Senator Akaka Urges Congress to Enact Bill to Help Rising Number of Veterans With "Invisible Wounds"

Washington, D.C. - Today Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) introduced critical legislation to protect veterans in need of mental adjustment counseling and who apply for compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). "Healing the Invisible Wounds Act of 2006," would protect PTSD compensation, enhance counseling and readjustment services available to Guard and Reserve members returning from a combat theater, and authorize additional funding for Vet Centers.

"Many of the men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from some of the most severe physical injuries. However, even more of these brave servicemembers have invisible wounds - difficulties with adjusting to not being on the battlefield or dealing with long-lasting visions and experiences that they encountered," stated Senator Akaka.

"This bill is intended to ensure that these men and women receive the readjustment counseling and mental health services necessary to transition into what we hope to be a full and productive life after combat," he said.

Joining Senator Akaka as co-sponsors to his bill are Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John Kerry (D-MA), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

Senator Clinton said, "Our Vet Centers provide crucial mental health counseling and outreach to our returning troops and their families. Our bill ensures that these centers have the resources and programs they need to help our brave servicemen and women and their loved ones as they transition home from war."

Senator Kerry added, "We owe our troops more than a polite thanks and best wishes. We need to stand by our troops during and after their service. The wounds of war are not always visible, and this is not an area we can continue to shortchange our veterans."

The bill includes:

• Notice and wait requirements for modifications of handling of PTSD under the disability compensation rating system;
• One-on-one counseling for returning servicemembers based on a New Hampshire program heralded as a "first line of defense to help soldiers return to their civilian lives";
• Authorization of $180 million for readjustment counseling and related mental health services provided at Vet Centers.

Senator Akaka said, "Through budget shortfalls and constraints, we must remain steadfast in ensuring that our servicemembers and their families do not suffer in silence from the invisible wounds that they receive in the name of freedom."

Senator Akaka is the Ranking Member on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.