Merkley Fighting to Improve Veterans Health Care

Washington, D.C. –
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley co-sponsored four pieces of legislation today to
improve health care for our veterans. 

“We have a bedrock commitment
to our men and women in uniform to provide them with the resources they need in
battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they return home,” Merkley
said.  “These bills expand and improve health care for rural veterans,
female veterans, and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and
traumatic brain injury.  They also provide support to family members
charged with the difficult task of providing care to injured loved ones.”

Senator Merkley is
co-sponsoring the following pieces of legislation:

Honor Act of 2009

  • Authorizes
    the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide scholarships for
    graduate or post-graduate degree studies in behavioral science to veterans
    with previous experience in mental health field
  • Authorizes
    VA survivor benefits to family members if a veteran with post-traumatic
    stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) commits suicide
    within two years of military separation or retirement

Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2009

  • Oregon has over 352,000
    veterans throughout the state
  • Provides travel
    reimbursement for rural veterans, and establishes centers of excellence
    for rural health research, education and clinical activities
  • Authorizes the Secretary
    of Veterans Affairs to establish a $50,000 grant program to provide transportation
    options to veterans in rural areas
  • Provides peer outreach
    services including readjustment counseling and mental health services and
    improvement of care of American Indian Veterans

Women Veterans Health Care
Improvement Act of 2009

  • Directs
    the VA to report on barriers preventing female veterans from getting the
    health care they need
  • Provides
    for independent pilot study on health consequences for women who served in
    Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Furnishes care for up to seven days after the birth of
    the child for female veterans receiving VA maternity care

Family Caregiver Program Act
of 2009

  • Waives
    charges for care provided by VA in emergency cases to attendants
    accompanying veterans severely injured while on active duty
  • Provides
    family members with caregiver instruction, training and certification
  • Provides
    for direct technical support to routine, emergency, and specialized care

“When it comes to the serious
physical and emotional tolls that PTSD and traumatic brain injury take on our
veterans, there is much we have yet to understand.  The Honor Act improves
treatment for veterans, but it also provides educational opportunities for
veterans to become experts in the mental health field.  We need more
health care providers with first-hand knowledge of what veterans have gone
through so they can better help those who need it most,” Merkley said.