Obama Passed An Amendment, Which Became Law, Preventing The VA From Conducting A Review Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Cases Aimed At Reducing Benefits.

In 2005, Obama was an original cosponsor of an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review. "Obama had several generations of veterans in mind, he suggested, when he joined fellow Democrats Richard Durbin (Ill.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Daniel Akaka (Hawai'i) Sept. 22 on a successful amendment to block the Department of Veterans Affairs from reviewing case files of 72,000 veterans rated 100-percent disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder…VA officials believe some PTSD claims have been decided for veterans without proper documentation. They announced their massive review only after the VA inspector general studied 2,100 randomly selected cases of PTSD disability awards and found that 25 percent lacked documents to verify that a traumatic, service-connected incident occurred…But the Senate's amendment would bar the VA from conducting its case review until it justifies the program to Congress." [SA 1864 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote, 9/22/05; Became Public Law No: 109-114; Military Update, 10/3/05]

Obama Passed Legislation, Which Became Law, Improving And Increasing Services For Homeless Veterans.

In 2006, Congress passed a Veterans Affairs Committee bill which included several provisions originating in Obama's SAVE Act (S. 1180) and Homes for Heroes Act (S. 3475). "The legislation...includes a number of proposals from legislation Senator Obama had previously introduced (S.1180, the SAVE Act and S.3475 the Homes for Heroes Act) to expand and improve services for homeless veterans. The bill permanently authorizes and increases funding to $130 million per year for a competitive grant program to provide homeless services to veterans. It greatly increases a successful program to provide rental vouchers to homeless veterans. The legislation extends programs to providing treatment for veterans with mental illnesses and other special needs. And it permanently extends VA's ability to transfer property it owns to homeless shelters." [S. 3421/P.L. 109-461; S. 1180, 109th Congress; S. 3475, 109th Congress; Obama Press Release, 6/26/06]

Obama Passed Legislation Extending Tax Credits For Military Families By Allowing Service Members Deployed In War Zones To Apply Non-Taxable Combat Pay To The EITC.

In 2006, Congress passed legislation based on a proposal sponsored by Obama, Kerry, and Pryor that extended tax credits for military families by allowing service members deployed to war zones to apply their non-taxable combat pay toward the Earned Income Tax Credit. The amendment was introduced during debate on the Senate’s 2006 tax reconciliation bill, ruled out of order, but later included in the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act, which passed both chambers and became law on December 22, 2005. [H.R. 4440, Became P.L. 109-135, 12/22/05; SA 2616, 109th Congress]

Obama Passed An Amendment, Which Became Law, To Require The VA To Conduct A Campaign To Inform Disabled Vets Of Disparities In Compensation And Explaining Their Rights To Seek Review.

In 2005, Obama was an original cosponsor on an amendment requiring the VA to conduct a campaign to inform veterans in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, Ohio and New Jersey about their right to seek a review of their past claims. Specifically, the legislation required the VA to send letters to all veterans currently receiving disability who live in six states with a past history of below-average disability compensation, informing them of the past disparity, and explaining how to request a review of past claims and ratings and how to submit new claims. The VA was also required to inform all other veterans whose past claims may have been properly denied of this disparity by other means such as broadcast of print advertising. States whose average annual disability compensation payment was less than $7,300 qualified as below average. In 2003, Illinois veterans received an average of $6,802. The amendment became law on November 30, 2005. [S. Amdt. 1865, Passed by Voice Vote, 9/22/05, to H.R.2528, Signed by the President and Became Public Law No: 109-114 on 11/30/05]

Obama Passed A Law Requiring The Defense Secretary To Report On The Pentagon's Efforts To Prepare For Military And Civilian Personnel For A Possible Influenza Outbreak.

In 2006, Obama sponsored an amendment to the FY 2006 Defense Authorization Act that required the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on the Pentagon's efforts to prepare for pandemic influenza, including pandemic avian influenza, including status on the procurement of vaccines, public health containment measures that could be implemented on military bases and other facilities; surge capacity for the provision of medical care during pandemics; surveillance efforts domestically and internationally and how such efforts are integrated with other ongoing surveillance systems; the integration of pandemic and response planning with those of other Federal departments; collaboration (as appropriate) with international entities engaged in pandemic preparedness and response. [SA 1453 as modified agreed to in Senate by Unanimous Consent, 11/18/05; S. 1042/H.R. 1815, Became Public Law No: 109-163]

Obama Introduces the Lane Evans Health Care Benefits Improvement Act to Address Veterans Healthcare

Obama introduced legislation to help prepare for the looming veterans care crisis as millions of troops deployed as part of the Global War on Terror return home from battle. Obama named the legislation the Lane Evans Health Care Benefits Improvement Act in recognition of Congressman Evans’s decades of service on behalf of our nation’s veterans and the people of Illinois.

“Today, nearly 1.5 million American troops have been deployed overseas as part of the Global War on Terror, and already nearly 200,000 have received treatment at the VA,” Obama said. “That number is increasing every day, and many of these brave men and women are returning home with major injuries and mental health illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that we’re only beginning to learn how to treat. The VA needs to start preparing today to make sure we keep our promise to care for these brave young and women who have sacrificed so much for us.” [1]

Obama demands VA investigation into PTSD diagnoses

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is demanding an investigation into reports that a supervisor at a Texas Veterans Affairs facility told staff members to refrain from diagnosing returning war veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in order to reduce costs.

Obama sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake expressing his "serious concerns" over the reports and demanding an investigation.

The Washington Post reported the story on Friday, which included emails from Dr. Norma Perez suggesting to her staff members that they "refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," because of the increasing costs of treating the disorder.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and first obtained Perez's emails and unveiled them in a release on Thursday.

"Simply put, Ms. Perez’s email is outrageous," Obama wrote in the letter. "As you well know, PTSD is the most prevalent mental disorder afflicting our returning ... veterans."

"In order to receive their deserved benefits, these brave men and women must endure a long and arduous process. To hear that a VA official is promoting misdiagnoses of soldiers to save money is unacceptable and is tantamount to fraud. " [2]

Obama introduces the The Armed Forces Suicide Prevention Act of 2008 Jan 31, 2008

Harkin, Hagel, and Obama Take Action to Prevent Suicide Among Active Duty Soldiers. The bill Directs the Secretary of Defense to undertake specified actions to enhance the suicide prevention programs of the Department of Defense (DOD), including: (1) suicide prevention training for all members of the Armed Forces and DOD civilian health care community and family support professionals; and (2) a suicide prevention outreach program throughout the Armed Forces and military family communities.

Directs the Secretary to provide readjustment assistance to spouses and parents of members returning from deployments, including information on: (1) ways to identify signs and symptoms of risk factors for suicide; and (2) the national suicide prevention hotline and other suicide prevention resources.

Authorizes the Secretary to award grants and enter into cooperative agreements to identify and implement within DOD strategies for: (1) the recruitment and retention of qualified military behavioral health professionals to provide mental health services, and substance abuse disorder prevention and treatment services, to members; and (2) reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.

“Our troops and their families are under unprecedented levels of stress due to the pace and frequency of more than five years of deployments,” said Webb. “Suicides and incidents involving post-traumatic stress disorder are on the rise among our ground forces. I believe it is imperative that we meet our responsibility for the proper stewardship of our men and women in uniform. This bill is a step in that direction.” - Sen. Jim Webb VA.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.

Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, ``it's quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths, Insel said. [3]