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Press Release - From the Senate: Senator Clinton Continues Fight for Our Troops and Veterans

April 10, 2007

Visit to three Upstate New York VA & Military Installations Kicks off Week of Continued Focus on Troop & Veterans Issues



Senator has authored legislative package to help U.S. troops and their families to transition after deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan
From the Senate: Senator Clinton Continues Fight for Our Troops and Veterans Visit to three Upstate New York VA & Military Installations Kicks off Week of Continued Focus on Troop & Veterans Issues



Senator has authored legislative package to help U.S. troops and their families to transition after deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today kicked off a week of continued focus on issues affecting our men and women in uniform. Visiting Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers in Syracuse and Canandaigua, NY, and then visit Ft. Drum, home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, the Senator highlighted the need to provide support to our troops and their families.

Senator Clinton recently introduced a package of legislation aimed at helping U.S. troops and their families to transition after deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, including;

  • the Heroes at Home Act of 2007 to get them the help they need by improving the detection, assessment and treatment of traumatic brain injury and expanding support systems for members and former members of the Armed Services with traumatic brain injury and their families, and
  • the Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007 and the Protecting Military Family Financial Benefits Act of 2007 to help ensure that wounded soldiers receive the disability benefits they need and deserve and to further protect military family financial benefits.

"When our brave men and women go to war, they should expect to be supported before they leave and be treated as heroes when they return, with the promise of adequate assistance and healthcare. That is the promise our country must keep to the men and women who enlist, who fight, and who return home often bearing the visible and invisible scars of sacrifice. This should be a time when we do more for our troops and their families, not less," Senator Clinton said.

"These bills will help our soldiers and their families if they suffer or are wounded, they will help to ensure that wounded soldiers receive the disability benefits they need and deserve and they will help protect military family financial benefits if a loved one is deployed," Senator Clinton said. "After visiting today with our brave troops and seeing firsthand what they are coping with, I am even more convinced that we must show them - not just tell them - that we are grateful for their service to our country."

On Thursday, in Washington, DC, Senator Clinton will also attend a Joint Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee to receive testimony on the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs disability rating systems and the transition of service members from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Senator Clinton's legislative package includes:

The Heroes At Home Act of 2007

Senator Clinton's legislation will 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.

Senator Clinton's new initiative will expand Heroes at Home by:

  • Improving the screening process for our troops before deployment to improve TBI diagnoses after deployment. Traumatic brain injury, which affects approximately one out of every 10 returning servicemembers, has been identified as the "signature wound" affecting soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Multiple deployments and prevalent use of IEDs have put servicemembers at increased risk of sustaining more than one mild or moderate TBI. However, mild and moderate TBI may go undetected, especially if a servicemember has sustained more obvious injuries. It also can be difficult to distinguish mild TBI from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since both conditions have common symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety and depression. 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. Servicemembers 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 servicemembers with TBI.
  • The Heroes at Home Act of 2007 is endorsed by the Wounded Warrior Project, National Military Families Association, Military Officers Association of America, American Academy of Neurology and Brain Injury Association of America.

    Restoring Disability Benefits for Injured and Wounded Warriors Act of 2007

    Following up on complaints she heard from New York soldiers at Walter Reed about widespread problems with disability claims, Senator Clinton today introduced legislation that 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.

    Protecting Military Family Financial Benefits Act of 2007

    Senator Clinton also introduced legislation that will protect financial benefits for military family members by closing gaps in coverage for Death Gratuity and Survivor Benefits beneficiaries and improve pre-deployment counseling and services for all members of the Armed Forces. Everyday single parents deploy to distant battlefields and leave their minor children in the care of a financially ill-prepared guardian or caretaker. Unfortunately, when tragedy strikes and a military servicemember makes the ultimate sacrifice, minor dependent children and families are excluded from receiving benefits and entitlements. In too many cases, pre-deployment systems and processes designed to protect military family financial benefits are under-resourced or not available and create unnecessary burden for survivors. Senator Clinton's bill will require each military service to provide adequate pre-deployment counseling and services to every deploying member of the Armed Forces to ensure that families and dependents receive survivor benefits and entitlements.

    These bills are supported by the Wounded Warrior Project, National Military Families Association, Military Officers Association of America, American Legion and the Gold Star Mothers.

    As New York's first Senator to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton has made it one of her top priorities to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform have the healthcare and support they need. She has pressed for an independent investigation of the conditions at Walter Reed and called for a new GI Bill of Rights to once again honor the service and invest in the future of our men and women in uniform. She authored legislation signed into law last year that required an audit of widespread pay issues wounded soldiers are facing, recently released by the Army showing continuing problems. Senator Clinton has fought to ensure servicemembers have the body armor they need. She has also secured in law access to TRICARE military health benefits for all drilling members of the National Guard and Reserves and their families.

