Changes Urged for Veterans' Health Care; Lifelong Treatment for Stress Recommended

Article excerpt

Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Leaders of a presidential commission yesterday called for "fundamental changes" in the way health care is administered to military veterans, including lifelong treatment for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Wars change, people change, techniques change, injuries change, and we need to keep our military and veterans' health care system up to date," said former Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole at a hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Mr. Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, co-chairmen of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, urged Congress to put aside partisan differences and work together to pass legislation to provide better health care for military veterans.

The diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder - or PTSD - for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars should occur regardless of the length of time that has transpired since the exposure to combat events, the commission says.

"The consequences of PTSD can be devastating," Miss Shalala said. "Therefore we ask that any veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts be able to obtain prompt access to the VA's extensive resources for diagnosis and treatment."

Miss Shalala also asked Congress to make service members with combat-related injuries eligible for respite care as well as aide and personal-attendant benefits.

"Many families are caring for their injured service member at home, and many of these service members have complex injuries," she said "Families are unprepared to provide 24-7 care. …