Supporting America's wounded warfighters

Published 10:39 pm Monday, April 9, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
During this week of Easter and Passover, our thoughts turn to the many families here in south Alabama and throughout the country that will spend the holiday without their loved ones – sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers – who are serving in harm's way or who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom.
If these same brave men and women are injured on the battlefield, they deserve the very best medical care. This is the reason why the recent news reports of the living conditions in building 18 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were so disturbing. Without question, what the men and women were relegated to in this particular building was unconscionable.
To ensure America's injured and wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are never again subjected to this substandard treatment, the House passed the Wounded Warriors Assistance Act, H.R. 1538.
In order to restore confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the military health care system, this legislation provides measured steps to reform the bloated bureaucracy that has become synonymous with this system.
It makes comprehensive improvements to medical care, quality of life, and the administrative processes associated with American troops wounded or injured in combat and other military medical outpatients.
The bill provides for the establishment of a toll-free hot line for reporting deficiencies in medical-related support facilities, a standardized training program and curriculum for Department of Defense Disability Evaluation System, an oversight board for wounded warriors, an annual report to Congress from the Secretary of Defense on military medical facilities, and an increase in physicians at hospitals of the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other provisions.
I believe this legislation is a solid step towards ensuring that our wounded soldiers are provided with the first-class medical care they so rightly deserve when they are wounded in the course of defending our freedom.
Delaying Funding for Our Troops
It has now been two months since the president submitted to Congress his urgent request for funds to support the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and instead of working to pass a clean war spending bill, the House majority voted to adjourn until mid-April.
Our generals on the ground have made it clear that there will be dire consequences facing our military unless they receive this funding in the next few weeks.
In a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker and Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Green stated, "Without the approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures which will impact Army readiness and impose hardships on our soldiers and their families."
The Department of Defense has also notified Congress that in order to meet the force protection needs of the Marine Corps and the Army, they have had to borrow funds from other important Marine and Army procurement programs.
The war funding bill passed by Congress last month includes a timeline that could lead to the mandatory pullout of U.S. troops as early as this summer and no later than next.
Last week, Vice President Cheney said, "When members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy to simply watch the clock and wait us out."
The war supplemental passed by the House also attempts to tie the hands of our Commander in Chief as well as the commanders on the ground and includes billions of dollars in additional funding that has no relationship to the war effort – or our troops – whatsoever.
Congress cannot undermine the work of our troops on the ground. Our job is to make sure our troops currently engaged in the global War on Terror have the resources and reinforcements they need to succeed in their mission.
The president has made it clear that he will veto this bill in its current form, and there is enough support in Congress to sustain that veto.
The Wall Street Journal editorialized on this stalemate stating, "The troops on the line are waiting for their money, and they'll have to wait a while longer…. The spectacle qualifies as a textbook example of why Congress can't be trusted to micromanage, much less lead, a war."
Conferees have not even been appointed to resolve the differences between the versions passed by the House and Senate. And so the task remains – Congress must send the president a bill he can sign in order for our troops to receive the funds they so desperately need.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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