Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Mr. President, today I, along with my colleague Senator Brown, introduce legislation that would enhance VA's pain management program. It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of Americans, that is some 86 million people, suffer from chronic or acute pain every year. A recent study conducted by VA researchers in Connecticut found that nearly 50 percent of veteran patients that are seen at VA facilities reported that they experience pain regularly.
While pain increases in severity with age, it is also a growing problem among younger veterans who have been injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these veterans are coming home with severe injuries, often traumatic brain injuries, that require intensive rehabilitation. In some cases, these younger veterans will have to live with the long-term effects of their injuries, of which pain is a large and debilitating part.
Pain management is an area of health care that by many accounts is not yet up to par, in both the private and public sectors. The bill we are introducing would enhance VA's pain management program on a national, system-wide level, by requiring VA to establish a pain care initiative at every VA health care facility. Every hospital and clinic would be required to employ a professionally recognized pain assessment tool or process, and ensure that every patient who is determined to be in chronic or acute pain is treated appropriately.
The profile of a veteran in pain is often times different than that of his or her counterpart in the private sector. For example, veterans suffering from chronic pain are more likely to be receiving treatment for other problems including depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, or post traumatic stress disorder. Understanding and treating their pain must be a priority, and this bill will help VA enhance the department's existing pain management program.
VA's current pain management efforts are worthwhile, but are unfortunately not adequate to meet the all of the needs of veterans. Pain management in VA continues to be relatively decentralized and unstandardized. Some VA medical centers have adopted successful approaches and procedures to deal with pain, while others have been less active. Fortunately, VA has begun the work of identifying professional talent and developing ideas that provide the groundwork of an effective pain management program. This bill would build upon that foundation and help ensure that these ideas become practice.
This bill provides us with an opportunity to help the thousands of veterans who are living in pain each and every day. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
October 15, 2007