Senator John ThuneAs the son of a decorated World War II veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am deeply proud of the sacrifices our military personnel and their families have made both on and off the battlefield. We have monuments across our land and in our town centers that commemorate their valiant efforts on the battlefield; however, it is their struggles off the battlefield that I think America could do a better job of addressing.
I recently voted in support of legislation that would better address the needs of our military personnel who are wounded in action during their service to our country. The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act is a comprehensive approach to deliver the best care to service members with combat-related injuries or illnesses.
This bill would require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to develop a policy on the care, management, and transition from the military to civilian life of military personnel with combat-related injuries or illnesses. This comprehensive approach would deal with everything from better evaluating the needs of wounded or ill soldiers, to assisting their loved ones as they face the challenges of providing comfort and understanding during a difficult time.
For too long, there has been too much bureaucracy blocking the quick and effective evaluation and delivery of care for those who have given so much in defense of our country. The recent uncovering of unacceptable housing conditions at the Walter Reed Medical facility was a prime example of how this country has not done enough to provide the proper care for our military personnel. The bill I am supporting also requires the Secretary of Defense to establish uniform standards for military medical treatment facilities, specialty medical care facilities, and military quarters housing patients.
South Dakota is unique in that we have a very large veteran population in our state when compared to our overall population. With our state’s more than 77,000 veterans, I was especially proud to recently announce the good news that two new veterans community-based outpatient clinics would be opening in Watertown and Wagner. The opening of these two clinics will greatly increase access to VA health care for South Dakota’s veterans.
I am also working on a bipartisan bill with Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) that would help rural veterans like those across South Dakota by improving their access to quality health care. Along with Senator Salazar, we were able to establish the first-ever Office of Rural Health within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I will continue to reach across the aisle in the Senate to implement policies and improvements for our veterans because not only is caring for our veterans not a partisan issue, it is the right thing to do.