U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today applauded the veterans-related sections included in H.R. 2642, the fiscal year 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act.  The bill passed by a vote of 409 - 2.

“The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan create new veterans every day.  Our men and women are returning home with complex mental and physical wounds, and we must do more to help them.  This bill provides the largest increase for Veterans Administration (VA) funding in history to make sure these honorable Americans are cared for when they return home.” Smith said.

The passage of H.R. 2642 will, among other things, result in:

  • The hiring of more qualified doctors and nurses to improve medical services to our veterans;
  • Reduced waiting times for doctor appointments; and
  • More to help veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mental health care issues.

H.R. 2642 includes: 

  • VA funding $6.7 billion above the fiscal year 2007 level.  This increase surpasses the President’s request by $3.8 billion;
  • Funds for more than 1,100 new claims processors to reduce the huge backlog of disability and other claims on behalf of veterans;
  • Needed maintenance at VA health care faculties;
  • $600 million more than the President requested for mental health, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury and makes five polytrauma centers and three Centers of Excellence for Mental Health and PTSD fully operational this year to care for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, including those with TBI;
  • Permission for the Department of Veterans Affairs to transfer up to $15 million for a joint program to improve access to care to ensure a seamless transition from the Defense Department to the VA, particularly for veterans suffering from TBI or PTSD; and
  • Development and operational funds for a toll-free telephone and web-based hotline for veterans to report on deficiencies in VA medical facilities and care. 

The Senate must now consider similar legislation before the bill can be signed into law by the President.