The Senate Armed Services Committee approves three McCaskill provisions and sends bill to the Senate floor
The Senate Armed Services Committee today adopted three amendments offered by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, all aimed at further boosting the military healthcare and benefit improvements included in the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act. The provisions expand the bill to require a landmark study of needs of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, enhance healthcare for family members caring for wounded warriors, and ensure that the unique needs of women service members are considered as the Department of Defense develops and implements health care and disability policies.
McCaskill's amendments - all passed unanimously - significantly strengthen the broader bill, which also includes the major provisions of the legislation she introduced with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) to address serious problems in patient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center earlier this year. Like McCaskill and Obama's Dignity for Wounded Warrior Act, the committee legislation already included key provisions that would cut Pentagon red tape, improve military medical facilities, and increase oversight at our nation's military hospitals.
"The men and women fighting for our country deserve only the best, and they shouldn't have to fight for good care when they return," McCaskill said. "This bill, along with the additional provisions we were able to add today, will go a long way towards helping service members and their families receive the treatment they truly deserve."
McCaskill was successful in adding an amendment that will require the National Academy of Sciences to complete a comprehensive study of the physical health, mental health, and readjustment needs of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The study, which is modeled after the landmark readjustment study conducted ten years after the Vietnam War, will examine the mental health needs of service members and their families, the diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, and vocational training needs for veterans re-entering the civilian workforce. The study also will look closely at the needs of military children affected by their parents' deployments to war.
"The study conducted after the Vietnam War gave us a wealth of knowledge about how to better treat the brave servicemen and women who came home with very unique injuries. It was just too bad that it took ten years before we had that vital information," McCaskill said. "We now have the chance to take a broad look at the unique injuries of the men and women coming home from overseas combat tours so that we can learn how to take care of them adequately and immediately."
The committee also approved a McCaskill provision that will expand health care coverage for family members caring for wounded members of the military. Non-dependent family members of those wounded often lose health insurance when they leave their jobs to relocate in order to care for their loved ones being treated at military hospitals.
McCaskill's third amendment addresses the unique health care needs of women service members. It is well documented that women veterans at times have differing medical and recovery needs then male veterans. The McCaskill provision will require the Department of Defense to take the needs of women into consideration as they are developing and implementing healthcare and disability policies.
Acclaimed veteran advocate Bobby Muller, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran who founded the Vietnam Veterans of America and is current head of Veterans for America, made the following statement in regards to committee passage of the measures:
"Veterans for America applauds Senator McCaskill and Senator Obama for their work on behalf of our troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator McCaskill's amendments to the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act address many of the unmet needs of this generation of service members, veterans, and their families, as highlighted by the shortcomings at Walter Reed, as well as elsewhere in the DOD and VA health care systems."
Muller is also co-founder of The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize largely as a result of Muller's efforts.
The McCaskill provisions included in the legislation come just weeks after she traveled across Missouri meeting with veterans. Both the amendments and bill reflect priorities the veterans asked McCaskill to take back to Washington, including bringing an end to an unfair policy where combat-related veterans' disability benefits are reduced by their active duty disability severance.
McCaskill said today she is pleased the Senate is moving forward with reforms to the healthcare system for active service members, but she is pushing for the Senate to quickly turn its attention to reforming VA health care and benefits.