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Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


VETERANS' MENTAL HEALTH AND OTHER CARE IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 24, 2008)

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Mr. HARE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 2162, the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvement Acts of 2008. I want to commend Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer and all the members of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committee for their leadership and hard work on this bill.

S. 2162 is a bill that improves a variety of health care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. First, it improves the treatment and services provided by the VA to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Second, it provides more treatment for veterans battling substance-use disorders, and it directs the VA to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on the management of pain care.

The bill also authorizes medical facility projects and major medical facility leases which are crucial to the improvement of health care for our veterans. And it takes on the unacceptable plight of homelessness, which thousands of our veterans face each and every night.

S. 2162 also improves access to health care for veterans living in rural areas. It allows highly rural veterans to get services closer to home, and it provides a fair reimbursement rate to those who have to drive considerable distances. We have been working on this issue tirelessly throughout the 110th Congress. As someone who represents a district in Illinois that is very rural, I appreciate the progress that has been made on this issue. I want to commend my friend, Congressman Moran from Kansas, for his hard work and dedication on this issue.

Finally, S. 2162 expands mental health care for the families of our heroes. The psychological toll that war brings also extends to the brave family members of our servicemembers. That is why I am encouraged to see that a bill I introduced, the Mental Health For Heroes' Family Act of 2008, has been included in S. 2162. Specifically, my bill removes the requirement that counseling must be initiated during the veteran's hospitalization, and is essential to permit the discharge for the veteran from the hospital. It also directs the Secretary of the Veterans Administration to carry out a 3-year pilot program to assess the feasibility and advisability of providing readjustment and transition assistance to veterans and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I again thank Chairman Akaka, Chairman Filner and Ranking Member Buyer for their leadership on this bill and I want to commend both the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committee staff for their tireless work on this bill. I urge all of my colleagues to support this incredibly important piece of legislation.

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