WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement regarding President George W. Bush's signing of H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008.
"I am pleased that the President has given his long-overdue approval to the National Defense Authorization Act. Servicemembers, veterans, and their families have waited patiently for the enactment of this legislation."
In his roles as Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Akaka worked diligently on the bill's provisions which relate most directly to the care of servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wounded Warrior provisions in the bill are the product of unprecedented work between the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs.
Commenting earlier on the legislation's provisions for veterans, Senator Akaka stated: "Veterans' health care faces new challenges, and requires new solutions. The Wounded Warrior provisions in the Defense Authorization bill will improve veterans' health care, especially for veterans with traumatic brain injury and mental health problems. The provisions also address the systemic problems servicemembers face in their transition from military service to veteran status. Our wounded warriors deserve a ‘seamless transition,' when leaving the military."
"I am especially proud that this bill will expand VA health care eligibility for returning veterans from two to five years," said Akaka. Senator Akaka pushed to extend the term of automatic health care eligibility for returning veterans, in light of the increased number of returning combat veterans suffering from invisible wounds such as psychological trauma, which are sometimes not immediately apparent. Akaka made this provision a top priority when taking over as Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee last year.
The Wounded Warrior language in the Defense bill also includes provisions that will:
The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 was signed into law on January 28, 2008.
January 29, 2008