Washington –President Obama today signed into law Senator Boozman’s legislation to improve rehabilitative services for our nation’s veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011, (S. 957 as amended) was part of a larger package to improve veterans’ benefits (Sec 107 of H.R. 1627).
The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011 was the first legislation that Senator Boozman introduced as a member of the Senate.
“After serving on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for many years, and electing to continue that service on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I felt that it was important for the very first bill I introduced to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that we continue to uphold all of our promises to our veterans and their families,” Boozman said. “Signing this legislation into law is a great victory for our veterans and their families who are fighting the unseen injuries of war.”
Due to ambiguities in current law, TBI treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs narrowly focuses care on physical restoration. Boozman’s bicameral, bipartisan legislation clarifies the definition of rehabilitation so veterans are guaranteed care that adequately addresses their physical and mental health needs, as well as quality of life and prospects for long-term recovery and success.
“With so many veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with TBI, we have an obligation to the men and women who serve and sacrifice on behalf of our grateful nation. Providing the best services to our troops who have sustained a TBI is part of our commitment to ensure that our military personnel know we will be there for them and their families when they return from battle,” Boozman said.
Because of advances in medicine, service members who would not have been expected to survive catastrophic attacks in previous conflicts are returning home today from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with unprecedented severe and complex injuries. Since 2001, more than 1,500 service members have suffered from a severe TBI, many of whom require rehabilitative programs ranging from total care for the most basic needs to semi-independent living support. A restrictive approach to rehabilitation puts these wounded warriors at risk of losing any progress they made towards recovery.
Sen. Mark Begich (AK) is an original cosponsor of the Senate legislation. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-09).
“I appreciate the support and assistance of the Wounded Warrior Project, the Blind Veterans Association, and my colleagues in both chambers in helping to advance this legislation,” Boozman said, “This is a perfect example of everyone working together to improve veterans’ health care services and ensuring that our wounded warriors get the care they deserve. I am grateful for everyone’s support throughout the legislative process.”
“Many of our warriors have sustained traumatic brain injuries that require long-term rehabilitative care,” Wounded Warrior Project Executive Director Steve Nardizzi said. “This critical legislation will help ensure that needed rehabilitation is not prematurely cut off, and that these veterans can get the kind of support they need – whether those are health-services or non-medical community-based assistance — to achieve maximum independence.”
The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services Improvements Act of 2011 would ensure wounded warriors suffering from TBI receive a more comprehensive and holistic rehabilitation plan that focuses on physical restoration, mental health, independence, and quality of life. It would also help veterans in maintaining the gains they have made during initial phases of treatment by requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to develop rehabilitation plans that stress improved physical, cognitive and vocational functioning in the long term.