Walz Introduces Bi-Partisan Fairness for Veterans Act
Washington, D.C. [3/3/16] – Today, Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) and colleagues introduced the Fairness for Veterans Act, aimed at ensuring veterans have access to the mental health care treatment they need.
Often service members with obvious medical histories of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brian Injuries have been improperly discharged for minor misconduct rather than receiving a medical discharge or being retained in the military for treatment and rehabilitation. The Fairness for Veterans Act ensures that combat veterans, whose condition should have been considered prior to their discharge, receive due consideration in their discharge appeals.
“After fighting for our country overseas, our warriors shouldn’t be discharged from the military without proper diagnosis or left without the care they need to reintegrate into the lives they once knew,” said Walz, a 24-year veteran of the Army National Guard. “We must act to ensure these brave men and women, suffering from invisible wounds, have the care and benefits they have earned. Last year, I was proud of our work to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act and wish this provision had been included. I thank Representative Coffman for his leadership on this vital next step in the effort to improve our veterans’ access to mental health care.”
The proposed legislation creates a presumption in favor of the combat veteran during the post-discharge appeals process. If a veteran was deployed to a combat zone and diagnosed by a mental healthcare professional as experiencing PTSD or TBI as a result of their deployment, the military’s Discharge Review Boards (DRB) must consider this diagnosis with a rebuttable presumption in favor of the veteran.
A similar provision was included in the original text of Walz’s Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, but that provision did not pass Congress. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), a Marine Corps combat veteran introduced the legislation with Walz. Other supporters of the legislation include: Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), Steve Russell (R-OK), Peter King (R-NY), Walter Jones (R-NC), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Walz is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans Affairs Committee.