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Boozman Introduces Legislation to Improve Rehabilitation Service for Veterans With TBI

Boozman's first Senate bill continues commitment to troops

May 11 2011

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman continues his commitment to American troops with the his first piece of legislation introduced in the Senate, The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services’ Improvements Act of 2011

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs narrowly focuses care on physical restoration because of ambiguities in current law. This bicameral, bipartisan legislation clarifies the definition of rehabilitation so veterans will receive care that adequately addresses their physical and mental health needs, as well as quality of life and prospects for long-term recovery and success. 

“We have an obligation to the men and women who serve and sacrifice on behalf of our grateful nation.  Providing the best services to our troops who have sustained a traumatic brain injury is part of our commitment to ensure our military personnel get the care they deserve,” Boozman, a member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee said. 

Because of advances in medicine, service members who would not have been expected to survive catastrophic attacks in previous conflicts are returning home today from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with unprecedented severe and complex injuries.  Since 2001, over 1,500 service members have suffered from a severe TBI, many of whom require rehabilitative programs ranging from total care for the most basic needs to semi-independent living support.  A restrictive approach to rehabilitation puts these wounded warriors at risk of losing any progress they made towards recovery. 

Sen. Mark Begich (AK) is an original cosponsor of the Senate legislation. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-09). 

“The sacrifices made by America’s wounded warriors should never go overlooked,” said Sen. Begich. "Treating traumatic brain injury requires a comprehensive approach that goes further than physical restoration. This legislation takes the critical and overdue step of empowering the VA to fully care for our wounded warriors and the invisible scars of war. Let’s get this bill passed and serve our veterans with the same respect they served our country." 

“Our wounded warriors deserve the best care and support we can give them,” said Rep. Tim Walz, who is a 24 year veteran of the Army National Guard. “When a veteran suffering from TBI comes to the VA for treatment, they need to be presented with a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation that will allow them to recover function, achieve independence and fully integrate back into their communities. This bill ensures we provide comprehensive care instead of just physical rehabilitation, which is what is presently available to our injured veterans.” 

“Our wounded warriors have made tremendous sacrifices in order to keep this country safe, and it is our responsibility to help them wherever we have the ability to do so,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Vice Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “With nearly 2 million veterans calling Florida home, I often hear about the need for legislation to ensure they receive the care they deserve. Providing our veterans and service members with the proper care is the least we can do to repay them for their service," Steve Nardizzi, Wounded Warrior Project Executive Director said.

Currently, this legislation is endorsed by the Wounded Warrior Project and the Blinded Veterans Association. 

"These complex injuries often require long-term rehabilitative care. The legislation would help ensure that needed rehabilitation is not prematurely cut off, and that these veterans can get the supports they need – whether those are health-services or non-medical assistance -- to achieve maximum independence and quality of life.” 

The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitative Services Improvements Act of 2011 would ensure wounded warriors suffering from TBI receive a more comprehensive and holistic rehabilitation plan that focuses on physical restoration, mental health, independence, and quality of life. It would also help veterans in maintaining the gains they have made during initial phases of treatment by requiring the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to develop rehabilitation plans that stress improved physical, cognitive and vocational functioning in the long term.