Letter to President Bush, Re: Reverse Cuts and Fund Care for Veterans and Others with Traumatic Brain Injury
Clinton and Mikulski Call on President Bush to Reverse Cuts and Fund Care for Veterans and Others with Traumatic Brain Injury
President's Budget Would Eliminate Critical Program
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) today called on President Bush to reverse his plan to eliminate the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program, a crucial component of the federal government's system of care for the millions of Americans dealing with TBI, including many veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a letter to the President, the Senators expressed deep concern about the potential impact of the cuts proposed in the President's budget and urged him to work with Congress to fully fund the TBI Program.
"At hospitals like Walter Reed and in homes and communities all over this country, a growing number of veterans and their families are trying to cope with the devastating effects of traumatic brain injury. These wounds are often hidden, but they are all too real," Senator Clinton said. "Now more than ever, we need to do everything we can to build our capacity to care for the millions of Americans with TBI, not undercut their support system. I strongly urge the President to reconsider his decision to eliminate this crucial program and I will work in the Congress to restore this needed funding."
"President Bush has no problem asking our troops to make sacrifice after sacrifice for our country, but he continues to leave behind the men and women who have answered his call. Our worst fears have come true. It seems our troops are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then at war at home to get the health care they need and deserve," said Senator Mikulski. "To President Bush, I say: if we really want to support our troops, don't eliminate the programs they so need and depend on when they come home with the wounds of war - we need more than yellow ribbons; we need action. To our outstanding men and women in uniform I say: I will never abandon you, on the battlefield or when you come home needing care."
TBI is often called the "signature injury" of the war in Iraq. In addition to the many servicemembers suffering from TBI, current estimates suggest at least 5.3 million Americans are affected by TBI. An extremely complex injury, TBI encompasses a broad range of symptoms and disabilities, creating severe strain on the individual and his or her family. The TBI program that was eliminated in the President's budget provides grants to states to help them develop systems of care for those impacted by such injuries; these grants are essential components of our national systems of care for all Americans impacted by TBI.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton has been a strong advocate for improving and expanding support for those suffering from TBI. She has sponsored a series of measures to improve the assessment, detection and treatment of TBI, as well as expand support systems for veterans and their families. Senator Clinton authored the Heroes at Home Act, which would establish a program to help families learn how to care for returning veterans with TBI, as well as improve military health screenings in order to increase early diagnosis of mild and moderate TBI. She also successfully included a provision in the recently enacted Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act to mandate that the Department of Defense implement a screening protocol for Traumatic Brain Injury within 180 days. In addition, in 2006, Senator Clinton authored provisions in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 that increased research into ways to improve TBI care for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The text of Senator Clinton and Senator Mikulski's letter is below:
February 12, 2008
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
During this time of war, we were deeply troubled to learn of your plan to eliminate the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration. As co-sponsors of legislation to improve the assessment, detection and treatment of TBI, as well as to expand support systems for members and former members of the Armed Services with TBI and their families, we are deeply concerned by the potential elimination of this program for all individuals affected by TBI. The TBI Program serves as a critical component of our efforts to address TBI across the country, and is an essential complement to our services for the significant number of servicemen and women returning from combat with TBI. We urge you to work with us, and other concerned members of Congress, to ensure full funding for the TBI Program in the HHS budget for Fiscal Year 2009.
Current estimates state that at least 5.3 million Americans have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of TBI, with 1.4 million Americans sustaining a traumatic brain injury each year. An extremely complex injury, TBI encompasses a broad range of symptoms and disabilities, creating severe strain on the individual and his or her family. Depending on the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage, individuals with brain injuries vary greatly in their level of need, requiring access to a broad array of services.
Recognizing the large number of individuals and families struggling to access appropriate and community-based services for TBI, Congress authorized the Federal TBI Program in the TBI Act of 1996. The program assists states in operating coordinated services for individuals with TBI and their families, encouraging the replication of best practices, and improving state service delivery systems. Two-year planning grants allow states to build infrastructure, three-year implementation grants permit states to improve access to services, and additional implementation partnership grants allow increased flexibility to meet state needs to address TBI. Currently, 47 states receive TBI grants.
In addition to the acute medical needs of individuals suffering from TBI, families also have to address the social and emotional issues that come with diminished mental capacity. The nature of the disease has also changed over time; the needs of returning soldiers suffering from TBI present new strains on state service delivery systems. Now more than ever, we must provide states with the funding and support to provide effective, person-centered services to support individuals and their families. To cut funding now will jeopardize the ability of our health care system to address the needs of all Americans impacted by TBI. We urge you to reconsider this shortsighted decision, and join us in our efforts to restore full funding to the TBI program.
Hillary Rodham Clinton