The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

Supporting Our Nation's Troops And Their Families
President Bush Announces Proposals To Help Military Families, Calls On Congress To Pass Legislation To Implement Dole-Shalala Commission Reforms

Tonight, President Bush will announce new proposals to expand support for families of the men and women serving in America's Armed Forces.  The President understands that the wives, husbands, and children of our men and women in uniform make great sacrifices as their loved ones give invaluable service to our Nation.  In order to thank military families for their support, President Bush is announcing the following new proposals:

President Bush will also call on Congress to enact the reforms recommended by the Dole-Shalala Commission so that our returning wounded warriors receive the services they need.  President Bush created the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors in March 2007 to conduct a comprehensive review of the services America is providing our returning wounded warriors.  The Commission, co-chaired by Senator Bob Dole and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, released its findings in July and the Administration has already moved forward to implement the recommendations that can be achieved administratively.  Some recommendations of the Dole-Shalala Commission require legislative action, however, and Congress should act promptly to pass legislation the President has called for.

President Bush remains committed to the well-being of the brave men and women who have served in America's Armed Forces.  Over the past seven years, the Administration has increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent. 

The Administration Is Taking Steps To Keep America's Promise To Those Who Have Defended Our Freedom

The Administration is successfully implementing the six recommendations of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors that can be achieved administratively.  Our military doctors and nurses are among the best in the world.  Unfortunately, some of our wounded warriors encountered unacceptable bureaucratic delays and administrative failures.  The Administration took immediate action to fix those problems and ensure that America's injured service members are receiving the care and attention they deserve.  The President has called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement the Dole-Shalala Commission recommendations:

  1. The first Federal Recovery Coordinators, who will help guide seriously wounded service members through their recuperation, have been hired, trained and are working with patients.

  2. A pilot program establishing a single comprehensive disability exam – replacing the two separate exams normally given in the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – is underway in the National Capital Area.

  3. A new National Center of Excellence for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury has been established in the D.C. area.  

  4. DoD and VA are creating a single Web portal that will enable wounded service members and veterans to track their medical and recovery records, access information regarding Federal, State, and local services and benefits, and apply for benefits and services through available self service options.

  5. Proposed regulations to update the disability schedule for Traumatic Brain Injury and burns were published in the Federal Register on January 3, 2008 for a 30-day public comment period

  6. DoD is using special authorities to retain the best health professionals working at Walter Reed right up to its scheduled closure.

VA has also initiated two important technical studies that will allow a thorough modernization of the VA's disability system.  These studies are part of the Dole-Shalala Commission's recommendations.  One study will examine compensation payments for service connected disabilities.  The second study will determine the appropriate level and duration of transition payments for veterans participating in a rehabilitation program.

The President Is Keeping His Commitment To Provide For Our Nation's Veterans

Since 2001, VA has provided medical treatment to nearly 1.4 million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands of men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.  Nearly 5.3 million veterans will receive care at the VA in 2009.

VA has significantly expanded its counseling and other medical care services for recently discharged veterans suffering from mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.  VA has created dozens of new mental health teams based in VA medical facilities that focus on early identification and management of stress-related disorders.  It has also recruited about 100 combat veterans to help former service members transition successfully from military to civilian life.

VA has expanded resources for patients with multiple complex injuries.  To further meet the specialized medical care needs of returning combat veterans, VA has expanded its four polytrauma rehabilitation centers in Minneapolis, Palo Alto, Richmond, and Tampa to encompass additional specialties to treat patients for multiple complex injuries.  A fifth polytrauma center has been approved in San Antonio, and is currently under design for construction.  This polytrauma system of care has been expanded to 21 polytrauma network sites and clinic support teams around the country that can provide state-of-the-art treatment to injured veterans at facilities closer to their homes. 

VA is leading the way in the use of electronic health records to enhance patient safety and prevent medical errors.  All VA medical records are stored and tracked electronically, rather than on paper. This system allows physicians to review a patient's medical history, diagnoses, medications, charts, and X-rays at any of VA's 1,400 sites. It also substantially cuts down on errors in drug prescription, curbs repetitive and unnecessary tests, and helps identify patients who need vaccinations and other services.

DoD and VA have made great progress in sharing the electronic data necessary to streamline eligibility and benefits determinations for separated service members.  At more than 140 military installations, VA benefits counselors reach out to separating service members in the "Benefits Delivery at Discharge" program – ensuring that each can seamlessly transition to civilian life.

The President remains committed to reducing processing time for veteran disability benefit claims by continually improving methods and technology.  Since the President took office, average waiting time has dropped from 230 days to an estimated 145 days in 2009.

New VA facilities are being located in communities where many veterans live, so that more veterans can access top-quality health care closer to their homes.  

VA is expanding access to non-institutional long-term care, enabling veterans to live and be cared for near, or in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by family. 

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