WOUNDED WARRIOR ASSISTANCE ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - March 28, 2007)
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, it's unfortunate that we even have to consider this bill. Proper care of our military wounded should be the top priority of our military medical establishment. As we know now, it was not a sufficient priority for the Secretary of the Army and several senior Army officers. Those individuals may be gone, but the problems they allowed to take root and fester must be eliminated. This bill is a good first step in that direction.
The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act seeks to correct the training, personnel, and oversight deficiencies that the Walter Reed Medical Center scandal revealed earlier this year. I want to be clear: the overwhelming majority of the men and women who work at Walter Reed are first-rate medical professionals who care deeply about the troops in their care. However, we now know that for several years, Walter Reed--and almost certainly other DoD and VA medical facilities across the country--had been strained beyond its capacity.
Ill-advised decisions--including the outsourcing of administrative and maintenance personnel--clearly contributed to the appalling living conditions experienced by some soldiers at Walter Reed. I applaud the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Skelton, for including a 1-year moratorium on such outsourcing pending a review of the entire practice. I have long argued that it is a myth that the private sector can invariably do a better job than the Federal government with these kinds of services. We've already seen in Iraq how corporate contracting giants like Haliburton can make hundreds of millions of dollars while providing substandard services to troops in the field. I'm grateful that my colleagues on multiple committees are looking at these issues, and I'm sure the reforms in this bill will only be the beginning of our effort to re-evaluate the use of contractors within the Federal government.
This bill also mandates a review of the status of all DoD medical facilities, which is another key step in providing the oversight needed to ensure that any other hospitals or clinics with deficient care are identified and remedial measures taken immediately. I am confident that my friend from California, Mr. Filner, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is already taking the same steps. Indeed, another positive aspect of this bill is that it seeks to streamline and rationalize the transition process for veterans when they move from the DoD medical system to the VA for treatment and followup care.
This bill requires that DoD ensure the veteran's medical and related records are transferred in a timely fashion, and that veterans get pre-separation counseling so that they understand the benefits they are entitled to and how to best interact with the VA medical system. Establishing a clear-cut mechanism for ensuring that veterans transition seamlessly from one system to another will require both a congressionally mandated structure, but perhaps even more important, continuous congressional engagement. That is why I am especially pleased that this bill mandates that members of Congress be informed any time one of their wounded military constituents enters the military medical system.
Current law requires DoD to notify members of the death of military constituents. These notifications, while bearing tragic news, allow us to provide the maximum possible assistance to families who have lost a servicemember. By now ensuring that we are informed when military constituents are wounded, we will be able to work proactively with the families to ensure the needs of the wounded are met in a more timely manner, and to provide us with a roadmap for oversight actions early on.
Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend from Missouri, Mr. Skelton, for the work that he and his committee colleagues have done to bring this measure before us today, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
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