With the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is critical that we ensure there is a robust medical system so that Wisconsin's 445,000 veterans can get the quality care they have earned. That is why I was pleased to support legislation recently that provides veterans with the health care resources they need:
* H.J. Res. 20 provided an additional $3.7 billion for veterans' health care to meet rising costs and demands.
* H.R. 1591, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, and Iraq Accountability Act, allocated another $5 billion for veterans' care, including funds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and brain-trauma injuries.
* H. Con. Res. 99, the federal budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2008, would invest $43.1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration, an $8.4 billion increase over the President's proposed funding level.
Furthermore, although I am proud of our Veterans Affairs facility in Tomah, which fared well in a recent internal review by the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am very concerned about the treatment some of our returning troops have received, especially at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I personally have been to Walter Reed many times to visit wounded soldiers from the Third District, and by all accounts, the inpatient care provided there is some of the best in the nation. Serious problems have arisen, however, after soldiers' lives have been saved and they leave the inpatient unit to reside in living quarters where they receive rehabilitative treatments. Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened to discover that our soldiers have been subjected to poor conditions in these Walter Reed living quarters. I believe the federal government has a duty to fix these problems, and I have been pleased to see Congress take action on this important issue.
On March 28, 2007, the House addressed these problems by passing H.R. 1538, the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act. This act improves access to quality outpatient medical care at military health care facilities; makes mental health a priority by requiring the Department of Defense to develop a plan to help prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other combat-related mental health disorders; improves the integrity and efficiency of the disability evaluation system; and requires accountability through the establishment of an oversight board and annual evaluations of the veterans' medical system. H.R. 1538 is currently pending before the Senate.
Finally, I believe our country owes a great debt to those men and women who sacrificed years and risked lives to protect us. That is why I authored legislation seven years ago to create the Veterans History Project (VHP), which collects and forever archives the stories of America's veterans. Since its inception, the VHP has over 50,000 oral histories, pictures, and diary entries from the men and women that served our country on the battlefront and the home front.