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Mar-05-2008 09:19printcomments

Oregon's Smith Among Senators Pushing for Mental Health Equity for Troops

The bill will provide family assistance for servicemen and women with severe psychiatric conditions.

American soldiers from the Oregon National Guard on a night patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan.
American soldiers from the Oregon National Guard on a night patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by: Tim King Salem-News.com

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senators Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), introduced legislation today aimed at eliminating assistance disparities for members of the armed services who receive inpatient treatment for serious psychiatric conditions.

The Travel Assistance for Family Members of Our Troops Act of 2008 (S. 2689), will allow family members of service men and women with severe psychiatric conditions to receive the same travel allowances as families of patients being treated for serious physical injuries.

"Ailments of the mind must be treated with the same level of care as we treat ailments of the body," said Senator Smith.

"The Department of Defense recognizes that the presence of family is key to a healthy recovery and provides assistance for family travel. Yet, this benefit is only extended to service members with serious physical conditions. Our legislation ensures that families of patients with serious mental impairments also receive help to spend time with their recovering spouse or child during their treatment."

"Brain injuries and mental health trauma can be every bit as serious as gunshot and shrapnel wounds. Severe combat injuries aren't always discernable to the naked eye, but that does not diminish their severity or the importance of family support to aid in the healing process," Senator Bayh said.

"This legislation is an important equity step forward that will make it possible for our servicemen and women to benefit from having their loved ones nearby during recovery from a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. It reaffirms our belief that all of our wounded warriors deserve the full measure of support we are capable of offering them."

"We know that families help in the healing process, and that applies to both physical and mental illnesses," said Senator Nelson.

"We need to ensure that service men and women dealing with serious psychiatric conditions have the best chance of recovery. Not all war wounds are physical, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and with the Department of Defense to ensure parity for our service members struggling with serious psychiatric conditions."

The Department of Defense currently does not classify active-duty service members receiving treatment for mental illnesses as "Very Seriously Ill" or "Seriously Ill." Therefore, under current policy, family members are not eligible to receive the same travel allowances as inpatients being treated for serious physical injuries.

The Travel Assistance for Family Members of Our Troops Act of 2008 ensures that families of patients with serious mental impairments that require inpatient care are eligible for travel assistance as are families of patients with serious physical injuries.




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Henry Ruark March 7, 2008 7:32 am (Pacific time)

To all: Here $2cheapshot lauds the legislation he despises, to make plausible his suggestions for what he knows to be nearly impossible politically,until the Bush cabal is discarded; tied to universal health care which is his target. Content analysis indicates his action is intentional to damage concept of healthcare for all, while seeming to add to pressures for better care for vets. His real target is universal healthcare, despised by neocon and other Far Right malcontent groups.


$Two Dollars March 6, 2008 8:51 am (Pacific time)

This is a great piece of legislation and hopefully it breezes through the legislative process. Energy is much better spent creating solutions than expending it on blame. Now if they can increase the funding to help our service-connected veterans get the same level of health care as our elected congress, and even their staff! Those vets who live in rural area's should be put on fully paid health policies that they can use locally rather than travel to some distant VA Hospital. Maybe some other time , some other election period. Veteran's care should never be tied into any national healthcare scheme!


Henry Ruark March 6, 2008 7:03 am (Pacific time)

To all: Hard to initiate more stupid, insensitive "policy" than this bureaucratic no-brainer to save dollars. "The Department of Defense currently does not classify active-duty service members receiving treatment for mental illnesses as "Very Seriously Ill" or "Seriously Ill." Therefore, under current policy, family members are not eligible to receive the same travel allowances as inpatients being treated for serious physical injuries." With millions more sure to be returning from "preemptive" bloodbath now underway for 5 years and continuing, we must make sure families devastated receive every bit of support, care, and fully responsible restitution we can bring to them all. Believe me, whomever it was who perpetrated this one had in mind "dollars-saved" and damned little else...and never ever lived with family member so afflicted by service to this nation, either. No "content analysis" needed to determine that one !!

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