Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, announcing that Democrats will seek unanimous consent to pull the Wounded Warriors amendment from the Defense Authorization bill and pass it as a standalone bill:
“Earlier this year, Americans were shocked by reports of a crisis at Walter Reed and other armed services medical facilities. We learned that many courageous men and women who had been wounded in service to our nation were receiving unacceptably poor treatment and care upon their return to our shores. We learned that not only was the veterans’ care system rife with bureaucratic failures, but even the physical facilities failed to meet even a minimal level of acceptable quality.
“The American people were outraged by the facts that came to light, and I am glad to say that the Senate took prompt action. The Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees held a rare joint hearing to identify the best ways to make right the existing failures and prevent similar injustices from ever happening again.
“Members of these Committees worked together in an entirely bipartisan manner. Last month, they introduced the Wounded Warriors bill, which was then introduced as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill last week. The Wounded Warriors amendment addresses:
- The substandard facilities that we have all read about and many of us, myself included, have seen in person at Walter Reed and other military hospitals;
- The lack of seamless transition when medical care for troops is transferred from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Administration, which often leads to diminished care;
- The inadequacy of severance pay to help those who have sacrificed so much already support their families while they recover;
- The need to improve sharing of medical records between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- The inadequate care and treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by authorizing $50 million for improved diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. We saw this problem highlighted in this morning’s Los Angeles Times, which cited a report by a special Pentagon task force showing that 38 percent of soldiers and 50 percent of National Guard members come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health issues, yet only 27 of the VA’s 1,400 hospitals have in-patient post-traumatic stress disorder programs; and
- The bill provides support for wounded troops whose health insurance programs, like the Tricare program for retired veterans, have allowed gaps in coverage and medical treatment.
“In the next few days, I intend to peel the Wounded Warriors amendment from the Defense Authorization bill and seek unanimous consent that we pass it as a standalone bill. This would make its provisions effective immediately upon the President’s signature.
“Given the immediate need to act on the Wounded Warriors amendment and its overwhelming bipartisan support, I am hopeful that we can all work together to pass it and send it to the President’s desk as quickly as possible.”