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Obama Hails Passage of Key Veterans, Contractor Provisions in Defense Authorization Bill

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Obama Hails Passage of Key Veterans, Contractor Provisions in Defense Authorization Bill

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) lauded the Senate's passage of the Conference Report to the Defense Authorization bill (H.R.1585), which makes important investments in the nation's defense and improves support for our uniformed service personnel, veterans and their families.

"I commend the dogged determination of Senator Levin to get this important bill enacted into law. This legislation goes a long way towards providing our wounded warriors with the treatment and facilities they and their families need to heal and rebuild their lives," said Senator Obama. "Every day, we are reminded that we must do more to ensure these heroes don't have to wage another battle when they return home. I am also proud that this legislation invests in key programs vital to our national defense, promotes transparency and accountability, and provides an across-the-board pay raise of 3.5% for all uniformed service personnel."

The measure includes key provisions based on bills authored by Obama, including:

* Provisions authored with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in the Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act (S. 713) that the two senators introduced in February 2007, following news reports of extreme neglect at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. These provisions would: improve living conditions at military facilities; enhance health care for recovering service members; slash red tape to ease the healing process; provide health care to family members assisting recovering service members; and reform the broken military disability review process. The bill also adopts another important Obama-McCaskill bill, the HERO Act (S. 1271), which would launch a major national research endeavor into the readjustment needs of returning service members, veterans, and their families.

* A requirement that federal departments compile and report information to Congress on the role of private security contractors, such as Blackwater USA. With an estimated 48,000 private security employees operating in Iraq, and more than 1,000 contractors killed since 2003, little is known about what functions these security contractors are performing. Obama originally offered the Transparency and Accountability in Military and Security Contracting Act (S. 674) in February 2007.

A requirement that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide all combat veterans with a mental health care evaluation within 30 days or less of a request from the veteran. This provision was included in the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act (S. 117), which was introduced in both the 109th and 110th Congresses.

Obama is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

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