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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. PASCRELL. Madam Chair, it has been over 10 years since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is extremely important that we continue to focus on addressing traumatic brain injury, TBI, and psychological health, PH, issues. Congress must properly allocate funds to care for wounded warriors and to improve research in these critical areas.

As you know, TBI continues to be the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with some 100,000 troops diagnosed since 2003 with mild TBI. This number will only increase as detection becomes more accurate. The Department of Defense has made significant strides in improving assessment and diagnosis, but more needs to be done to evaluate troops' ability to return to duty and to follow them after exposure to blasts. Intensive and innovative rehabilitative care is also needed for those sustaining severe TBIs and left with varying levels of disorders of consciousness.

This year's Defense Health Program receives an increase above last year's level. Specifically, the bill contains $33.6 billion--$858 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level--for the Defense Health Program to provide for the health of our troops and retirees. Increases above the request importantly include $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $20 million for suicide prevention outreach programs.

Our men and women serving in uniform must be given every possible opportunity for the best medical care, rehabilitation and community reentry assistance that we as a nation can provide. It is important these funds be used wisely to ensure that our men and women in uniform are getting timely and proper care. Pre and post deployment testing, as well as long term care and family services are integral parts of preventing and treating TBI and PH. As a Congress, we must live up to our commitment to our troops when they leave the battlefield and in my capacity as co-Chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I look forward to working with the DoD to make sure these funds are used effectively to address these invisible wounds.

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