Baby steps

The Senate votes to upgrade healthcare for vets -- but don't expect changes soon.

Published July 25, 2007 4:20PM (EDT)

Veterans' healthcare is getting some overdue attention this week.

Today, the Senate unanimously passed the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which includes directives for the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department to collaborate on treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain Injuries, as well as develop joint electronic records.

Meanwhile, President Bush gave a short statement about the issue after meeting with former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole (co-chairmen of the President's Committee on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors) about their recommendations, released today, for improving the V.A.'s care:

I asked these two distinguished citizens to lead an extensive search about how best for this government to respond. We owe a wounded soldier the very best care and the very best benefits and the very easiest to understand system. And so they took a very interesting approach. They took the perspective from the patient, as the patient had to work his way through the hospitals and bureaucracies. And they've come up with some very interesting and important suggestions.

Despite this boost, the Associated Press reports that "the White House said not to expect action right away."

On Monday, some veterans of the war in Iraq filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs alleging that it conspired with the Pentagon to reclassify PTSD as a preexisting personality disorder, thus enabling the V.A. to deny treatment. The lawsuit also alleges that the V.A. failed to provide proper staffing and process benefits in a timely matter.

This morning, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee met to consider the issue of reclassifying PTSD.

By Julia Dahl

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