Mr. BOOKER. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce with my colleague Senator Dean Heller, legislation that would extend a critical and innovative program for our nation's veterans. Senator Heller and I urge our colleagues to consider The Assisted Living Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Extension, AL-TBI, Act which authorizes the continuation of a Veterans Health Administration program that provides intensive care and rehabilitation to veterans with severe brain injuries.
Thanks to this program, veterans with traumatic brain injuries more quickly re-adjust to their day-to-day lives--from making dinner for others, to fixing a faucet, to doing yard work. AL-TBI consists of privately run group homes around the country where veterans are immersed in therapies for movement, memory, speech, and gradual community reintegration. Veterans in these homes benefit from 24-hour team-based care. There are about twenty of these homes in New Jersey that have yielded impressive results. Nationally, several dozen veterans have been rehabilitated from severe injuries that are notoriously difficult to treat.
This program is working to help a generation of veterans with traumatic brain injuries and so many older veterans that have been suffering for decades. Since 2001, more than 265,000 U.S. troops suffered traumatic brain injuries, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. While most were mild concussions, over 26,000 men and women veterans suffered from moderate or severe head wounds. Advances in medicine keep alive soldiers with head wounds that might have killed them in previous conflicts. However, the ability to cure these injuries has not kept pace. Innovative, effective programs must be supported by Congress in order to give our veterans the care they need and deserve.
But unfortunately, as the program nears the end of its 5-year authorization, veterans across the country are being told that they need to prepare to move out of the facilities in September. I have heard from a veteran in New Jersey, who was told he will need to be out of the program on September 15 and worries he will be out on the street. He has made tremendous gains with the AL-TBI program. He has rekindled his relationship with his son. He is able to do basic math again. But, he has a lot more to do to get his independence back. We cannot leave him and other veterans like him out in the cold.
The VA offers no alternative program that replicates the comprehensiveness of the rehabilitative care, the benefit of providing care in a residential setting, and the positive impact on veterans of sustained, longer-term care.
This is a proven program that does not require new funds, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join Senator Heller and myself in supporting this critical piece of legislation for our Nation's veterans.
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