It’s Time for Voters to Take Out the Senatorial Trash

— by Vickie Rock, Humboldt Dems Secretary and proud Navy Veteran

Today, S1982 came up for a vote in the Senate. S1982 is the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.  S1982 amends federal veterans provisions, revising or adding provisions concerning medical services and other benefits provided to veterans and/or their dependents through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the following areas:

  • survivor and dependent matters, including benefits for children of certain veterans born with spina bifida;
  • education matters, including the approval of courses for purposes of the All-Volunteer Force and the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance programs;
  • the expansion and extension of certain health care benefits, including immunizations, chiropractic care, treatment for traumatic brain injury, and wellness promotion;
  • health care administration, including extension of the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Professional Scholarship Program, and
  • complementary and alternative medicine;
  • mental health care, including an education program and peer support program for family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders;
  • dental care eligibility and expansion, including a program of education to promote dental health in veterans;
  • health care related to sexual trauma, including appropriate counseling and treatment and a screening mechanism to detect incidents of domestic abuse;
  • reproductive treatment and services, including fertility counseling as well as adoption assistance for severely wounded veterans;
  • major medical facility leases;
  • veterans’ employment training and related services;
  • veterans’ employment, including within the federal government and as first responders;
  • career transition services;
  • employment and reemployment rights of members of the Armed Forces after active duty service;
  • small business matters, including contracting and subcontracting participation goals with federal departments and agencies;
  • administrative matters, including regional support centers for Veterans Integrated Service Networks;
  • the revision of claims based on military sexual trauma as well as claims for dependency and indemnity compensation;
  • jurisdictional matters, including with respect to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims;
  • the revision of certain rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, including protections with respect to the expiration of professional licenses, a prohibition on the denial of credit or the termination of residential leases due to military service, and the temporary protection of surviving spouses under mortgage foreclosures; and
  • outreach and miscellaneous matters, including: (1) repeal of the provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that reduces the cost-of-living adjustment to the retirement pay of members of the Armed Forces under age 62, and (2) the accounting for discretionary accounts designated for overseas contingency operations/global war on terrorism.

When the bill came up for a vote, we witnessed pure unadulterated partisanship run amok as 41 reprehensible members of the REPUBLIBAN displayed their disdain, not support, for our troops and voted against passage of S1982:

Alexander (R-TN) . Ayotte (R-NH) . Barrasso (R-WY) . Blunt (R-MO) . Boozman (R-AR) . Burr (R-NC) . Chambliss (R-GA) . Coats (R-IN) . Coburn (R-OK) . Cochran (R-MS) . Collins (R-ME) . Corker (R-TN) . Cornyn (R-TX) . Crapo (R-ID) . Cruz (R-TX) . Enzi (R-WY) . Fischer (R-NE) . Flake (R-AZ) . Graham (R-SC) . Grassley (R-IA) . Hatch (R-UT) . Hoeven (R-ND) . Inhofe (R-OK) . Isakson (R-GA) . Johanns (R-NE) . Johnson (R-WI) . Kirk (R-IL) . Lee (R-UT) . McCain (R-AZ) . McConnell (R-KY) . Paul (R-KY) . Portman (R-OH) . Risch (R-ID) . Roberts (R-KS) . Rubio (R-FL) . Scott (R-SC) . Sessions (R-AL) . Shelby (R-AL) . Thune (R-SD) . Toomey (R-PA) . Vitter (R-LA)

It’s one thing to shut down our Government because they don’t want to pay the bills that they authorized and that they had already incurred.  It’s another thing entirely when they send our children to unwarranted wars and then refuse to provide necessary funding to support healthcare for the injuries of war incurred, PTSD, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, et.al.  Our troops should never be thrown out with the trash like these GOP Tartufes did today.  This is an election year.  It’s time for voters across this nation to take out the Senatorial trash.

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VA Discriminates Against MST Survivors

From a November 7 joint press release by ACLU national, SWAN, and ACLU of CT: The Department of Veterans Affairs grants disability claims for military sexual trauma-related PTSD at significantly lower rates than other PTSD claims, according to a new report released today. Women veterans are disproportionately denied compensation based on PTSD, as they are more likely to file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims, but male survivors who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims face particularly low grant rates, compared to female veterans who file MST-related PTSD claims. The report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Service Women’s Action Network, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the Veterans Legal Service Clinic at Yale Law School details new findings resulting from two recently settled Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the VA. “The VA must treat a veteran’s disability claim fairly when it is based on sexual violence,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It’s inexcusable that the VA discriminates against survivors who have sacrificed so much for our country, but we’re hopeful this report will lead to reform by shining a light on the terrible hurdles these veterans face.”

Three key findings include:

  1. the VA granted disability benefit claims for PTSD related to military sexual trauma at a significantly lower rate than claims for PTSD unrelated to military sexual trauma every year from 2008 to 2012. The grant rate for military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims has lagged behind the grant rate for other PTSD claims by between 17 and 30 percentage points every year;
  2. because female veterans’ PTSD claims are more often based on military sexual trauma-related PTSD than male veterans’ PTSD claims, female veterans overall are disparately impacted by the lower grant rates for military sexual trauma-related PTSD. For every year between 2008 and 2011, a gap of nearly 10 percentage points separated the overall grant rate for PTSD claims brought by women and those brought by men;
  3. among those who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims, male veterans face particularly low grant rates when compared to female veterans who file military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims.

The report is available at: aclu.org/womens-rights/battle-benefits-va-discrimination-against-survivors-military-sexual-trauma

[ACLU/SWAN Press Release]

Horsford Co-Sponsors Legislation Giving Greater Mental Health Access To Veterans

Washington, DC – Today, Representative Steven Horsford (NV-4) co-sponsored the bipartisan Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act, which was introduced by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17). Currently, veterans face a five-year window in which they must seek treatment for mental illnesses before losing their higher priority status. This legislation would eliminate the five-year window and allow veterans to seek treatment for service-connected mental illnesses, regardless of when their conditions manifest themselves.

“We must renew our commitment to provide the men and women who have served our country in uniform with the healthcare services they deserve,” said Horsford. “The Veterans Mental Health Accessibility Act would ensure the services and treatments that are available to recently discharged veterans are available to all who have served in combat. This bill maintains the role of the VA to treat service-related disorders and allows its healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders and illnesses according to established procedures.”

Currently, the VA offers healthcare treatment and services to our nation’s veterans who suffer from service-related physical or mental disabilities. While the diagnosis of physical injuries typically is made before or shortly after separation from the military, mental illnesses may not manifest themselves until years later. Serious mental health issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder were virtually undiagnosed in veterans of previous wars, having only been added by the to the American Psychiatric Association to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) nosologic classification scheme in 1980. As the United States military and the VA continue to improve treatment for those who have served, there remains a gap for veterans struggling with mental illnesses that this legislation seeks to address.