Lawmakers offer bill to fix Walter Reed, VA service gaps

DOD data delays slow VA medical care to soldiers

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation to improve wounded soldiers’ access to health care and benefits in response to the poor living conditions and an unyielding bureaucracy that were revealed in recent exposés of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007 is the first step toward correcting the situation, the bill’s sponsors said. The legislation is aimed at making the medical holdover system more responsive and effective so military personnel and their families can complete the process quicker and make the transition to the Department of Veterans Affairs with little effort. The lawmakers will take more steps based on the results of the Dole-Shalala Commission, which President Bush charged with making recommendations to resolve the service gaps. It is headed by former Sen. Robert Dole and Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami.

The legislation sets the stage for reform of administrative processes, including the VA disability evaluation system, to support a seamless transition to VA programs. It would provide for a pilot program to streamline the records transmission process between the Defense Department and the VA, where the majority of returning wounded will receive their medical care.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.); Ranking Member Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.); Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), chairman of the committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee; Subcommittee Ranking Member John McHugh (R-N.Y.); and House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) introduced the bill. The armed services committee will mark up the bill next week.

“This bill won't fix every problem we've heard about, but it is intended to be a bipartisan first step in cutting through the bureaucracy and making sure that our servicemen and -women are treated right,” Snyder said in a statement.

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