November 19, 2009

Wyden Supports Bill to Improve Health Care Services to Veterans and Their Families

Vets Health Services Bill Includes Support For Family Caregivers, Improvements to Female Health Services and Access for Rural Vets

Washington, D.C. - Continuing efforts to provide the highest quality health care for veterans and their families, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) voted in support of legislation that passed the Senate today to expand support for families and caregivers of wounded servicemembers that also includes provisions Wyden has cosponsored to provide greater access to health care for veterans in rural areas and improved services for female veterans at all Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

"The goal of the VA is to provide the best possible health care to the nation's servicemembers no matter their location, disability, or gender," Wyden said. "This legislation makes progress toward that goal while making sure the families and caregivers of wounded warriors have the support they need to guide their families through the difficult recovery process."

The Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 will expand support for family caregivers of wounded veterans - providing counseling, health care, and in some cases a stipend to cover living expenses. The bill will also make improvements to mental health care including grants for training psychologists and increased eligibility to readjustment counseling for National Guard and Reservists.

The legislation will improve health care services for female veterans by requiring the VA to train mental health professionals in the treatment of military sexual trauma, mandate the VA create pilot programs to provide child care for female veterans who require medical care and allow the VA to offer health care to a newborn child of qualifying female veterans for seven days after the birth of the child. These provisions will help women veterans transition out of combat and provide the support and care that they and their families require.

"This legislation will make sure that the VA will be better equipped to serve female veterans and ensure they are not underserved or overlooked," Wyden said. "The bill will also improve health care access for veterans in rural areas, giving them the opportunity to receive high quality health care no matter where they live."

The legislation includes provisions to improve access for veterans living in rural or geographically remote areas. The bill will improve the VA's ability to recruit and retain qualified medical personnel in rural areas as well as expand the VA's telemedicine program and its ability to coordinate with the Indian Health Service and other community health organizations that provide medical services. These improvements will help veterans living long distances from VA facilities to receive high quality health care.