GAO To Study Veterans' Mental Health
The House on Monday by voice vote passed an omnibus bill (HR 2874) on health care for veterans, CQ Today reports (Yoest, CQ Today, 7/30). The legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide outreach and mental health services to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also would require the VA secretary to contract with community mental health centers to provide services to veterans who live in areas not sufficiently served by department facilities.
In addition, the legislation would provide grants to service organizations to:
* Help transport veterans who live in remote areas;
* Allow the VA secretary to issue grants for therapeutic workshop programs;
* Expand counseling for veterans released from prison who are at risk for homelessness;
* Provide housing assistance to low-income veterans; and
* Make a treatment program permanent for participants in Department of Defense chemical and biological tests (Abrams, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/30).
The House on Monday also approved a bill (HR 2623) that would waive copayments for veterans who receive hospice care at home or in acute-care facilities, rather than in VA facilities (CQ Today, 7/30).
GAO To Study Mental Health Care
In related news, the Government Accountability Office in letters to Sens. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) announced plans to study whether DOD and VA provide adequate mental health care for U.S. troops who return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Denver Post reports. GAO plans to study VA care for veterans with mild traumatic brain injury, pre- and postdeployment tests for mental health conditions and brain injury performed by DOD, and adherence to policies related to personality discharges. GAO expects to complete the study by the end of 2007 (Emery, Denver Post, 7/31).
"Happy endings are rare for government scandals, but [the] uproar over poor conditions" at Walter Reed Army Medical Center might "prove to be the exception," a Wall Street Journal editorial states. The editorial states that a presidential commission recently found the "main problem" with health care for troops and veterans "isn't neglect or a lack of resources" but "the complexity of the federal bureaucracies that the injured have to negotiate."
The editorial praises a recommendation from the commission that a "federal 'recovery coordinator' be assigned to guide each seriously wounded warrior through rehabilitation." The editorial states, "The commission has other valuable proposals," and President Bush has "called for them all to be implemented," adding, "Our main worry is that most are so sensible that Congress will mess them up" (Wall Street Journal, 7/30).