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Kaiser Highlights Recent Developments Related To Health Care For Veterans

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Health Care For Veterans

The Senate has adopted four additional amendments to the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill (HR 1585)-- which comes up for a floor vote on Monday -- aimed at bolsteringbenefits and assisting injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, CQ Today reports.

Oneof the amendments would bar most personality disorder discharges fromthe military until the Pentagon submits a report on such discharges.Another amendment would ensure wounded veterans receive transitionalcare from the military for 180 days from the time the servicemember isseparated from active duty. A third amendment would extend for one yearcurrent prohibitions on raising military health care fees andprescription drug copayments. The final amendment would permit NationalGuard and reserve members who have served two years of active-dutyservice to receive accelerated G.I. Bill educational benefits (Yoest[1], CQ Today, 9/28).

The Senate on Thursday also passed legislation (HR 327) that would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary to create a program designed to reduce suicide among veterans, CQ Todayreports. The bill would require VA to provide suicide awarenesstraining to employees and contractors in addition to creating a familyoutreach program (Yoest [2], CQ Today, 9/28).

Spending Bill Passage Urged

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Several veterans' groups are pressuring Congress to quickly pass a veterans' and military construction spending bill (HR 2642) and not to use it as a vehicle for an omnibus measure, CQ Today reports. Both the House and the Senate have approved versions of the bill.

Thelegislation remains "in limbo" because Democrats are considering usingit as a vehicle for an omnibus spending bill, combining it with otherbills that are facing veto threats from President Bush. According to CQ Today,"It would be difficult for the president to veto veterans' and militaryconstruction spending in war time, and tougher for GOP lawmakers tosustain the veto with a contentious election year approaching" (Yoest, CQ Today, 9/29).

Challenges for Wounded Veterans

More wounded troops are surviving injuries they would not have in pastwars because of advancing medical care, but upon their return home,many are not receiving adequate treatment, recovery and retraining, AP/USA Today reports.

"These troops are just starting to seek help in large numbers, more than 185,000 so far," according to AP/USA Today,and "the cost of their benefits is already testing resources set asideby government and threatening the future of these wounded veterans fordecades to come, say economists and veterans' groups" (Donn/Hefling, AP/USA Today, 9/29).


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