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Public Statements

Veterans Outreach Improvement Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


* Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that as Memorial Day approaches, this Congress is taking concrete action to help our Nation's veterans.

* This week we passed several pieces of legislation designed to both make it easier for veterans to get access to health care and to improve the quality of that care for those who are returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan.

* Sometimes it's hard for veterans or their family members to be certain as to what benefits they qualify for and how to apply for them. The Veterans Outreach Improvement Act of 2007 (H.R. 67) seeks to address this problem by mandating greater coordination between the federal and state governments on the availability of programs to help veterans. The bill authorizes $75 million between 2007 and 2009 for intensified outreach efforts to veterans and their family members.

* Due to geographical constraints, many veterans who return home will not have ready access to a military hospital within an easy driving distance of their homes. To help remedy this, Congress is taking action on the Returning Servicemember VA Healthcare Insurance Act of 2007 (H.R. 612). This bill extends from 2 years to 5 years the period of eligibility for VA health care for veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, regardless of whether or not a veteran has an established service-connected condition. As a result, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have more time to take advantage of VA health care whether or not they're awaiting the processing of a disability claim.

* For many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, access to routine medical care will not be enough. A large number of American soldiers have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of being injured by road-side bombs or snipers. Passage of the Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act of 2007 (H.R. 2199), of which I am a co-sponsor, will help meet the special needs of these veterans.

* This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish:

* A program to screen veterans for traumatic brain injury (TBI);

* A comprehensive program for long-term care of post-acute TBI rehabilitation at four geographically dispersed polytrauma networks site and to establish TBI transition offices at these same sites to help better coordinate the delivery of health care and other services to veterans with moderate to severe TBI;

* A registry of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who exhibit TBI symptoms;

* Centers for TBI research, education, and clinical activities;

* A committee on the care of veterans with TBI;

* A pilot program for delivering readjustment counseling and mental health services through mobile vet centers; and

* An Advisory Committee on Rural Veterans to help develop recommendations on how best to meet the needs of veterans living in rural areas.

* Veterans with TBI will require special forms of rehabilitative care and follow up for the rest of their lives, and this bill will help ensure they get the care and services that they've earned.

* Mr. Speaker, as America pauses this Memorial Day to remember those who've gone in harms way for the rest of us, Congress can express its thanks to America's veterans by passing these bills today.

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