Obama has always been committed to helping the military soldiers who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in the past to defend our country. Now as our elect president, Obama has promised to continue the fight to help our heroes and give them the help and services that they need and deserve.
Some of the issues that Obama has tackled are:
- Benefits Disparities – The United States has a large population of aging veterans. In light of this troubling reality, Obama has tried to make things better in this area by displaying efforts to uncover the reasons for this disparity and correct it. Because of his commitment and dedication to improve things, VA has increased the number of claims reviewers in the Chicago office, providing for a faster processing of claims. The VA has also increased training to ensure more accurate and consistent decisions are made on these claims. Obama has worked with Senator Durbin to require the VA to provide veterans in six states, including Illinois, with notification of their rights to appeal any benefit decisions. Because of these appeals, Illinois veterans are starting to see larger benefit checks. GO OBAMA!
- Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care - As early as February 2005, Obama warned of a shortfall in the VA budget. Four months later, the VA reported that in fact it had more than a $1 billion shortfall. Obama cosponsored a bill that led to a $1.5 billion increase in veterans’ medical care. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Obama created actions that would have provided additional funding increases for veterans. In January 2007, Senator Obama reintroduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act to improve the VA’s planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system. Obama and Biden will improve the quality of health care for veterans, rebuild the VA’s broken benefits system, and combat homelessness among veterans. They will:
- Ensure a Seamless Transition: Obama and Biden demand that the military and the VA coordinate to provide a flawless transition from active duty to civilian life.
- Fully Fund VA Medical Care: Fully fund the VA so it has all the resources it needs to serve the veterans who need it, when they need it. Obama promises to create an excellent VA Planning Division to avoid future budget shortfalls.
- Fix the Benefits Bureaucracy: Obama plans to hire additional claims workers, and improve training and accountability so that VA benefit decisions are rated fairly and consistently. Transform the paper benefit claims process to an electronic one to reduce errors and improve timeliness.
- Homeless Veterans - Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, spend some time living on the streets. Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He considers this an important issue that needs to be brought to the attention of political officials and important changes need to be made to help homeless veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans. Working with Senators Akaka and Craig, Obama passed legislation in December 2006 to provide comprehensive services and affordable housing options to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and nonprofit organizations. This legislation was signed into law and is modeled on parts of the SAVE Act and the Homes for Heroes Act, action that Obama had previously authored.
- Food for Recovering Soldiers – Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review. Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability. Obama and Biden will improve mental health treatment for troops and veterans suffering from combat-related psychological injuries. They will:
1. Improve Mental Health Treatment: Recruit more health professionals, improve screening, offer more support to families and make PTSD benefits claims fairer.
2. Improve Care for Traumatic Brain Injury: Establish standards of care for Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of the Iraq war.
3. Expand Vet Centers: Expand and strengthen Vet Centers to provide more counseling for vets and their families.
- Easing the Transition to the VA – Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA’s electronic medical records system. DOD’s delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system. Part of the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which Obama reintroduced in January 2007, would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
Plans For 2009
We have seen as Senator of Illinois Obama has gone above and beyond to help our Veterans. As President Barack Obama and future Vice President Joe Biden plan to create a 21st Century Department of Veterans’ Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation’s veterans deserve. They have begun to create a department for VA that will:
- Allow All Veterans Back into the VA: Reverse the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans, which has denied care to a million veterans.
- Strengthen VA Care: Make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. Improve care for polytrauma vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women’s health.
- Combat Homelessness among Our Nation’s Veterans: Establish a national “zero tolerance” policy for veterans falling into homelessness by expanding proven programs and launching innovative services to prevent veterans from falling into homelessness.
- Fight Employment Discrimination: Crack down on employers who commit job discrimination against guardsmen and reservists.
Obama realizes that Veterans play an important role in the United States of America. They fought for our freedom, they risk and many gave their lives so we can live in a land of liberty and their love for our country is far above the norm. Obama realizes this and this is why he continues to fight for the rights of Veterans. I am not a fortuneteller but I definitely see a bright future for our veteran heroes.
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