Thursday, June 05, 2008

How long have Republicans opposed funding PTSD ?

With the questions of Barak Obama’s patriotism and his stated support of the troops, I decided to do a little Googling. To eliminate potential pandering (or political posturing that occurs many times before an election,) I focused on 2005.
My question was: What legislation did Obama sponsor related to Veterans Issues ?

On September 17, 2005 Obama spoke in support of his amendment SA 2616 : To accelerate marriage penalty relief for the earned income tax credit, to extend the election to include combat pay in earned income, and to make modifications of effective dates of leasing provisions of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004.

The amendment, argued Obama on the Senate floor, would "... ensure that the families of our men and women in combat are not deprived of their tax benefits. In the midst of war, are we really going to tell our troops that their combat pay doesn't count as earned income for purposes of calculating tax credits? That is hard to imagine. Our troops not only earn their combat pay, but they have also earned our respect. They deserve our commitment of support."

The amendment failed.
Remember that in 2005, the Republicans were in the majority party and even though SA 2616 had the support of every Democrat, the Republicans killed it.

That got me looking at other amendments offered to the bill, and this is what really galls me.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) proposed SA 2634 : “for readjustment counseling, related mental health services, and treatment and rehabilitative services for veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, or substance use disorder.

Boxer cited that "This amendment is backed by the American Legion, AMVETS, and Disabled American Veterans." She closed her floor argument by quoting an e-mail from the wife of an Iraq War Veteran who committed suicide upon his return. "I got an e-mail from a woman who was married to Captain Michael Jon Pelkey, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for over a year. He sought help on several occasions but was discouraged by the wait time and the stigma, " said Boxer.
Boxer then read directly from the e-mail which said "Michael passed away in our home at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest on November 5, 2004. I feel that my husband is a casualty of this war and to date the Army has not done enough for post-traumatic stress. "

That funding also FAILED.
Once again, every Democrat voted for the funding but only one Republican voted for it – Gordon Smith who’s own son suicide lead to the funding of $82 million for youth suicide prevention programs at college campus mental health centers.
Yes, that means that John McCain (and Norm Coleman) voted against funding PTSD.

That was 2005.

What could that funding have accomplished ?
How many lives affected ?
IF the problem was evident in 2005, is it a bigger or smaller problem today ?

The RAND Corporation issued a report on April 16th titled Invisible Wounds of War which stated that 300,000 (or 18.5%) of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may have PTSD. "These consequences can have a high economic toll," RAND said. "However, most attempts to measure the costs of these conditions focus only on medical costs to the government. Yet, direct costs of treatment are only a fraction of the total costs related to mental health and cognitive conditions. Far higher are the long-term individual and societal costs stemming from lost productivity, reduced quality of life, homelessness, domestic violence, the strain on families, and suicide. Delivering effective care and restoring veterans to full mental health have the potential to reduce these longer-term costs significantly."

In addition, the Veterans Administration reported in April that 60,000 discharged vets have been diagnosed with mental health problems.

One of the common complaints that have been directed at the Bush Administration is that they only planned for the invasion of Iraq and not for the occupation and resulting consequences (old weaponry, inadequate body armor and helmets, minimally protected vehicles, etc.)
But considering PTSD, the Senate --- led by the blocking wedge of Republicans – has failed in funding.

The Senate could still do something.
Those of us in Minnesota’s First District are well aware (and appreciate) Congressman Tim Walz’s efforts on Veterans issues. But he cannot do it alone … he needs Senate support. For example, Walz was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 2874 Veterans' Health Care Improvement Act of 2007. Although the House passed Walz’s bill last August, the Senate has failed to act on it.
That doesn’t mean that the Republicans in the Senate won’t acknowledge the problem. For example, Senators Richard Burr (NC) and Larry Craig (ID) have proposed S. 2573 Veterans Mental Health Treatment First Act. The bill does more to LIMIT veterans’ benefits and requires extensive requirements for participation. Little wonder that there are only two Senators willing to put their name on the legislation.
Besides the PTSD issue, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is another issue that is a major concern. Once again, Congressman Tim Walz (joined by Keith Ellison D-MN-05 and Jim Oberstar D-MN-08) co-sponsored HR 2199 : Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act of 2007. Once again, the House passed this legislation in May 2007, but the Senate has failed to act.

Voters will decide in November whether McCain’s patriotism is more relevant that Obama’s support for Veterans issues.

While these two Senators take time to campaign, why cannot Norm Coleman get his Republican colleagues to address these issues.

Remember, VOTE 60.


Anonymous said...

It has been for a long time. As far back as I can go always.

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seshupunter said...

Ensure that the failies of our menand women in comabt are mot deprives of their troops that war. are we realluy going to tellour


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