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Donnelly-Championed Private Care Options for Vets Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury Included in House-Passed Defense Bill

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Donnelly-Championed Private Care Options for Vets Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury Included in House-Passed Defense Bill

Today Congressman Joe Donnelly announced that his efforts to expand private care options for service members and veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have paid off as the House of Representatives voted 370 to 49 to approve the 2008 Defense Bill conference agreement, which includes expanded private care options for veterans fighting to recover from this signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Donnelly led the fight in the House of Representatives to expand access to private care treatment of severe TBI.

"This is a victory for the thousands of brave Americans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home to a medical system that was not prepared to provide the best care for severe brain injuries. We must make sure that the care and service we provide to those who have fought and sacrificed for us is the very best available," Donnelly said. "The bill passed today makes clear to both the military and our wounded warriors that not only should the option of private care for TBI be continued, but it should also be expanded."

Ever since personnel began returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with severe TBI, the military and VA have been playing catch up in offering the same quality of brain injury care that private rehab facilities, with decades of experience, presently provide.

Currently, while an active duty service member's military insurance covers rehabilitative care for severe TBI at a private facility if the service member cannot receive the necessary care at a military or VA facility, that coverage is lost when the wounded warriors are discharged from service and enter the VA system—a system that does not cover private rehabilitative care.

Specifically, H.R. 1585, a bill that sets policy priorities for the Pentagon for the coming year, authorizes the Secretary of Defense to provide severely injured former service members the same medical care benefits as active duty service members if the care cannot be reasonably provided by the VA. The provision would remedy the discrepancy in coverage of private TBI care between current service members and veterans and buy time for the military and VA to improve quality of care. This authority would expire in 2013.

Since learning in March that some service members with TBI were experiencing difficulty accessing their private care option, Donnelly, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has introduced two pieces of legislation to expand access to private rehabilitative care of TBI. His most recent bill introduced in July, H.R. 3210, The Wounded Warriors Expansion of Care Act, would provide active duty health care benefits—including the private care option for TBI—to all veterans seriously wounded between 2001 and 2012 for up to five years.

"Congress, the military, and the VA must continue to act with urgency to see that all our health facilities can soon provide accessible and top-notch rehabilitative care for service members with TBI. Until that's the case, we need to do the right thing and make sure that if an injured American soldier or veteran can get better care at a private facility, we get them that care."

The Senate is expected to consider the bill this week. If adopted, the legislation will go to the President for his signature.

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