Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, announced that H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (NDAA), was signed into law by the President. The NDAA contains provisions improving the transition from active duty to veterans' status and improving VA health care for returning service members, especially those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Among the key provisions to improve care for veterans and their families, the NDAA:
- Provides an additional three years of access to free VA health care for returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan;
- Improves and expands VA's ability to care for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI, including research, screening, care coordination, and working with non-VA providers to provide the care needed by our veterans;
- Requires a comprehensive policy to address mental health conditions, including PTSD;
- Requires DOD and VA to streamline the records transmission process, including moving forward with fully interoperable medical records;
- Provides for a more seamless transition between active duty and veterans' status, including a single physical exam for DOD and VA benefits;
- Creates Wounded Warrior Resource Center to serve as a single point of contact for service members, their families, and primary caregivers to report issues with facilities, obtain health care, and receive benefits information;
- Requires VA to provide age-appropriate nursing home care for our veterans;
- Allows members of the National Guard and Reserves that are eligible for Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) to use their education benefits for ten years after separation;
- Requires a study on the feasibility of streamlining statutory provisions addressing GI Bill benefits for active duty and guard and reserves.
H.R. 4986 represents a cooperative effort between the Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs Committees to address the problems facing wounded veterans and cut through the red tape often faced by our returning service members when they transition from the Department of Defense to the VA.