National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:  Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Date: June 17, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 1960) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes:

Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Chair, it has been over 10 years since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and I fear we are still not properly addressing traumatic brain injury, also known as ``the signature injury of the war.'' I would like to thank Chairman MCKEON and Ranking Member SMITH for their commitment to this issue in recent authorizations. I would also like to thank Mr. THOMPSON for his cosponsorship of my first amendment.

Over the last few years, Congress has continued to emphasize the importance of this issue and has made funds available for the identification and treatment of brain injuries in our soldiers. It is important these funds be used wisely to ensure that our men and women in uniform are getting timely and proper care. A January 2012 GAO report highlighted the need to coordinate TBI and psychological health activities within the Department.

In the National Defense Authorization for FY 2013, Congress mandated that the Secretary of Defense submit a plan to Congress that would improve coordination and integration of the programs that address traumatic brain injury and psychological health of members of the Armed Forces. Specifically, this report would require the identification of gaps in services and treatments, a plan for addressing any gaps or redundancies and identifying an official to lead the implementation of any changes. This report is due in July of this year, and my amendment underscores the importance of this mandated report, and strongly urges the Secretary to deliver it to Congress within the appropriate timeframe.

My second amendment addresses the continuing issue of identification of traumatic brain injuries. Although the Department of Defense has made a strong commitment to identifying, and treating those men and women who have suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving our Nation, there are still problems with screening our troops.

In June 2010, a memorandum issued by the Department of Defense made a 50- meter distance from an explosion the criterion to identify, refer, and treat members for potential traumatic brain injury in theater. However, the Department of Defense has yet to address those service members who may have been exposed to a blast prior to that time. Many of these soldiers remain on active duty and we must ensure they are tested and treated. My amendment mandates a report on how the Secretary of Defense will identify, refer, and treat possible traumatic brain injuries with respect to members of the Armed Forces who served in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom prior to June 2010. This is a vitally important report for ensuring the health of our troops. I ask that my colleagues support these amendments for those service members who are struggling with invisible wounds.

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