Bills in Congress to improve veterans’ access to health care advance – Boston 25 News


BOSTON – Legislation to improve veterans’ access to health care for physical and emotional needs is advancing in Congress, but none has yet crossed the finish line.

Earlier this year, Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh told you about the ongoing struggle of Gulf War veterans to have the Veterans Administration cover illnesses and injuries from toxic exposures, about 30 years after the end of this war.

Kavanaugh spoke one-on-one with New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan about two bills she is supporting to improve veterans’ access to the services they need.

“These men and women have served so courageously for all of us, they have preserved our freedoms,” said Hassan. “We want to make sure they have the support they need. “

But veterans faced an uphill battle for health care. For example, Gulf War veterans were exposed to chemicals like sarin nerve gas, pesticides, and nerve gas pills. And, for decades, veterans serving in the Middle East have been near the combustion pits the US government used to dispose of all manner of garbage.

” I was unable to sleep. I woke up unable to breathe. Digestive issues, and yes, there was pain. And I had headaches, a lot of headaches, ”said New Hampshire Gulf War veteran Lynn Santosuosso. “And that was written off for years.”

Santosuosso has said for too long that she feels like no one believes the “Gulf War disease” has such an impact on her life and well-being.

Hassan originally co-sponsored the TEAM Act or Toxic Exposure in the American Military, which has now been incorporated into a larger veterans health care bill, the Cost of War Act.

“It basically says that if you can show that you were in a war zone, where there have been exposures to toxic substances, you are entitled to health care at the VA, right now, for the rest of your life. life, ”said Hassan.

Currently, the onus is on a veteran to prove the connection between toxic exposure and their illness or disability.

“I know some of the issues veterans have is that they come home healthy and maybe get sick five years later,” Kavanaugh said.

“We are in the process of putting in place a framework which assumes that you are eligible for health care and that illness is also disabling for disability benefits,” Hassan replied.

Hassan says it’s understood that a vet could get sick later in life.

The New Hampshire Democrat is also working on legislation to improve veterans’ access to mental health services. She co-sponsored a bill to designate an outreach program “Buddy Check”.

“Buddies check buddies, because one of the things we hear from veterans is a, they don’t know what services are out there, it’s really very, very valuable for them to have support between. peers, ”Hassan said.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate, would designate at least one week per year to focus on peer support for veterans. It was modeled on an existing program through the American Legion. Hassan is confident that he will successfully pass a vote in the House.

“The other veterans are really the only people who really understand what they have been through and what they are going through,” said Hassan,

Veterans’ groups have been at the forefront of the battle for better health care.

In response to the cost of war law, Veterans for common sense Kavanaugh said in a written statement “The most critical part of these competing toxic exposure bills is ensuring that the greatest number of health problems are made ‘presumptive’ for the greatest number of veterans.”

The Cost of War Act was passed by the Senate Veterans Committee in May. Hassan says she is working to muster bipartisan support for a full Senate vote.

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