    Senator Clinton: Standing Up For Servicemembers And Their Families

    As New York's first Senator to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Clinton has made it one of her top priorities to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform have the healthcare and support they need. She has called for a new GI Bill of Rights to reenergize and renew our commitment to those who wear our uniform. She has been a leading voice for making sure our troops have adequate body armor. She has worked for healthcare that recognizes the new realities facing our men and women in uniform and that honors our responsibility to our veterans. She has been an advocate for wounded troops stuck in red tape, and she has worked to stop in their tracks those who prey on soldiers trying to do the right thing for their families. In recognition of tireless efforts, Senator Clinton has received numerous honors, including the Inspirational Leadership Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart for her dedicated service to America's servicemembers and veterans.

    Modernizing Health Care to Reflect the Realities Facing Our Men and Women in Uniform

    • Recognizing the challenges being faced by troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Clinton secured passage into law of a groundbreaking "Heroes at Home" initiative as part of the FY 2007 Department of Defense Authorization Bill. The measures secured into law will help returning servicemembers and their families cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
    • To build on this initiative, Senator Clinton introduced "The Heroes at Home Act of 2007" in April to improve the detection, assessment and treatment of TBI and expand support systems for members and former members of the Armed Services with TBI and their families.
    • Acknowledging the increasing reliance on Guard Members and Reservists and the pervasive instances of members not medically fit to serve and lacking healthcare for themselves and their families, Senator Clinton worked to secure in law access to military health care (TRICARE) for all members of the Guard and Reserve and their families.
    • Anticipating the lack of preparedness to track medical problems our troops might encounter in Iraq, Senator Clinton authored legislation signed into law to improve Guard and Reserve readiness and track the health of all military personnel.

    Helping Servicemembers Cut Through Red Tape

    • Amid reports of widespread problems with disability claims affecting returning soldiers receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Senator Clinton introduced legislation that will restore disability benefits for wounded and injured members of the Armed Forces. The bill will require 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. The bill will also increase the availability of legal counsel for members appealing their disability cases, and require a GAO investigation of the Department of Defense Disability Evaluation Systems, Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Schedule for Ratings and the standards and procedures of Physical Evaluation Boards.
    • Senator Clinton authored legislation signed into law that required the Army conduct a review of wounded soldiers affected by pay problems. The recently released audit showed 24 percent of wounded soldiers whose cases were audited had underpayment issues totaling almost $400,000.

    Honoring the Basic Bargain at the Heart of America's Promise

    • Senator Clinton announced that she will introduce a new GI bill of Rights for the 21st Century, a comprehensive effort to renew and reenergize our commitment to those who wear our uniform -- to achieve a college education, to afford housing, to start a small business and more.

    Fighting for Adequate Body Armor

    • Senator Clinton has led the fight to ensure our troops have adequate body armor. Clinton called on the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing to investigate inadequate body armor being provided to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and requested a Government Accountability Office investigation to determine how the Pentagon procures body armor for our troops.

    Protecting Servicemembers from Predatory Insurance and Financial Practices

    • Senator Clinton led the fight to protect service members and their families from deceptive financial sales practices by calling for Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the issue and for DoD to investigate the problem.
    • Senator Clinton authored legislation signed into law to provide members of the armed forces and their spouses with consumer education on financial services.
    • Senator Clinton sponsored legislation signed into law to protect service members and their families from being targeted by abusive financial services sales practices, including requiring DoD to keep a list of individuals barred from military bases because of abusive sales tactics.
    • Senator Clinton announced legislation to provide service members with greater flexibility and pre-deployment counseling to help them make the best financial decisions for themselves and their families on military survivor benefits, service members' group life insurance and other critical family planning matters.

    Fighting to Ensure Fair Pay and Fair Benefits

    • Senator Clinton introduced legislation that will protect financial benefits for military family members by closing gaps in coverage for Death Gratuity and Survivor Benefits beneficiaries and improving pre-deployment counseling and services for all members of the Armed Forces.
    • Senator Clinton co-sponsored legislation to increase military survivor benefits, which are paid to families of military personnel killed on active duty, from $12,000 to $100,000. She also supported efforts to increase the maximum benefit under the Service Members' Group Life Insurance program from $250,000 to $400,000.
    • She is working to reverse the unfair policy that prevents disabled veterans from collecting retirement and disability pay concurrently, co-sponsoring legislation in the last four Congresses.
    • Senator Clinton helped pass legislation to help widowed spouses, enabling those who remarry after age 57 to continue to receive the benefits given to spouses of military personnel who die on active duty or of a service-related cause. Senator Clinton received the National Appreciation Award by the Gold Star Wives for outstanding leadership in appreciation for her advocacy of the legislation.

    Pressing for Quality VA Health Care

    • Since 2003, Senator Clinton has led the fight to save New York VA hospitals targeted for closure or reduction in services under the VA's CARES process.
    • Senator Clinton fought the Administration's proposal to double the co-payment for prescription drugs of certain veterans and has repeatedly called for full and guaranteed funding of veterans' health care.
    • In recognition of her efforts to help lead the way in securing a record increase for veteran's health care for fiscal year 2004, Senator Clinton was honored by the American Legion as the "Unsung Hero of the 108th Congress."

Hillary Clinton, Press Release - From the Senate: Senator Clinton Continues Fight for Our Troops and Veterans Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/297162

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