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Fact Sheet: Keeping America's Promise to Those Who Have Defended Our Freedom

November 08, 2007

President Bush Discusses Administration Progress Implementing Dole-Shalala Commission Recommendations, Calls On Congress To Act

Today, President Bush visited the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The Center for the Intrepid, built thanks to the generosity of more than 600,000 Americans, is a world-class physical rehabilitation facility focused on medical and rehabilitative care of wounded warriors and veterans, injured in service to America. The facilities include a military performance lab, a pool, an indoor running track, a two-story climbing wall, and a prosthetics center.

  • Speaking before Veterans Day 2007, the President reaffirmed his commitment to the well-being of those who have served, and discussed the Administration's efforts to ensure our veterans have all they need. Caring for our veterans is a solemn responsibility of the Federal government, and it is our enduring pledge to every man and woman who puts on our Nation's uniform. If the FY08 Budget request is enacted, President Bush will have increased funding for veterans by 77 percent since taking office.

The Administration Is Working Hard To Improve Care For America's Wounded Warriors

In March, President Bush signed an Executive Order creating a bipartisan commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the services America is providing our returning wounded warriors. Co-chaired by Senator Bob Dole and Secretary Donna Shalala, the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors released its findings on July 25, 2007, and the President immediately instructed the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to implement the Commission's six recommendations that can be done administratively:

  • The first Federal Recovery Coordinators, who will individually guide seriously wounded service members through their recuperation, will be hired over the next three weeks.
  • A program establishing a single comprehensive disability exam - replacing the two separate bureaucratic processes in the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) - will be field tested in the National Capital Area this month.
  • A new National Center of Excellence for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury has just hired its first staff members and moved into temporary offices in the D.C. area.
  • A single Web portal where wounded service members can track their medical and recovery records will be beta-tested soon.
  • A proposed regulation to update the disability schedule for Traumatic Brain Injury and burns will be published soon and released by the VA for public comment.
  • DOD is using special authorities to retain the best health professionals working at Walter Reed right up to its scheduled closure.

President Bush recently sent Congress legislation to implement the recommendations that require Congressional action. Congress should respond to the President's leadership and consider this legislation promptly to bring the highest quality care to those injured while protecting our freedoms.

  • The VA will initiate two important technical studies that will allow a thorough updating of our military disability system. The President's Commission called for Congress to establish these studies, but the Administration found the funding and the authority to start them now.

The President Has Nominated A Distinguished Surgeon And Combat Veteran As VA Secretary

On October 30, President Bush nominated Lieutenant General James B. Peake (Ret.), M.D., to serve as our Nation's Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Peake is a twice-wounded and highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, who recently served as the U.S. Army Surgeon General. His career spans over 40 years in the field of military medicine.

Congress must act quickly to confirm this highly qualified nominee, so that he can begin the hard work that lies ahead of him. This includes continuing to implement the reforms recommended by the Dole-Shalala Commission and building on the Administration's work to provide the best care possible to America's returning wounded warriors.

President Bush Has Demonstrated A Strong Commitment To Improving The Quality Of Life For Veterans And Their Families

If the FY08 Budget request is enacted, President Bush will have increased funding for veterans by 77 percent since taking office. The President has submitted a budget of nearly $87 billion for our veterans - the highest level of support for veterans in American history. President Bush calls on Congress to send him a clean veterans' spending bill as soon as possible, so our Nation's veterans do not pay the price for Congress' inability to get its most basic work done.

  • Since 2001, the President has extended medical treatment to a million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands of men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The President's FY08 budget continues to prioritize resources for returning combat veterans and other veterans with service-related disabilities, low incomes, and special needs.
  • New VA facilities are being built in communities where many veterans live, so that more veterans can access top-quality health care closer to their homes. The FY08 budget provides $750 million in medical care construction funds to better align facilities with patient needs, provide care in places where veterans needs are greatest, and improve access to both primary and specialty care services.
  • The proposed budget will continue expanding VA access to non-institutional long-term care, enabling veterans to live and be cared for near, or in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by family. It will also enable all combat-era veterans to obtain prosthetics and sensory aids.
  • The President remains committed to reducing processing time for veteran disability benefit claims by continually improving methods and technology. Since the President took office, average waiting time has dropped from 230 days to 177, and the President's FY08 budget provides resources to reduce processing time to 145 days.
  • In 2003, the President signed into law the National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003, directing the establishment of six new cemeteries. The FY08 budget would fully fund the final design and construction of these cemeteries, and advance the President's goal to ensure that most veterans have a final resting place within 75 miles of their homes.
  • DOD and the VA have made great progress in sharing electronic data necessary to make eligibility determinations for VA benefits and services for separated service members. Over the past year, the Departments have reduced the time it takes for making DOD deactivation and separation data available to VA hospital and benefits processing centers from 90 days to within three days.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Keeping America's Promise to Those Who Have Defended Our Freedom Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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