being met. The Subcommittee will explore the root cause for this underachievement.

13. VA Federal Procurement, Contract Bundling, and Non-Competitive Contracts –The VA has the second largest Federal procurement budget after DoD. We should monitor how VA does business and how its procurement policies affect the VA and veterans seeking to do business with the VA. There is a concern that large corporations who secure large contracts with the VA and the Federal government at large generally fail to comply with their small business contract submission that incorporates veterans as subcontractors. To date the VA has imposed no penalty on any company for failing to execute their small business plan. We need to see what the Defense Acquisition University is doing to ensure that all contractors are in compliance with the small business goals.

14. VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business/Center for Veterans Enterprise Public Law 109-461 required the VA to set and meet certain procurement goals with respect to veteran and service-disabled veteran owned small businesses. The Subcommittee will examine VA’s efforts to implement P.L. 109-461 which required the VA to set and meet certain procurement goals with respect to veteran and service-disabled veteran owned small businesses. The Subcommittee will examine the effectiveness of the Center for Veterans Enterprise and the Veterans Business Development Corporation.

15. VA Loan Guaranty Program. The Subcommittee will review existing veterans’ loan programs to determine the effect of the current downturn in real estate on veteran home owners. The Subcommittee will include the views of the mortgage industry and other real estate experts to see if improvements can be made to the existing system including additional protections for mortgagors. The Subcommittee will also review VA operations in the secondary market.

16. Paralympics The Subcommittee plans to monitor the progress of the VA’s Paralympics grant program.

17. Information Technology VBA currently uses several information technology applications to assist administration of its education and vocational rehabilitation and employment programs. Despite this basic level of automation, significant backlogs persist. The Subcommittee will assess opportunities to increase the ability of rules-based systems to improve administration and decrease the backlogs.

Subcommittee on Health

1. Provision of VA Health Care The Subcommittee will examine the VA’s health care delivery structure to determine whether it is the most effective and efficient means of delivering the best care to our veterans. Among the issues the Subcommittee will explore include the adequacy of the existing VISN structure; the role of technology such as telehealth/ telemedicine in improving care to rural and under-served veterans; and quality of care and access issues. The Subcommittee also plans on providing oversight of VA’s Project HERO (“Healthcare Effectiveness through Resource Optimization”) initiative, as well as VA’s current contract care practices.

2. Health Care Personnel The Subcommittee plans on evaluating VA’s current efforts as well as explore innovative solutions to recruit and retain nurses, physicians, dentists, and other health and mental health care professionals. .

3. Women Veterans’ Programs With the rapid and steady increase in the number of women veterans, the Subcommittee will examine VA’s provision of health care services to women and identify service gaps where improvements can be made. A special effort will be made to ensure that VA is equipped to care for victims of military sexual trauma.

4. Homelessness The Subcommittee plans to review VA’s current efforts to alleviate homelessness amongst veterans, and examine ways to improve services to homeless veterans including women veterans with children.

5. Reintegration The Subcommittee will assess means of improving health care services and reintegration efforts for returning servicemembers.

6. VA Medical and Prosthetic Research The Subcommittee plans on examining the effectiveness of the VA’s current research endeavors and the degree to which the research translates into clinical applications, The Subcommittee also plans on looking at such issues as the role of intellectual property, the function, and effectiveness of VA’s research corporations, and the effect of data security measures on research efforts.

7. Prosthetics and Specialized Services The Subcommittee plans to examine VA’s specialized services, such as blind rehabilitation, spinal cord injury, and prosthetics. Specifically, the Subcommittee will explore ways to improve these services and ways the VA can meet Congress’ intent.

8. Long-Term Care The Subcommittee plans to examine the current state of VA’s long-term care programs, and explore ways to improve and augment the VA’s efforts in this area including state veterans homes and contract community homes. The Subcommittee will assess the VA’s efforts to provide more home and community-based care options to better provide long-term care services to veterans.

9. CARES, VA Construction, and Facilities Management The Subcommittee plans to monitor the VA’s health-related capital asset program, including looking at innovative ways the VA can provide health care services in the future. The Subcommittee plans on reviewing the current state of the VA’s construction programs, including major and minor construction, facilities management efforts, and capital asset plans. The Subcommittee plans to assess VA’s historic preservation, and enhanced use lease efforts to better utilize existing VA capital assets.

10. VA Funding The Subcommittee plans to examine the adequacy of VA funding, and assess whether a new budget projection model and a different appropriations measure can offer more efficient use of resources. Specifically, the Subcommittee will examine the VA’s budget to determine whether it accurately funds services for returning servicemembers and whether it accounts for the long-term costs of these new veterans. In addition, the Subcommittee will examine the Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF) and VA’s forecast and planning efforts to ensure that the VA is taking steps to meet health care demand.

11. PTSD and Mental Health Issues The Subcommittee plans to continue its oversight of the VA’s current efforts in the area of mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as they relate to returning servicemembers and veterans of previous conflicts.

12. Traumatic Brain Injury and VA Polytrauma Centers The Subcommittee plans on examining the VA’s efforts in diagnosing and treating Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as well as the operation of the VA’s Polytrauma Centers. The Subcommittee seeks to learn whether the VA is meeting the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have shown a marked increase in TBI.

