While serving our country, many veterans sustain a variety of injuries. These injuries can be visible physical injuries but other so-called “invisible injuries” persist and can affect veterans just as much, or more, than the more obvious visible injuries. It is our duty to ensure that these veterans receive the high quality medical care and disability benefits they deserve – no matter what kind of injuries they suffer. Unfortunately, some veterans with “invisible injuries,” such as mental health issues, have faced claim denials because they have difficulty proving a link between their injury and their military service.
Nearly 300,000 American veterans struggle with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and about 25,000 have mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBI). These injuries stem from traumatic events that they have faced or witnessed in combat but those events go undocumented, making the claims filing process more difficult – leaving them with incomplete or improper medical care. We need to work together to find solutions that help us better care for all our veterans.
That is why I am proud to have introduced legislation based on solutions brought to me by an Ohio combat veteran, Michael Fairman. Mr. Fairman believes that by better documenting soldiers’ injuries in real time, the Department of Defense (DOD) can help service members and veterans receive proper care and treatment. Michael, the co-founder of the Summit for Soldiers - Post Traumatic Stress/Suicide Awareness Campaign, is dedicated to raising awareness about PTS, destigmatizing the injury, and helping veterans recover. Based on his and other veterans’ input, ideas, and insights about how to document combat injuries when they occur, making claims filing easier should the need arise, I wrote and introduced the Significant Event Tracker Act.
The SET Act will ease the record-keeping burden on veterans, providing service members with an individualized document detailing when they were exposed to events – such as roadside bombings – that might later be connected to “invisible injuries.” This document will provide a detailed, real-time account that links what is already included in DOD unit reports to the individual service members, will help military medical officers better diagnose and treat service members that have mental health concerns, and will help veterans file better initial claims.
Veterans should be able to focus on their recovery, not having to prove the cause of their injury. This bill puts the responsibility on the Defense Department – not the veteran – to track significant events that could lead to PTS or TBI, ensuring they receive the benefits and treatment they deserve.
Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, is a US Senator serving Ohio.