Washington, D.C. - Today Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) urged his colleagues to join him in his support of an amendment to provide health care to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amendment offered would have added $1.9 billion for veterans health care needs to the Supplemental Appropriations Bill. That funding would have allowed Veteran Affairs (VA) to provide care and appropriate mental health treatment for returning troops without displacing those veterans currently using the system.
Senator Akaka stated, "Access to health care is more important than ever, especially to Reservists and Guard members. About 40 percent of the lower enlisted grades in these services do not have any kind of health insurance. Because TRICARE eligibility is lost after separation or deactivation, VA is the only place many of these servicemembers can turn."
"VA mental health must be improved if we are to meet the needs of returning servicemembers. Experts predict that as many as 30 percent may need psychiatric care when they come home," he said. "Yet, we are told that the system is nowhere near ready to handle this type of workload. Steady budget cuts over the years have diminished VA mental health care capacity."
"The costs of the war we are fighting today will continue to add up long after the final shot is fired, mainly in the form of veterans' health care and benefits," stated Senator Akaka.
The amendment was defeated 46 to 54 in two procedural votes.