Following testimony given last week before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee by former Senator Bob Dole and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala on their Commission's findings regarding the treatment returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive, Congressman Zack Space OH today announced legislation aimed at implementing four of their recommendations. The Healthier Heroes Act will dramatically increase efficiency of the disability process, expand the services available, and increase the family's ability to care for their wounded loved ones. In light of their report, it is apparent that time is of the essence. I hope that my colleagues will join with me in passing this legislation quickly," Space continued. This bill would require that a single, comprehensive, standardized medical exam be developed by the DoD and the VA to be administered by the DoD to determine the fitness of a member of the Armed Forces to perform the duties of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating.
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Today, the Dole-Shalala Commission released their draft report, proving to the American public that the Walter Reed fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg.
This draft report illustrates the enormous scope of hurdles facing our nation's wounded veterans. Many troops and veterans are forced to wait months and even years for medical appointments and disability pensions. Some veterans forced to wait have committed suicide , while other have fallen deep into debt. Last week, the Secretary of the VA Jim Nicholson ended an embarrassingly bad tenure by resigning from his post. This week, a group of disabled Iraq veterans are suing the VA for failing to provide them with care and resources.
The situation is extremely urgent. Our veterans' healthcare system is facing tremendous challenges at every level and the Department of Defense and the VA are not ready to respond.
This report should be a wake-up call for all Americans, reminding them that supporting the troops requires more than empty rhetoric and magnetic bumper stickers. While the Commission will release its final report next week, a draft is available now and includes the following six major recommendations which should all be implemented as rapidly as possible:.
Implement Comprehensive Recovery Plans 2. Restructure Disability and Compensation Systems 3. Strengthen Support for Families 5. Transfer Patient Information Across Systems 6. Support Walter Reed Until Closure in The Commission deserves to be commended for their hard work and dedication. But most of these recommendations should have been made in And too often we see reports like this get brief attention in the media, only to be pushed aside to collect dust on the shelf.
Hopefully, the American public will respond with the same urgency that they did after the Walter Reed news first broke earlier this year, and demand that the President respond immediately and implement these recommendations quickly. I also hope that media will not bury the Commission's critical findings in the back pages of our nation's newspapers, beneath the latest news of Lindsay Lohan's DUI or Beyonce's tumbling down some stairs at a concert, like they did last week with the news of Secretary Nicholson's resignation.
Now, more than ever, there needs to be a clear focus on veterans' care in America. The public outrage following the Walter Reed scandal shined light on the many problems facing wounded troops and veterans. Wednesday, the Dole-Shalala Commission offered their recommendations to resolve these issues. Whether President Bush, the DoD, and the VA can effectively implement these recommendations, however, remains to be seen. IAVA calls on the President and Congress to build on this progress and ensure that these recommendations are enacted quickly.
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Dole-Shalala Commission Report: Walter Reed Was Just the Beginning
President George W. Bush signed Executive Order The Commission was established to examine and recommend improvements to the effectiveness and quality of transition from to return to military service or civilian society, health care, benefits, outreach to Service members and awareness by Service members of health care and benefits programs. The Commissioners visited United States Department of Defense DoD , United States Department of Veterans Affairs VA , and private-sector treatment facilities; interviewed injured service members and their families, health care professionals, and program managers; conducted a survey of injured service members; reviewed letters and emails from Service members, veterans, family members, and health care personnel; and analyzed recommendations of past commissions and task forces.
Serve, Support and Simplify
The nation also made clear it expected its two most imposing bureaucracies — DoD and VA — to unite to help wounded warriors become disabled veterans, not warehouse them or set up hurdles between them and their benefits. Soon after a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post series drew attention to problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in February , transition-assistance programs for wounded warriors sprang up across the country. Compassionate care for war-wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans climbed the agendas of military officials, politicians, nonprofit organizations, corporations and hundreds of community groups. The Army launched a Family Covenant program to expand care to affected loved ones. VA and DoD were compelled to work more closely than ever.
President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors
Today, the Dole-Shalala Commission released their draft report, proving to the American public that the Walter Reed fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg. This draft report illustrates the enormous scope of hurdles facing our nation's wounded veterans. Many troops and veterans are forced to wait months and even years for medical appointments and disability pensions. Some veterans forced to wait have committed suicide , while other have fallen deep into debt.