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Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. Chairman, first, I'd like to recognize both of the gentlemen that are here on behalf of the committee today, the gentleman, Mr. Dicks, and the gentleman, Mr. Young, for their outstanding service not only to our country, but to this Congress, on behalf of making sure that we have freedom and that the men and women who protect this country are properly taken care of. I express my gratitude to both of them.

Also, I want to thank Hal Rogers, and certainly the gentleman from New Jersey who is sitting in for the committee today. I want to thank him also.

Mr. Chairman, today, I stand up in support of the dedication and hard work this Congress has done for work on something on known as TBI, traumatic brain injury, and posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD. This Congress, as you may know, Mr. Chairman, has continued increasing funding for TBI and PTSD overall, and by this bill by $125 million.

On May 18, 2012, during the National Defense Authorization Act debate, the House unanimously adopted my amendment to create a pilot program administered by the Department of Defense that would strengthen treatment for our troops coming home with TBI and PTSD. Today, Congress has the opportunity to appropriate funds for this program.

My amendment, offered with my dear friend from California, the gentleman, Mike Thompson, specifically moves $10 million from more than $31 billion in the Operation and Maintenance Defense-Wide budget to increase the Defense Health Program by $10 million. This money will directly assist these soldiers who have TBI-related injuries by allowing them to be reimbursed for attending private sector facilities that perform cutting-edge treatments.

One in four recent combat veterans treated by the Veterans Health Administration from 2004 to 2009 had a diagnosis of PTSD, and about 7 percent have been diagnosed with TBI. According to the U.S. Army, the number of soldiers leaving Active Duty service has increased by 64 percent from 2005 to 2009 due to brain health, whether it was TBI, PTSD, or a mental illness. These soldiers leave at a rapid rate.

A 2009 RAND study estimates that costs related to depression, PTSD, and TBI in our soldiers ranges from $4 billion to $6.2 billion over a 2-year period of time.

Today, health care providers all over the country are working to provide treatment to brain injury patients with new and innovative treatments, with remarkable results. One such treatment utilizes hyperbaric oxygen to reduce or eliminate chronic symptoms of TBI, such as headaches, memory loss, and mood swings.

While the Department of Defense has made many, many strides in research under the direction of Colonel Scott Miller, many innovative treatments, unfortunately, are not available within the military facilities. So, this amendment that I offer today would allow these men and women who seek treatment to be able to do so at our leading-edge facilities that are private around the United States of America. My amendment will provide for treatment and recovery that is desperately needed.

I urge my amendment to be approved, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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