Senate Committee Approves Five Bills To Improve Health Care For Veterans

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved five measures aimed at improving veterans’ health, CQ Today reports. The bills, passed by voice vote, include: an omnibus benefits measure (S 1315), a cost-of-living adjustment for veterans’ benefits (S 423), expanded vision benefits (S 1163), a traumatic brain injury and omnibus health care bill (S 1233), and a suicide-prevention bill (S 479).

Under the suicide-prevention measure, the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary would direct an outreach effort to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families and launch a campaign to discuss mental health problems among veterans. The legislation also would require VA to make mental health care available 24 hours a day (Yoest, CQ Today, 6/27). The suicide-prevention bill would place special emphasis on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (Talbott, CongressDaily, 6/28). The House passed similar legislation (HR 327) on March 22.

The vision benefits legislation would provide additional compensation for veterans who have only partial sight in their second eye. Currently, disability compensation is given to veterans who are blind in one eye, and compensation increases if their visual acuity is 5/200 or less in the other eye. No compensation is provided if veterans have more serious impairment in the second eye. Under the new measure, the requirement to qualify for visual benefits for impairment in the second eye would be lowered to 20/200 or less — the American Medical Association‘s standard for legal blindness.

The committee also approved a measure that would provide a routine cost-of-living increase in benefits next year for veterans with service-related disabilities. The measure also applies to dependency and insurance benefits for the families of disabled veterans. The percentage increase would be the same as for Social Security benefits, which will be calculated later this year.

In addition, the committee approved an omnibus benefits bill that would expand life insurance benefits for veterans and pay Filipino World War II veterans service-related compensation benefits at the full benefit rate for veterans who live outside of the U.S. The omnibus health care bill also would rescind a January 2003 regulation that prohibits the enrollment of “Priority 8” veterans — those who do not have a service-related disability and have annual incomes greater than $27,790 — in veterans’ hospitals. The minimum income level for Priority 8 status is greater for veterans with dependents and veterans in areas with a high cost of living.

Read the article in full at Medical News Today.

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~ by Brad Edwards on July 3, 2007.

2 Responses to “Senate Committee Approves Five Bills To Improve Health Care For Veterans”

  1. While this appears to be nothing but good news, I echo the concerns of this article (the full version) that this “Priority 8” change could easily overstretch the limits of the VA’s capabilities to handle the influx. Sen. Larry Craig said it will increase the # of vets who qualify for disability by something like 17 million, and an additional 1.5 million in the Phillipines.

    I’m all about vets getting their due, but some legislation on infrastructure reform for the VA would be a lot more effective than throwing more money at the problem.

  2. Hello,

    There is a very interesting blog entry that you will be interested in. It is written by Peter Sheehy, Ph.D. It discusses post traumatic stress disorder and the military’s lack of support for its soldiers.

    The title of the entry is “A Debt that Haunts”. The link is:
    http://nyemergencymedicine.blogspot.com/2007/08/column-by-peter-sheehy-but-my-dear-man.html

    Here is an excerpt:
    “During his second night in Iraq in October of 2003, Sergeant Andreas Pogany witnessed an Iraqi man cut in half by a machine gun. Pogany vomited, shook for hours, and by his own confession, “couldn’t function.” Despite Pogany’s insistence that he was having panic attacks, he was denied proper therapeutic care and was eventually sent home. Before long, Pogany faced court-martial for cowardice, a charge the military had not pursued since the Vietnam war, and one that carries a maximum sentence of death.”

    Thank you,
    Adam Rosh, MD
    NYU/Bellevue Hospital

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