WASHINGTON, D.C. — With nearly 300,000 American veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and another 25,000 veterans facing mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBI), U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and U.S Representatives Tammy Duckworth (IL-8) and Steve Stivers (OH-15) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at helping active duty service members better track potential exposures during deployment that could be later connected to mental health injuries and mild TBIs. Without proper documentation or a visible, physical injury, it is often difficult for veterans to establish a connection between injuries and military service. This lack of documentation can lead to improper medical care and increases in the disability claims backlog.
“Veterans should be able to focus on their recovery, not have to prove the cause of their injury. When veterans seek claims for war-related injuries like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, the burden for establishing the connection should be on the Department of Defense, not on the veteran,” Brown said. “When Mr. Fairman, an Ohio combat veteran, shared the frustrations many veterans face in filing claims, I knew we could do better. This legislation will ensure that the Department of Defense does a better job at tracking significant events so that service members and veterans have more thorough records when seeking medical care. I would also like to thank Senator Blunt, and Reps. Duckworth and Stivers for their advocacy for our service members and veterans by agreeing to sponsor this legislation in the House.”
“Too often, our nation’s heroes suffer from unseen wounds linked to traumatic events during military service, without a way to prove or document the cause of their injuries,” Blunt said. “This bill would make it easier to document exposures to significant events so we can better develop servicemembers’ and veterans’ claims and work to improve treatment for the increasing number of Post Traumatic Stress and mild Traumatic Brain Injury cases.”
“As a nation, we have a commitment to our Veterans to provide them the care they need, and that means reducing barriers to care however we can,” Duckworth said. “When an average of 22 Veterans commit suicide every day, we are failing. We must be able to identify those with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brian injuries with ease and accuracy. I know how difficult it can be for those returning from war to face civilian life and this legislation will help them receive the care and support they need.”
“Our service members risk their lives and safety to protect our country and its freedoms,” Rep. Steve Stivers, a lead cosponsor of the MEMORy Act and an Iraq War veteran, said. “As a country, we share a moral obligation to care for our veterans when they return home. The MEMORy Act improves the reporting process and alleviates the burden of proof our veterans must undergo in order to secure the care and support they deserve for service-connected injuries, like PTSD and TBI.”
The Mental-health Exposure Military Official Record Act (MEMORy Act) – a revised version of the Significant Event Tracker (SET) Act which previously introduced by Sen. Brown – would ensure that unit commanders document events that individual service members are exposed to which might later be connected to PTS, mTBI, or other injuries. The DoD would then furnish these Significant Event entries to the VA to ensure better treatment for veterans and faster processing of claims. The SET Act would allow unit commanders and their delegates to report unit and individual exposures to traumatic events. By creating an individualized SET, injuries that are not currently documented through physical injuries, awards, or other service-related means will now be included on an individual’s medical history.
Currently, veterans who file compensation and disability claims, or seek medical care, must provide the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with evidence that connects their claim to previous military service. In cases and conditions such as PTS and mTBI, veterans must provide either a written testimony from another service member who witnessed the accident, submit relevant medical documentation that supports the claim, or possess military orders that prove the veteran was in a unit or location that supports the claim. These types of documentation however provide only a secondary account of the claim and may not fully illustrate the veteran’s claim of service connected PTS and mild TBI.