Military and Veterans
Senator Boxer is grateful for the sacrifices made by our service men and women and their families. She has diligently worked to ensure that members of our nation’s armed forces are afforded the care and services they deserve. She is one of the Senate’s leading voices to improve mental health services throughout the Armed Services and for our veterans. As a Senator from the state of California—home to one of the largest veterans’ populations in the United States—Senator Boxer believes that we have an obligation to provide veterans with the health care and benefits they have earned through service to our country.
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Supporting Service Men and Women and their Families
- Helping Military Families Afford Health Care - The U.S. Senate passed an amendment by Senators Barbara Boxer and Kit Bond that would allow more military families to recoup the cost of traveling for needed medical treatment when that treatment is not available on base or in neighboring communities.
- Flexible Spending Accounts - The U.S. Senate passed a Boxer amendment to the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill that urges the Department of Defense to create flexible spending accounts to allow service men and women to set aside a portion of their pre-tax income to pay for health care and child care costs – which would result in significant savings for military families.
- Education Funding Benefiting Military Children - Since 1994, the San Diego Unified School District qualified for the Department of Education’s Impact Aid program designed to help school districts with a significant number of military families. Because of changes in military housing patterns, San Diego Unified was unable to qualify for $1.8 million in Impact Aid Funding in 2009. Senator Boxer and Congresswoman Susan Davis successfully corrected this problem by authoring a provision included in the fiscal year 2009 Defense Authorization bill. The provision allowed San Diego Unified to continue to receive this important funding and to serve our military families.
- Improving Military Mental Health Care - The 2006 Defense Authorization bill included Senator Boxer’s proposal to create a Defense Task Force on Mental Health (MHTF). The task force was charged with developing a new strategic plan for addressing mental health issues within the Armed Forces. The task force issued its report in 2007 with nearly 100 recommendations to drastically change the way the Department of Defense provides military mental health care. The Department of Defense is currently working to implement all but one of the recommendations. The full report can be viewed online.
- Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries - Senator Boxer worked with Senator Lieberman to author legislation to establish Centers of Excellence within the Department of Defense for mental health care. They introduced the “Mental Health Care for Our Wounded Warriors Act of 2007” with the goal of creating centers to research and guide the development and implementation of comprehensive strategies to prevent, identify, and treat combat-related mental health conditions, emphasizing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries. The legislation was incorporated into the fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization Bill.
- Improving Health Services for Women in Military - Senator Boxer has consistently voiced concern about the availability of mental health services for female service members. To shed more light on the availability of services, Senator Boxer authored legislation with Senator Lieberman that was incorporated into the fiscal year 2008 Defense Authorization bill requiring the Department of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the need for gender and ethnic group-specific mental health treatment and services for members of the armed forces.
- Review of Personality Disorder Discharges - Senator Boxer has expressed concern that service members with mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may be receiving inaccurate discharges from the Armed Forces for “personality disorders.” In 2007, Senator Boxer spearheaded a letter with 28 of her colleagues urging Defense Secretary Gates to conduct an independent review of the personality disorder discharge process across the Armed Forces. Senator Boxer also joined Senators Bond, Obama, and Lieberman in offering an amendment requiring the Department of Defense to report on the number of personality disorder discharges for members of the armed forces and the measures it has in place to ensure that service members are not discharged inappropriately.
- Helping Service Men and Women Get Care Closer to Home - Advocates for severely wounded service members contacted Senator Boxer’s office in 2006 to ask for assistance in establishing a Comprehensive Combat Casualty Care Center (C5) in San Diego. Boxer discussed securing start-up funding with then-Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shortly thereafter, Boxer received notice indicating that the Department of Defense had released $7 million in funds to the Navy for the project. The Center held its Grand Opening in October 2007.
Fighting for Our Veterans
- Support for Brain Injury/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Research - Senator Boxer successfully secured $4 million in the fiscal year 2008 Defense Appropriations bill and $5 million in the fiscal year 2009 Defense Appropriations bill for research into the diagnosis, prevention, and management of neurodegenerative diseases, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the Veterans Health Research Institute at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
- Low-Income Housing Assistance - The fiscal year 2006 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill included an amendment authored by Senator Boxer requiring the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on housing assistance to low-income veterans to better understand how to improve federal veterans housing programs. The amendment required GAO to investigate veterans housing, federal aid to veterans, and homelessness among the veteran population.
- The HONOR Warriors Act - In May 2008, Senator Boxer joined Senator Bond in introducing legislation to improve mental health care benefits for service members and veterans and to enhance counseling and other benefits available to survivors of service members and veterans.
- Honoring Prisoners of War with the Purple Heart - Senator Boxer introduced a bill expanding Purple Heart eligibility to POWs, and the fiscal year 2007 Defense Authorization bill included a modified version of Senator Boxer’s provision requiring the President to submit a determination to Congress about POW eligibility for the Purple Heart award. The Department of Defense issued a favorable report in August 2007 and the policy change became official in October 2008.
- Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans - In November 2007, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution authored by Senator Boxer stating that a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” should be established. The legislation was created to honor the service and sacrifice of the Vietnam veterans who did not receive the traditional welcome home ceremonies they deserved.