USA — Obama: Veterans With Post-traumatic Stress Deserve Best Care

The Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment will begin mak­ing it eas­i­er for vet­er­ans with post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der to obtain the ben­e­fits and treat­ment they need start­ing next week, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today in his week­ly mes­sage, call­ing vet­er­an care the nation’s “solemn respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

The full text of the mes­sage fol­lows:

Last week­end, on the Fourth of July, Michelle and I wel­comed some of our extra­or­di­nary mil­i­tary men and women and their fam­i­lies to the White House.

They were just like the thou­sands of active duty per­son­nel and vet­er­ans I’ve met across this coun­try and around the globe. Proud. Strong. Deter­mined. Men and women with the courage to answer their country’s call, and the char­ac­ter to serve the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.

Because of that ser­vice; because of the hon­or and hero­ism of our troops around the world; our peo­ple are safer, our nation is more secure, and we are poised to end our com­bat mis­sion in Iraq by the end of August, com­plet­ing a draw­down of more than 90,000 troops since last Jan­u­ary.

Still, we are a nation at war. For the bet­ter part of a decade, our men and women in uni­form have endured tour after tour in dis­tant and dan­ger­ous places. Many have risked their lives. Many have giv­en their lives. And as a grate­ful nation, hum­bled by their ser­vice, we can nev­er hon­or these Amer­i­can heroes or their fam­i­lies enough.

Just as we have a solemn respon­si­bil­i­ty to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm’s way, we have a solemn respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­vide our vet­er­ans and wound­ed war­riors with the care and ben­e­fits they’ve earned when they come home.

That is our sacred trust with all who serve – and it does­n’t end when their tour of duty does.

To keep that trust, we’re build­ing a 21st cen­tu­ry VA, increas­ing its bud­get, and ensur­ing the steady stream of fund­ing it needs to sup­port med­ical care for our vet­er­ans.

To help our vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies pur­sue a col­lege edu­ca­tion, we’re fund­ing and imple­ment­ing the post‑9/11 GI Bill.

To deliv­er bet­ter care in more places, we’re expand­ing and increas­ing VA health care, build­ing new wound­ed war­rior facil­i­ties, and adapt­ing care to bet­ter meet the needs of female vet­er­ans.

To stand with those who sac­ri­fice, we’ve ded­i­cat­ed new sup­port for wound­ed war­riors and the care­givers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recov­ery.

And to do right by our vets, we’re work­ing to pre­vent and end vet­er­an home­less­ness – because in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, no one who served in our uni­form should sleep on our streets.

We also know that for many of today’s troops and their fam­i­lies, the war does­n’t end when they come home.

Too many suf­fer from the sig­na­ture injuries of today’s wars: Post-Trau­mat­ic Stress Dis­or­der and Trau­mat­ic Brain Injury. And too few receive the screen­ing and treat­ment they need.

Now, in past wars, this was­n’t some­thing Amer­i­ca always talked about. And as a result, our troops and their fam­i­lies often felt stig­ma­tized or embar­rassed when it came to seek­ing help.

Today, we’ve made it clear up and down the chain of com­mand that folks should seek help if they need it. In fact, we’ve expand­ed men­tal health coun­sel­ing and ser­vices for our vets.

But for years, many vet­er­ans with PTSD who have tried to seek ben­e­fits – vet­er­ans of today’s wars and ear­li­er wars – have often found them­selves stymied. They’ve been required to pro­duce evi­dence prov­ing that a spe­cif­ic event caused their PTSD. And that prac­tice has kept the vast major­i­ty of those with PTSD who served in non-com­bat roles, but who still waged war, from get­ting the care they need.

Well, I don’t think our troops on the bat­tle­field should have to take notes to keep for a claims appli­ca­tion. And I’ve met enough vet­er­ans to know that you don’t have to engage in a fire­fight to endure the trau­ma of war.

So we’re chang­ing the way things are done.

On Mon­day, the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs, led by Sec­re­tary Eric Shin­se­ki, will begin mak­ing it eas­i­er for a vet­er­an with PTSD to get the ben­e­fits he or she needs.

This is a long-over­due step that will help vet­er­ans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but gen­er­a­tions of their brave pre­de­ces­sors who proud­ly served and sac­ri­ficed in all our wars.

It’s a step that proves Amer­i­ca will always be here for our vet­er­ans, just as they’ve been there for us. We won’t let them down. We take care of our own. And as long as I’m Com­man­der-in-Chief, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. Thank you.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)