13. VA/DOD Cooperation The Subcommittee plans to examine how the VA and DOD health care systems can best work together to provide health care services to veterans. The Subcommittee plans to look at the progress the two agencies have made in ensuring that health information is shared, including electronic medical records, and other ways that VA and DOD can improve services to returning servicemembers and veterans.

14. Outreach and Education The Subcommittee plans on exploring VA’s current outreach and education efforts and examine ways in which the VA can better provide information and guidance on veterans’ health issues to veterans, the public, and other governmental and private entities.

15. VA’s Fourth Mission The VA has an important role to play outside of the direct provision of health care to veterans. The Subcommittee plans to examine the VA’s readiness to accomplish its fourth mission – to serve as backup to the Department of Defense health care system in times of war or other emergencies and to support communities following domestic terrorist incidents and natural disasters. The Subcommittee seeks to be assured that the VA has devoted adequate resources for its fourth mission contingencies and that the VA’s fourth mission duties do not detract from its first mission of caring for veterans.

16. VA Pharmaceutical Care The Subcommittee plans to monitor VA’s efforts to offer affordable, safe, and diverse pharmaceutical services. The Subcommittee will explore whether the VA’s process for updating the formulary is adequate; the accessibility of non-formulary drugs that are medically necessary; and VA’s efforts in the area of medication management.

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations  

1. VA Inspector General The Subcommittee plans to review how the VA implements the recommendations of the VA Inspector General (IG) to increase VA efficiency and effectiveness. The Subcommittee will work to ensure that the IG has the resources it needs to accomplish its mission and assist in restoring veterans’ confidence in the system.

2. VA Management The Subcommittee plans to monitor and address the effectiveness of VA management in delivering veterans’ benefits.

3. Human Subjects Protection Previous problems in VA Research involving human subjects led the committee to initiate several inquiries into protecting human subjects in VA studies, while ensuring affiliates respect and conform to the same level of protection. The Subcommittee will review this matter to assure the protections have been succinctly addressed and are working according the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects.

4. Seamless Transition The Subcommittee will continue to monitor VA and Department of Defense (DoD) efforts to assure that the transition between the two departments is seamless and responsive to the needs of veterans. The Subcommittee plans on examining issues such as the progress of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and DoD’s referral of discharged Guard and Reserve personnel to VA’s dental program for their follow-up dental care.

5. Fully Interoperable Electronic Personal Health Information between VA & DoDCongress has mandated VA-DOD development of interoperable health records or systems. The Subcommittee will evaluate timelines and progress in this effort.

6. Credentialing, Privileging, and Screening of VA Employees The Subcommittee will review the portfolio of background checks and reviews that involve current and potential VA employees with the goal of assuring that veterans and coworkers are safe.

7. VA’s Fourth Mission The Subcommittee plans to examine the VA’s role in responding natural or man-made disasters and as a backup to the Department of Defense health care system. The Subcommittee will explore whether the VA can meet its “fourth mission” responsibilities under the National Response Framework and provide for its continuity of operations.

8. Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE) After the failure of the CoreFLS financial and logistics system, VA has embarked on a new effort called FLITE. VA intends to follow a multiple-year, phased approach that will integrate and standardize financial and asset management processes across all VA offices by 2014 at an estimated cost of $570 million. The Subcommittee intends to maintain close oversight of this multi year project.

9. VA Information Security Management Program The loss of computer hardware containing the personal information of millions of veterans enhanced awareness of ongoing problems with VA’s informational security program. The Subcommittee has an ongoing interest in the effectiveness of the program.

10. Small Business Contracting Goals for Service Connected Disabled Business Owners The Federal government has a poor result in assuring that small business contracting goals with service-connected disabled veteran small business owners are being met. The Subcommittee will explore the root cause for the underachievement.

11. Chemical. Radiological, Biological and other Test Veterans Issues The Subcommittee will continue to explore issues surrounding chemical, radiological, and biological testing of veterans, as well as issues related to Agent Orange and Gulf War exposures.

12. VA’s Procurement and Acquisition Activities VA spends over $6 billion annually for medical and surgical supplies, prosthetics, information technology, construction and other materials and services. The Subcommittee will examine contracting, logistics, and development of control systems at VA to ensure that Veterans’ needs are met and the taxpayers’ interests are protected.

13. Medical Care Collections Fund The Subcommittee will conduct oversight on VA collection efforts.

14. EEO Complaint Resolution System Following significant problems in VA’s EEO process, Congress mandated the creation of an independent office to provide mediation and other dispute resolution services. The Subcommittee will examine how effective this office has been and whether it has adequate resources to function as Congress intended.

15. Laboratory and Clinical Select Agent Security VA Level 3 Laboratories and all VA Medical Centers are host to various chemical, biological and radiological agents. The Subcommittee will examine VA compliance with law and regulations governing use and storage of such materials.

16. Electronic Claims Processing The Veterans Benefits Administration must move to electronic processing of benefits claims if it is to address the claims backlog. O&I will conduct oversight of the cooperative efforts of VBA and the Office of Information and Technology to address this critical need.

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