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thedrifter
03-16-07, 03:15 PM
Wounded warrior bill likely to pass in House

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 16, 2007 13:31:38 EDT

A bill overhauling military medical care for service members wounded in combat is on a fast track for passage next week by the House Armed Services Committee.

Called the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act, the bill orders improvements in medical and dental care for wounded service members assigned to medical holding companies, establishes a toll-free hotline for patients and family members to report problems with medical facilities, creates an independent advocate to help service members appearing before medical evaluation boards, and sets up a pilot program to improve the transition from military to civilian life for wounded combat veterans.

The bill, HR 1538, also creates a 12-member board — appointed by Congress, the Department of Defense and White House — to provide independent review of how wounded service members and their families are treated.

The chief sponsors of the bill are the Democratic chairmen and Republican ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and its military personnel subcommittee, a combination that congressional aides said virtually assures passage by the House of Representatives. The armed services committee intends to pass the bill on Tuesday.

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the armed services’ chairman, said Congress has to do something.

“Americans were rightly outraged by reports of substandard facilities and bureaucratic roadblocks affecting service members at our military medical facilities,” Skelton said. The bill, he said, is aimed at ensuring “our wounded warriors continue to receive the quality care that is expected by all Americans.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the former chairman and now ranking minority party member of the committee, said the details might change and the bill might be expanded based on ongoing reviews by the Bush administration and a commission appointed by the White House to look at military and veterans health care — but the basic idea will be the same: "The Wounded Warriors bill is a solid step in ensuring that our brave war fighters injured in combat receive the finest care.”

There are limits to what the bill can do, said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., the military personnel subcommittee chairman. “This bill won't fix every problem we've heard about, but it is intended to be a bipartisan first step in cutting through the bureaucracy and making sure that our service men and women are treated right,” he said.

Ellie