At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Senator Murray stood with other Democratic leaders to discuss their efforts to keep every American safe.
In her remarks, Senator Murray focused on (S.13) Fulfilling Our Duty To America’s Veterans Act, a new bill to provide help and care to America’s veterans when the return from defending our nation overseas. The bill is one of the Democrats’ first 10 bills introduce in the 109th Congress.
Since the time of Lincoln, Americans have made and kept a commitment to those who served in the defense of freedom. As a new generation of veterans returns from Iraq and Afghanistan , Democrats are united to keep that promise. We will ensure that all veterans get access to the health care and services they need.
Ensure All Veterans Get the Health Care They Deserve By 2006. The May 2003 report of The President’s Task Force To Improve Health Care Delivery For Our Nation's Veterans found a serious imbalance between demand and available funding at the VA that delays care and threatens its quality. Under the current funding process, the VA has experienced billion-dollar shortfalls every year for the past several years. At a time when the number of veterans needing services is increasing daily, S. 13 ensures that America keeps its promises to our veterans and they get the health care they deserve.
Expand Mental Health Care to All VA Hospitals By 2006. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that as many as 1 in 6 soldiers returning from Iraq may suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet only 86 of 163 VA Medical Centers currently have PTSD clinical teams. S. 13 would place a PTSD clinical team at every VA Medical Center, and would improve outreach to at-risk veterans.
Make Prescription Drugs Readily Available to Veterans. Under current regulations, a veteran receiving a prescription from a private doctor must complete a physical with a VA physician before the VA will honor that prescription. This red-tape costs the VA an estimated $1 billion or more each year. S. 13 will overturn this regulation, providing veterans with quick and easy access to prescription drugs.
Ensure No Veteran Is Forced to Choose Between Disability Compensation and Retirement Pay By 2006. In 2003, Congress enacted a law phasing in full concurrent receipt of disability compensation and retirement pension over 10 years for all disabled military retirees with 50 percent or higher disability ratings. While such legislation constitutes an important step forward, over 400,000 veterans are still prohibited from receiving the compensation they have earned with their service and sacrifice. S. 13 will revoke the “disabled veterans tax” and make certain that no veteran will have to choose between a disability check and a retirement check.
Create A Seamless Transition From the Military to the VA. Many veterans have encountered obstacles to getting the services they deserve when they leave active duty status. While the Defense and Veterans’ Departments have been trying to iron out the kinks preventing a “seamless transition” from military life to the VA system, the agencies have yet to complete any of the seven recommendations for this necessity offered by the President’s Task Force. S. 13 would enact each of these seven recommendations, including requiring pre-separation medical examinations and disability benefits counseling, removing information-sharing barriers, and requiring greater cooperation between VA and DoD in tracking disabilities resulting from occupational exposure to hazardous materials.
Enact A New G.I. Bill For the 21st Century. Education assistance provided under the G.I. Bill and its successors has been one of the most successful federal government programs in history. S. 13 revitalizes the G.I. bill for the 21st Century by excluding G.I. benefits from financial aid eligibility computations, thereby allowing veterans to obtain greater financial aid, and offers Montgomery G.I. bill benefits to more veterans by creating a new enrollment window for Veterans Education Assistance Program participants.