Obama Signs Bill To Expand Health Care Access For Veterans, Provide More Caregiver Benefits

President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday that expands access to health care for veterans and provides a monthly stipend and health care for caregivers of American soldiers severely injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, The Associated Press reports. "Under the bill, caregivers of the estimated 2,000 severely wounded veterans from the recent conflicts are eligible for training, a monthly stipend and health care. Caregivers of veterans from other eras receive more limited benefits. But the VA secretary under the law must report on the possibility of expanding benefits to them within two years." The bill also "instructs the VA to offer post-delivery care to female veterans' newborns ... and work with the Pentagon on a study on veterans suicide" (Hefling, 5/5).

CNN: The law "expands resources available for veterans' mental health counseling [and] provides expanded access to hospitals and clinics outside of the traditional Veterans Affairs system." Obama said veterans are "the very embodiment of service and patriotism. … Our obligations to our troops don't end on the battlefield. ... We have a responsibility to take care of them when they come home" (5/5).

Time: Female vets also will experience gains from the new law. "Among other measures, the legislation — which was passed with broad bipartisan support — requires the VA to train mental health professionals in caring for the 1 in 5 military women who have survived sexual trauma, which increases the risk of mental health issues like posttraumatic stress disorder by nearly 60%." It also authorizes research on the effect of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on women. "The legislation also requires a comprehensive assessment of the unique barriers to care that women face" (Fitzpatrick, 5/5).

The Washington Post: The law also eliminates co-payments for "catastrophically disabled" veterans and "will begin a pilot child-care program for veterans receiving intensive medical care" (Wilson, 5/5).

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