Alongside its enrichment programs to improve the lives of veterans and their families, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) promotes a variety of advocacy initiatives to ensure that those in the military community continue to receive the government support they need. Towards this end, members of the organization’s Policy and Government Affairs team identify and campaign for policies that improve veterans’ services and assist caregivers and military families.
Over the years, WWP has played a key role in advancing legislation and policy initiatives that have improved Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs and created new opportunities for veterans who require care outside of the VA. The organization’s efforts have also led to increased financial assistance, training, and healthcare coverage for caregivers and veterans living with life-altering injuries. Read on for a closer look at some of the current advocacy activities that WWP is pursuing on the local and national level.
Promoting the FAIR Heroes Act
Since November 2017, WWP has been leading a coalition of 15 military service organizations pushing for the passage of the Fair Access to Insurance for Retired (FAIR) Heroes Act, which was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. The Act could help veterans with serious injuries save on healthcare costs by allowing them to choose between Medicare Part B and TRICARE, a low-cost insurance plan for active military members, military retirees, and their families.
Under current law, many veterans with serious injuries qualify for both Medicare and TRICARE but are forced to purchase Medicare Part B coverage, which is nearly five times more expensive than a TRICARE plan. It’s estimated that nearly 30,000 veterans nationwide could stand to benefit if Congress passes the FAIR Heroes Act into law. Other organizations that support the legislation include the Military Order of the Purple Heart, AMVETS, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Creating Support for Family Caregivers
Many post-9/11 veterans living with combat-related physical and/or mental health issues rely on the daily assistance of family members and other caregivers. Because WWP understands this fact, the organization works to ensure that caregivers have access to all the services and resources they need. WWP strongly supported the passage of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 and has since worked closely with the VA to help the department effectively implement its Caregiver Support Program.
WWP recently advocated for the passage of the VA Mission Act, which President Trump signed into law on June 6, 2018. In addition to streamlining the VA’s community care programs and healthcare delivery systems, the law contains provisions expanding eligibility for the Caregiver Support Program to more veterans. The law also requires the VA to implement information technology solutions to manage and monitor the program. WWP is now working alongside other veterans groups to ensure that the VA Mission Act receives proper funding without triggering cuts to other VA programs.
Enhancing Services for Female Veterans
In recent years, women have become the fastest-growing demographic in the military. They now comprise 8.7 percent of the country’s veteran population and 16 percent of WWP alumni. To help ensure the availability of programs and services tailored to the specific needs of female veterans, WWP has been advocating for the Improving Oversight of Women Veterans’ Care Act of 2017.
If passed into law, the Act would require the VA to submit an annual report to Congress on access to its female-specific services such as family planning, mammograms, and gynecological care. It would also require VA medical facilities to submit quarterly reports to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs addressing their compliance and non-compliance with environment-of-care standards for female veterans.
Along with working to improve oversight of care for female warriors, WWP is focused on creating more gender-specific peer-support programs for veterans. The organization is increasing the number of all-female alumni workshops and support groups, which are currently in high demand. WWP is also advocating for the passage of H.R. 4635, a bill that would require the VA to increase the number of counselors providing peer-to-peer services specifically for women veterans.
Advancing Mental Health and Toxic Exposure Research
Since its founding over 15 years ago, WWP has been leading efforts to better understand and treat combat-related mental health issues. The organization has been particularly focused on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), which are the most prevalent injuries facing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. In addition to working to improve mental health services for PTSD and TBI through its Warrior Care Network, WWP pushes the US Congress, the VA, and the Department of Defense (DoD) to advance research into these issues.
WWP is also advocating for more research to examine how exposure to toxic chemicals has affected post-9/11 veterans. Military members who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts may have been exposed to a range of chemical and environmental hazards from fuel and exhaust fumes, chemical spills, and open burn pits used for waste disposal. WWP is currently partnering with other veterans groups to ensure that veterans and military families are aware of ongoing research as well as the risks and effects of exposure to toxic substances.
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