From difficulties accessing health and mental care, to squalid living conditions and endless red tape, it is clear the President has failed our injured troops and veterans. Democrats understand that those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice deserve better, and we have been working hard to address these problems. Below is a brief description of the Wounded Warriors bill – introduced today on the Senate Floor – which reverses many of this Administration’s failures regarding veterans’ health care.
- Requires the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive policy on the care, management, and transition from the military to VA or civilian life of severely injured service members, including:
- Care and management of members in medical hold/holdover status;
- Medical and physical disability evaluations;
- Standards for return to duty;
- Patient-focused policy for transition from DOD to VA; and
- Other matters, including VA access to DOD medical records and requirement for single physical examination.
ENHANCES HEALTH CARE
- Authorizes medically retired service-members to receive the active duty health care benefit for 3 years.
- Authorizes VA to provide non-medical vocational rehab services to service members on active duty receiving care in a VA facility.
- Authorizes certain family members not otherwise eligible for military health care who are caring for a member with serious injuries at a military or VA hospital to receive medical care and counseling on a space-available basis.
- Establishes a DOD/VA Interagency Program Office to develop and implement a joint electronic health record.
IMPROVES TBI AND PTSD PREVENTION, DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
- Requires the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, to develop a comprehensive plan on the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, and treatment of TBI and PTSD, including training and education to reduce the negative stigma.
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to establish two centers of excellence – one for TBI and one for PTSD.
- Authorizes $50M for improved diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of service members with TBI or PTSD.
IMPROVES DISABILITY SYSTEM
- Adopts the VA presumption that a disease or injury is presumed to be incident to service when the member has six months or more of active duty and the disability was not noted at the time the member entered active duty.
- Requires the military departments to use VA standards to make disability determinations, and prohibits deviation from VA standards except to give the service member a higher disability rating.
- Requires the military departments to take into account all medical conditions that render the member unfit for duty.
- Establishes a board to review disability determinations of service members separated between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2009, with a disability rating of 20% or less.
- Increases severance pay for service members separated with less than 30% disability:
- Minimum 1 year severance pay for those separated for disabilities incurred in a combat zone or combat-related operation,
- Minimum 6 months severance pay for others, and
- Eliminates requirement for deduction of severance pay from VA disability compensation for disabilities incurred in a combat zone or combat-related operation.
- Requires a DOD and GAO assessment of the temporary disability retired list.
IMPROVES FACILITIES HOUSING MILITARY PATIENTS
- Requires the Secretary of Defense to establish uniform standards for military medical treatment facilities, specialty medical care facilities, and military quarters housing patients.