Brain-Damaged Veterans Kicked Out of Group Homes Thanks to Congressional Inaction

a wheelchair sits outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Atlanta. a wheelchair sits outside the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Atlanta. David Goldman/AP File Photo

Ten brain-damaged veterans have been discharged from their special therapeutic group homes because Congress has failed to renew their rehabilitation program, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The program expires October 6, but 53 veterans have been told by their Veterans Affairs office case workers that they'll have to leave their private homes by September 15 if Congress doesn't act. Meanwhile, the 10 discharged vets were sent "to nursing homes, state veterans homes or to live with family members," according to The Journal

The five-year pilot program was created to see if veterans with brain injuries would improve more with intense therapy. The VA hasn't assessed how successful the program is, but "all indications are that the satisfaction is high among the veterans with the services they're receiving, and they seem to be making gains," Sharon Benedict, the program's manager, told The Journal. Democrats and Republicans agree that the program should be renewed, they just haven't figured out how to do it.

This is just one of several veterans health care problems coming to the forefront, in addition to the widespread problem of long waiting lists and patients dying before their first appointments. NPR reported Thursday that the VA and the Pentagon are worried about the rise of painkiller addiction among troops, which contributes to the homelessness and suicide rates. Part of the problem is that soldiers are prescribed the painkillers by military doctors. 

And while Congress is dragging its feet on renewing the group-home program, Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House VA committee, introduced a bill that would reduce the red tape veterans face when trying to access mental health services, according to The Washington Post

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