WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and fellow Committee member Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), introduced legislation that would enhance the Department of Veterans Affairs' pain management program. The Veterans Pain Care Act of 2007 (S. 2160) would assist in focusing attention on pain management as a new generation of veterans suffering from pain enter VA's health care system.
This legislation seeks to significantly bolster VA's existing pain management efforts and bring them up to par at a national, system-wide level. Under the bill, VA would be required to establish a pain care initiative at every VA health care facility, with each utilizing a professionally recognized pain assessment tool or process to ensure that every patient with chronic or acute pain is diagnosed and treated properly.
This bill, among others, is scheduled to be reviewed at the Committee's October 24, 2007 hearing on pending legislation. It has been endorsed by the Pain Care Forum, a consortium representing over 75 health care and health advocacy organizations from across the country. This initiative is another important component of the ongoing effort to improve the quality of health care available to our Nation's veterans.
"This legislation has the potential to help the thousands of veterans who are living their lives in pain," Akaka said. "Pain is often seen as increasing with age, but it is now a growing problem among younger veterans injured in Afghanistan and Iraq. This legislation will centralize and standardize pain assessment and management through the use of cooperative research centers and the education of health professionals. These are important steps in understanding, diagnosing, and treating the many veterans living with acute and chronic pain."
Chairman Akaka's floor statement can be found below:
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's 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 to 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.