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Shaheen cosponsored measure to improve veterans health care

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today announced that the Senate has passed legislation, which she cosponsored, to provide critical support services, including health care and financial support, for family members who care for severely injured veterans. The bill also takes important steps to improve veterans' health care services. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 (S. 1963) will now be considered by the House.

"Our men and women in uniform bravely serve our country when we need them, and the least we can do is provide them with the care and support they need when they get home," said Shaheen. "This legislation takes an important step to ease the burden on family members who sacrifice so much to care for injured veterans in their families."

Since September 11, 2001, at least 6,800 veterans and members of the Armed Forces have been injured and are living with disabilities severe enough to require near around the clock care.  In rural areas, where health care services are often limited, the responsibility to care for these severely injured veterans often falls on their families.  These family caregivers are often unable to maintain full-time employment, limiting their income and ability to obtain health insurance.  The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 provides caregivers with support, specifically health care, counseling and a stipend, so that they can continue to care for their loved one.

The legislation also improves health care services offered to our nation's veterans by:

  • Removing barriers to care for the catastrophically disabled by eliminating their copayments and allowing the VA to reimburse for emergency care received at non-VA facilities;
  • Increasing funding for mental health care for women who suffered military sexual trauma, and for medical services for newborn children;
  • Expanding the VA's authority to provide recruitment and retention incentives so that VA can recruit high quality health care providers in rural areas; and
  • Improving mental health services for veterans by increasing the eligibility of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including National Guard or Reservists, to receive readjustment counseling and requiring the VA to conduct a study on veteran suicide.

This legislation has been supported by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Since joining the Senate, Shaheen has worked to improve health care and other support services for men and women of the Armed Forces. Her suicide prevention and Yellow Ribbon Plus measures, which were inspired by successful New Hampshire pilot programs, were recently sign into law by President Obama.  The first piece of legislation Shaheen introduced, the Veterans Health Equity Act of 2009, called for an expansion of veteran health care services in New Hampshire by requiring that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ensure that every state has a full-service veterans' hospital, or that comparable services are provided by contracting with in-state hospitals.  In July, the VA announced improved health service access for New Hampshire veterans though a community partnership with Concord Hospital, though Shaheen believes more should be done. New Hampshire is one of only three states without a full-service veterans' hospital, an issue Shaheen recently raised again with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.