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Fact Sheet: Taking Care of America's Returning Wounded Warriors

March 06, 2007

President Bush Names Bob Dole And Donna Shalala To Serve On The President's Commission On Care For America's Returning Wounded Warriors

The President's Commission On Care For America's Returning Wounded Warriors

Today, President Bush Signed An Executive Order Creating A Bipartisan Presidential Commission To Conduct A Comprehensive Review Of The Services America Is Providing Our Returning Wounded Warriors. The President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors will recommend ways to:

  1. Improve The Transition From Deployment To Other Military Service Or Civilian Life. The Commission will examine returning wounded service members' transition from deployment in support of the Global War on Terror to productive military service or civilian society, and recommend needed improvements.

  2. Ensure High-Quality Services For Returning Wounded Service Members. The Commission will evaluate the delivery of health care, disability, traumatic injury, education, employment, and other benefits and services to returning wounded service members by Federal agencies and the private sector. It will recommend ways to ensure programs provide high-quality services.

  3. Increase Access To Benefits And Services. The Commission will analyze the effectiveness of existing outreach programs for service members and identify ways to increase awareness of and access to benefits and services and reduce any barriers or gaps in these benefits and services.
  • Commission Members Will Consult With Foundations, Veterans Service Organizations, Non-Profit Groups, Faith-Based Organizations, And Others, As Appropriate.

The President Also Announced Former Senator Bob Dole And Former U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala Will Serve As The Commission's Co-Chairs. In total, the President will announce nine members to serve on the Commission – including the two co-chairs.

  • Bob Dole: Senator Bob Dole was elected to Congress from his home state of Kansas in 1960 and to the U.S. Senate in 1968. He resigned from the Senate in 1996. His personal history of service includes active duty in World War II, during which he was gravely wounded and received for heroic achievement two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster.
  • Donna Shalala: In 1993, President Clinton appointed Donna Shalala Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. She has served as President of the University of Miami since June 1, 2001.

Interagency Task Force On Returning Global War On Terror Heroes

The President Also Directed U.S. Department Of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson To Establish An Interagency Task Force On Returning Global War On Terror Heroes. The Task Force will bring together top-level officials from the U.S. Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration. It will identify and examine existing Federal services provided to returning Global War on Terror service members, identify gaps in these services, and seek recommendations from appropriate Federal agencies on ways to fill those gaps quickly and effectively.

In Addition, Defense Secretary Robert Gates Has Formed An Independent Review Group To Conduct An Assessment Of Outpatient Treatment At Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) And The National Naval Medical Center (NNMC). The group held its first meeting on March 1, 2007. It will identify any critical shortcomings and opportunities to improve care and quality of life for injured and sick members of the armed forces at WRAMC, NNMC, and other facilities if necessary, and make recommendations for corrective actions.

A Record Of Commitment To Improving Service For The Men And Women Of Our Military

The President's 2008 Budget Proposal Contains $38.7 Billion For Military Health Care Costs - Doubling Funding Since The President Took Office. All military members and families and retirees and families receive health care benefits from the Department of Defense (DoD). Military members on active duty are treated in DoD hospitals and clinics worldwide. A member severely harmed in combat is retained on active duty and treated in DoD facilities until he or she is granted lifetime DoD disability retirement and health benefits. The member may also transition to the VA health system for care.

  • In 2005, DoD Launched Its Global Electronic Health Record System, Which Will Ultimately Serve More Than 9 Million Service Members, Retirees, And Their Families Worldwide. In2008, the system will be active in 60 percent of military hospitals – a major step towards achieving the President's goal of making electronic health records and information about health care costs available to a majority of Americans.
  • In December 2006, The Defense Department Established A Task Force On The Future Of Military Health Care. The 14-member task force will evaluate and recommend alternatives to ensure the availability and affordability of military medicine over the long term.

With The President's 2008 Budget Proposal, We Will Have Increased The VA's Health Care Budget By 83 Percent Since 2001 – An Average Of 9.1 Percent A Year. Overall, the President is asking Congress for more than $86 billion for veterans' services in 2008. If Congress approves his request, this would amount to a 77 percent increase since the President took office – the highest level of support for veterans in American history.

  • VA Has Placed Staff At Key Military Hospitals To Assist Returning Service Members. These include benefit counselors who help service members obtain VA services and social workers who facilitate health care coordination and discharge planning as service members transition from Defense Department to VA health care.
  • VA Has Refocused Resources On Returning Combat Veterans And Has Implemented A Priority Scheduling System To Ensure These Men And Women Receive The Care They Need Without Unnecessary Delay. In addition, each VA medical center has a designated point of contact to ensure the health care needs of returning service members and veterans are fully met.
  • VA Has Expanded Resources For Patients With Multiple Complex Injuries. To further meet the need for specialized medical care for returning combat veterans, VA has expanded its four polytrauma centers in Minneapolis, Palo Alto, Richmond, and Tampa to encompass additional specialties to treat patients for multiple complex injuries. This effort is being expanded to 21 polytrauma network sites and clinic support teams around the country that can provide state-of-the-art treatment closer to injured veterans' homes.
  • The President's 2008 VA Budget Includes A Total Investment Of Nearly $3 Billion To Provide A Full Continuum Of Care For Veterans With Mental Health Issues. VA and DoD are working together to identify departing service members who may be at risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and have implemented an aggressive plan to determine the appropriate care best suited to each veteran.
  • VA Has Significantly Expanded Its Counseling And Other Medical Care Services For Recently Discharged Veterans Suffering From Mental Health Disorders, Including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. VA has created dozens of new mental health teams based in VA medical facilities that focus on early identification and management of stress-related disorders. It has also recruited about 100 combat veterans as counselors to provide briefings to transitioning service members regarding military-related readjustment needs.
  • VA Is Leading The Way In The Use Of Electronic Health Records To Enhance Patient Safety And Prevent Errors Associated With Prescription Drugs. All VA medical records are stored and tracked electronically, rather than on paper. This system allows physicians to review a patient's medical history, diagnoses, medications, charts, and X-rays at any of VA's 1,400 sites. It also substantially cuts down on errors in drug prescription, curbs repetitive and unnecessary tests, and helps identify patients who need vaccinations and other services.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Taking Care of America's Returning Wounded Warriors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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