New York's Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been busy this week introducing important legislation to deal with traumatic brain injuries to our returning service members and the problems they have having returning to the community.
Senator Clinton announced a new legislative initiative, co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), to improve the detection, assessment and treatment of traumatic brain injury and expand support systems for members and former members of the Armed Services with traumatic brain injury and their families.
Senator Clinton also announced introduction of legislation to help ensure wounded soldiers receive the disability benefits they need and deserve and to further protect military family financial benefits.
Additionally, Senator Clinton introduced legislation to build on the groundbreaking "Heroes at Home" initiative she authored and secured in law last year aimed at helping U.S. troops and their families to transition after deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan and get the help they need with readjustment to work and coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and TBI. The proposed new initiative would expand Heroes at Home by:
• Improving the screening process for our troops before deployment to improve TBI diagnoses after deployment. Senator Clinton's bill will improve detection of mild and moderate TBI by implementing an objective, computer-based assessment protocol to measure cognitive functioning both prior to and after deployment. Senator Clinton's bill will require that the same assessment tool be used across all branches of the Armed Services and for every member of the Armed Forces who will be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
• Helping families struggling to take care of a loved one with training and certification for dealing with brain injuries and psychological injuries. Family members of returning soldiers with TBI are often ill-equipped to handle the demands of caring for their loved one, which in some bases can become a full-time responsibility. Senator Clinton's bill will establish a Traumatic Brain Injury Family Caregiver Personal Care Attendant Training and Certification Program, which would train and certify family caregivers of TBI patients as personal care attendants, enabling them to provide quality care at home and at the same time qualify for compensation from the VA.
• Expanding Access to Needed Care. Service members and veterans continue to face problems in accessing needed medical and mental health care, especially veterans or Guard and Reserve members who live in rural areas. Senator Clinton's bill will help increase the reach of needed care for TBI by expanding use of telehealth and telemental health services. Senator Clinton's bill will create a demonstration project, administered jointly by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that would use telehealth technology to assess TBI and related mental health conditions and facilitate rehabilitation and dissemination of educational material on techniques, strategies and skills for service members with TBI.
Senator Clinton today also announced introduction of legislation to help ensure wounded soldiers receive the disability benefits they need and deserve and to further protect military family financial benefits:
She also introduced legislation to deal with the widespread complaints of service members about their disability claims. The proposed legislation will restore disability benefits for wounded and injured members of the Armed Forces. The act will direct reviews of disability claims, traumatic injury claims and the Physical Evaluation Board process, and re-open cases that warrant an increased disability benefit rating or traumatic injury payment. In addition, the bill will increase the availability of legal counsel for members appealing their disability cases, and direct the GAO to investigate efforts currently being made by the Department of Defense to address deficiencies in the Disability Evaluation Systems; the adequacy of the Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Schedule for Ratings as it relates to the nature of wounds our warriors suffer in combat today; and to report on the standards and procedures of Physical Evaluation Boards.
These all sound like great pieces of legislation. Read more on Senator Clinton's web site by clicking here. I urge you to contact your United States Senators and ask them to support these bills which have been endorsed by the Brain Injury Association of America.