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Comprehensive Bill to Improve Health Care for service Members Incorporates Obama, McCaskill Proposals

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Comprehensive Bill to Improve Health Care for service Members Incorporates Obama, McCaskill Proposals

U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) today praised members of the Armed Services Committee for adopting proposals from their Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act to improve health care and the recovery process for service members and their families. Like the Obama-McCaskill legislation, the new legislation would cut Pentagon red tape, improve military medical facilities, and increase oversight at our nation's military hospitals.

"This bill goes a long way toward providing our service members with the treatment and facilities they and their families need to heal and rebuild their lives," said Senator Obama. "This legislation can be further strengthened by adopting other reforms Senator McCaskill and I have proposed, to strengthen protections for service members against improper discharges for mental health conditions, add important new job protections for family members, and require mental health screenings for troops when they come home. Providing the best care for our service members, veterans and their families is one thing about this war we can still get right."

"I'm pleased that the Armed Services Committee has taken up this important bill," Senator McCaskill said. "Having visited Walter Reed, spoken with many recently returned warriors and just completed a statewide veterans tour where I heard from veterans young and old across our State, I know how urgent it is that we take up and pass legislation to improve the unacceptable and frustrating medical care system our military service members and their families currently face. Never should our brave soldiers have to fight for us, and then come home to fight for the medical care and benefits they have earned."

The Armed Services Committee's legislation includes several Obama-McCaskill provisions such as improving living conditions at military facilities, enhancing mental health care for recovering service members, slashing red tape to ease the healing process, and reforming the broken military disability review process. The bill also adopts other Obama-McCaskill legislation, the HERO Act, which would launch a major national research endeavor into the readjustment needs of service members, veterans and their families.

Today's service members and their families face a unique set of needs that must be identified and addressed. To provide them with the best care, comprehensive legislation should also include other provisions, such as:

* Strengthening protections for service members against improper discharges for mental health conditions.
* Providing important federal job protections for family members on invitational orders. A mother or father should never have to choose between caring for a wounded son and keeping their jobs.
* Requiring post-deployment, face to face mental health screenings for all returning service members.

Senators Obama and McCaskill first introduced this legislation in February following the revelations of extreme neglect at the Walter Reed facilities. In March, they offered key provisions of the legislation as an amendment to the Iraq Supplemental Bill, which was rejected by Senate Republicans.

Obama and McCaskill have also joined to introduce the Homecoming Enhancement Research and Oversight (HERO) Act (S. 1271), legislation that would launch a comprehensive national research endeavor to evaluate the physical, mental health, and readjustment needs of OIF and OEF service members, veterans and their families. Obama also authored the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which would require one-on-one, face-to-face mental screenings for all service members post-deployment, extend and strengthen mental health care for veterans, improve the military's support to members of the National Guard and Reserve, and provide each service member with an individual set of electronic medical records to ease their transition to the VA care system.

Senator Obama serves on the Veterans' Affairs Committee and Senator McCaskill serves on the Armed Services Committee.

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