Last week, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously passed a veterans healthcare package, the Caring for Our Veterans Act of 2017, which included several provisions authored by Sen. Sherrod Brown.
“We need to ensure, that when (veterans) return home, they have access to the best healthcare available,” Brown said. “Too much in Washington gets politicized; this is one area, though, where are still able to come together to get to work for our veterans and their families.”
In a conference call with journalists Wednesday, Brown highlighted the specific areas of the bill that he worked on. Joining him in the call was Holly Koester, a veteran from northeastern Ohio. Koester was injured in a training exercise during The Gulf War and has both received care and acted as caregiver to other veterans.
One area of the bill focuses on giving specific training to doctors outside the Veterans Affairs (VA) system on how to address veterans unique medical needs.
“These are often injuries connected to their service like Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Brown. “They can be challenging to treat and diagnose, particularly since so many of them can be so-called ‘invisible injuries.’” Brown said the goal would not only be to provide veterans with quality doctors but expose them to doctors with experience and training necessary for such specific conditions.
“When our workers see clinical care in the community, it should be the same standard that they would receive at the VA,” Brown said.
The bill also included the “Veterans Community Care Program,” which would assist veterans in deciding whether it would be best to seek care at the VA office or in their community. This addition would ensure that veterans could get the care they need in more of a timely manner.
With the continuing issues of the opioid epidemic, Brown added stronger opioid guidelines to the legislation. “Right now, veterans who receive care outside the VA don’t have the same protections that monitor opioid prescriptions,” he said. “Our bill makes it easier for veterans to get care in their own communities while still receiving the protections.”
The legislation would also expand the eligibility for healthcare to caregivers. Brown hopes to implement programs that would include caregivers in addition to veterans.
“All caregivers, particularly caregivers of those who served in uniform, shoulder incredible responsibility. They put their lives on hold oftentimes, they sacrifice their own health and finances to care for loved ones,” Brown said. There is currently a program in place to help caregivers of critically wounded or ill veterans that is only available for caregivers of veterans who served after 9/11. Additions in this new bill would expand access to include caregivers of veterans prior to that as well.
“Our legislation is on the way to the full Senate and hopefully we’ll get this bill passed with strong, bipartisan support,” Brown said. “This bill is about getting something done for the people whom we serve.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.