McMorris Rodgers, Mast Introduce Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights

May 22, 2023
Press
Veterans

Washington, D.C. –  Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) joined Congressman Brian Mast in introducing the bipartisan Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights Act to cut through red tape, improve transparency, and increase accountability for wounded warriors. The bill would ensure veterans are able to effectively appeal decisions made regarding their medical separation from service and entitlement to disability benefits.

“Those who put on the uniform in defense of our country selflessly do so without asking anything in return. We must have their backs when they come home,” said Rodgers. “We have a responsibility to ensure wounded warriors going through the medical separation process are treated fairly with the respect and dignity they’ve earned. My hope is this legislation will restore accountability and implement the safeguards needed to prevent any future mistreatment during this process. I’m proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Mast, and I’m grateful to Major Will Ostan for his advocacy on this issue and service to our country.”

“When I was lying in Walter Reed, all of my time and energy was spent on recovery – learning to walk with two prosthetic legs and figuring out how I was going to continue to serve my country kept me plenty busy,” said Mast. “The last thing I would’ve had any patience for would have been trying to navigate the bureaucracy of medical separation. I want to make sure no wounded warrior ever gets stuck in this infuriating merry-go-round or is screwed over by nameless, faceless bureaucrats.”

Under current law, a little-known, civilian-run entity called the Defense Health Agency (DHA) determines if a servicemember is fit to continue military service and what disability benefits he or she will receive if separated. As a result of an unclear command structure and bureaucratic red tape at this agency, servicemembers often find themselves unable to effectively appeal decisions.

The Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights would return authority to adjudicate appeals to military commanders within each branch, empowering active duty service members within the chain of command to determine the outcome of appeals. This change will protect the due process rights of wounded veterans by simplifying the appeals process to ensure a fair and speedy decision regarding medical separation decisions and disability benefit entitlement.

Rodgers and Mast were joined in introducing this legislation by Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02), Rich McCormick (GA-06), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-19).

BACKGROUND

  • When a member of Armed Services is wounded, ill, or injured, he or she goes through a process known as the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES), implemented by civilians at the Department of Defense, to determine whether the servicemember is fit for continued military service.
  • Under the IDES program, the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) appointed by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) determines whether the servicemember meets the medical retention standards. During this process, most cases get determined as to whether the servicemember is fit for continued military service or retirement, and as a result of current flaws in the system, service members are then left with no viable options to appeal the decision.
  • If the MEB determines a servicemember is no longer fit for active duty, the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) determines appropriate benefits for soldiers who are separated or retired for disability. As a result of those same inadequacies of the current system, if a servicemember feels the benefits determined by the PEB are incorrect, there is no viable option to appeal the decision.

CLICK HERE to read the bill.

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