I recently joined Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) and a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing legislation to keep America’s promise to our men and women in the military and their families. The Honoring Our Nation’s Obligations to Returning Warriors Act (S. 3008) – or the HONOR Act – will improve treatment for our service members and veterans suffering with mental injuries, better prepare them for the stress associated with combat, and increase care for military families.
Too many of our service members, veterans, and their families are not getting the mental health care they deserve. This bipartisan legislation will help break down barriers to care and ensure that the necessary resources are available. It will also bring us closer to our goal of ensuring that mental injuries are treated no differently than physical injuries.
Last month the RAND Corporation released findings that an estimated 620,000 returning service members suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or both. Despite this figure, which represents about 30 percent of those who have served in combat, the Pentagon’s response to the suffering of these service members and their families has been inadequate. The current military mental health system is underfunded, understaffed, and extremely difficult to navigate. Compounding this problem, there is a silent stigma on the “invisible injuries” many of our service members are suffering from when returning from combat.
Our bill will address the immediate needs of those suffering with invisible injuries and make a long-term fix to the military’s mental health care system. Provisions of our bill will:
Give active-duty service members access to Vet Centers -- the confidential community-based counseling centers veterans use for mental health care services;
Recruit and train more behavioral health specialists to serve service members and veterans;
Extend survivor benefits to families of military personnel who commit suicide and have a history of combat-related mental health conditions, PTSD, or TBI;
Better prepare service members for combat through a new approach that focuses on improved prevention, early detection, intervention, and treatment of PTSD;
Help ensure that veterans who honorably served in combat receive health care benefits and that the discharge process was fair.
I am pleased that our legislation has received broad support from many veterans’ advocates, including Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who said of our bill, “Study after study has shown the rates of psychological injuries among Iraq veterans is high and rising. This bill is a crucial step in getting these wounded warriors the treatment they need -- both by addressing the shortage of mental health professionals and ensuring all veterans have access to quality mental health care, like that offered by Vet Centers. IAVA thanks Senators Bond and Boxer for their dedication to supporting our troops and veterans, and wholeheartedly endorses this legislation.”
United States Senator
I usually don't have many nice things to say about Senator Kit Bond but I have to approve of his work on behalf of the nations veterans wounded in combat or while on active duty at least. These men and women deserve everything this nation can do for them and more, less than 2% of the nations population has put their "lives" on the line of the "blank check" when they enlisted, it is up to us, as a nation to make sure when it comes time to "cash" that check, there is substance there, other than past broken promises.
For those that keep note of such things, this is the 600th post on this blog Hoooah
Friday, May 16, 2008