Thursday, July 26, 2007

Senate Passes Wounded Warrior Act

In response to the hideous treatment of troops at some of America's Veterans hospitals, the United States Senate yesterday passed landmark legislation to improve care for wounded troops and Veterans when they return home from battle. The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, sponsored by Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, passed on Wednesday by unanimous consent.

“Our wounded warriors deserve the best care and support that we can muster, and the American people rightly insist on no less,” said Levin “This bill lays out a path for the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to address shortfalls in the care of our wounded warriors while they remain in military service, during the transition from the military to the VA, and after this transition while in the care of the VA.”

"Without hesitation or complaint our men and women in uniform have answered the call to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan," commented Patty Murray (D-WA), one of the bill's major supporters. "They have left loved ones for years, put their careers on hold, and put their lives on the line. We owe them this prompt and comprehensive response to the problems that have plagued their care."

The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act addresses the obvious cases of substandard facilities, such as those discovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and focuses specifically on the following:
  • Requires the Department of Defense and VA to work together to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent, treat and diagnose traumatic brain injures and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Directs the two agencies to develop and implement a joint electronic health record so that critical medical records are not lost as our wounded troops move from battlefield doctors to medical holds and on to the VA.
  • Requires the military to use VA standards for rating disabilities, only allowing deviation from VA standards when it will result in a higher disability rating for the service member.
  • Requires the military to adopt the VA presumption that a disease or injury is service-connected when our heroes – who were healthy prior to service - have spent six months or more in active duty
The bill will also give members of the military a 3.5 percent pay raise, a salary hike that the Bush administration has called "excessive."

“I remain deeply disappointed in some of the conditions I saw earlier this year at Walter Reed Medical Center – just one deficiency among many across our veterans’ health care system – and I am proud that the Senate today has passed the Wounded Warriors Act to address those problems," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after the vote. "It is our duty to ensure our courageous service-members do not fall through the cracks when they need that care the most."

“And despite the President’s objection, we are also giving our troops a well-deserved pay raise. Since taking over the majority, Democrats have provided billions of dollars to help our veterans because Americans willing to pay the ultimate price for our nation should receive the care they deserve, from enlistment to retirement and beyond."