Legislative Update from Senator Richard Burr

Yesterday, the Veterans' Affairs committee held a hearing on "The State of VA Health Care." During the hearing we heard from Secretary Shinseki, Under Secretary Petzel, various veterans groups, and oversight entities, like the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). To watch the full hearing,click here.

I believe the hearing confirmed how systemic this problem is. Veterans and their families across the country have faced delayed, or in some cases, no access to health care. Given so many warnings and red flags raised by the Inspector General and the General Accountability Office, this crisis can only be described as a dereliction of duty on the part of senior leadership at the VA.

We still have much to learn about the size and scope of the problem at VA - this hearing is not the solution and certainly not the end. VA's progress and the outcomes of IG's various investigations will be closely monitored by Congress and will help inform our next steps.

You can read my opening statement from today's hearinghereand watch my questioninghere.

On Wednesday,SenatorKing and I introduced legislation that would make it easier for service-disabled veterans to do business with the federal government by eliminating confusing differences between veterans contracting programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

During their service, veterans gain valuable knowledge and develop unique skills that are put to good use when they return home and open a small business. To help these veteran-owned businesses succeed, we should make sure there are clear-cut rules and regulations that do not hinder their business's ability to prosper. With this legislation we will ensure that our veterans don't have to fight massive bureaucracy after returning home from war. Read morehere.

On Thursday, the HELP Committee held a hearing entitled "Progress and Challenges: Tobacco Use and Regulation in the United States," which included discussion of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's regulation of tobacco products. During the hearing, I raised the importance of ensuring our nation's regulatory scheme provides for continued innovation so that consumers have the choice to transition from conventional cigarettes to tobacco products that present reduced harm. I encouraged the representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to examine the science surrounding electronic cigarettes and not lose sight of the potential public health benefit of cigarette smokers transitioning to non-combustible tobacco products. My remarks and questions from today's hearing can be foundhereandhere.