Panel Urges That Iraq/Afghanistan Vets With PTSD Should Receive Lifelong Care
September 20, 2007
In late July, I reported on the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors and the recommendations the panel made to the President and to members of Congress. They had many recommendations, some of which, steps have already been taken to implement. On Wednesday, they urged that the Bush Administration and Congress, not lose sight of the needs of our Wounded Warriors, in their continued disagreement over the war in Iraq, and to act quickly on measures to improve the care given to our Wounded Warriors. Hopefully they’ll be listened to. Our Wounded Warriors deserve nothing less than state-of-the-art healthcare, for as long as they require it. That’s the very least our country can do for our warriors.
Wednesday the leaders of the Presidentâ€™s Commission on Care for Americaâ€™s Returning Wounded Warriors, urged Congress to quickly pass legislation that would provide for lifelong treatment to Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans who are suffering from PTSD. The commission co-chaired by Former Kansas Senator Bob Dolg and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, said that what they did not want to see was the disagreements between Congress and the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, to overshadow the fact that there are immediate needs of the thousands of veterans.
“The problems facing our injured service men and women have not gone away,” said Shalala. “I implore you not to forget about those who have already sacrificed so much - our injured men and women. They need to be front and center in congressional debates and within the administration,” she told the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.
In a report that was released in July, the nine member commission recommended several changes that would increase benefits for family members who are providing care for the wounded, create a website for medical records and revamp the manner in which disability pay is awarded to these injured warriors. Most of the recommendations will require action from either the White House, the Pentagon or the Veterans Affairs Department. Some others that were recommended would leave it to Congress to make the necessary changes to raise some disability benefits, improve the care for PTSD and to strengthen the work-leave and insurance benefits for family members. The Senate passed a bill in July. That bill now awaits action by the House, which is currently considering the possibility of adding other commission proposals.
According to Dole and Shalala, the White House is preparing proposals that could go beyond those recommendations made by the commission, by offering lifetime pharmacy benefits for some wounded warriors. The commission is also working to obtain legislation that would provide lifetime PTSD treatment for any Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who might need it, citing the fact that due to the Army’s prolonged and repeated deployments for around 500,000 service members, their risk for mental health problems is increased.
“The consequences of PTSD can be devastating,” Shalala said. “The long service members are in the field, the more likely they are to experience events, which can lead to symptoms of PTSD.”
Other recommendations made were the restructuring of the veterans’ disability pay systems which would include the shifting of more responsibility for awarding benefits to the VA and away from the Pentagon. The hope is to decrease the bureaucracy veterans experience from the overlapping Pentagon and VA systems.
Full transcript of Former Senator Dole’s and Donna Shalala’s Testimony