The protracted engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan have heavily relied upon counterinsurgency strategy and irregular tactics where the enemy hides among the civilian population and where determining friend from foe is extremely difficult.
Given the U.S. military’s superior weaponry, technology and protective equipment this type of warfare has resulted in less troop mortalities but unfortunately more injuries because soldiers must spend more time on foot, outside of their armored combat vehicles, working with the native population. As a result, many of our men and women in uniform are coming home from multiple tours of duty with an unseen injury that is potentially as damaging as a physical wound: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
This week, I joined thousands of families across Northern Virginia in welcoming the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) plan to improve care for veterans who are suffering from PTSD. The new rules will make it easier for veterans – including those who may have been denied benefits in the past – to receive the attention and support services to which they are entitled.
Our soldiers sacrifice a tremendous amount for our country, and we have a responsibility to do all we can to support them. For too long, our brave men and women in uniform suffering from PTSD have gone without the care they need and deserve. House Democrats and the Obama Administration have taken action to fix that, maintaining the sacred promise to ensure our veteran’s well-being once they return from combat.
Previously, veterans had to undergo lengthy investigations in order to apply for disability benefits for PTSD. The VA required extensive documentation of the specific cause of the disorder in addition to a doctor’s diagnosis, and ultimately denied benefits to thousands of veterans who were unable to document their experiences. The new reforms will simplify the process, requiring a VA doctor’s diagnosis for veterans who served in a combat zone.
Nearly one in five veterans suffers from PTSD or major depression, and many veterans in the Commonwealth have been suffering silently without proper diagnosis. Now, finally, veterans of both current and past wars will receive the VA health care and disability compensation they deserve.
This announcement builds on Democrats’ record of accomplishments for our veterans and members of the military, which includes:
- Passing a new G.I. Bill to provide returning troops with access to a college education
- Making historic investments in veterans’ health care and providing that funding one year in advance to prevent political or legislative delays
- Increasing military pay and expanding economic opportunities for returning soldiers
- Passing landmark legislation providing support to family members and others who care for wounded veterans and enhancing health services for the 1.8 million female veterans
It is critical to America’s security and the long term well-being of our society that we diagnose and treat our soldier’s mental injuries with the same seriousness we treat their physical wounds. With this week’s action by the VA, we are taking a major step forward to more fully realizing that promise.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.