Monday, June 1, 2009

House Reviews MHS Budget with ASD

Monday, June 01, 2009
Posted by: Staff

On May 21, Ellen P. Embrey, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, testified before the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense on the Military Health System budget for fiscal year 2010.

Embrey outlined the priorities of the $47.4 billion request, stating that, apart from defending the nation, the Department of Defense has “no higher priority that to provide the highest quality care and support” to America’s armed forces and their families.

Among those priorities, Embrey said, is superior follow-on care, particularly for service members with psychological health needs or traumatic brain injury.

“When young Americans step forward of their own free will to serve,” Embrey said, quoting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, “they do so with the expectation that they, and their families, will be properly taken care of—we agree.”

Other areas of emphasis include achieving the lowest possible rate of death, injury and disease during deployments; building healthy and resilient individuals, families and communities, and providing the highest quality care at the most efficient cost to the taxpayer.

The Military Health System also provides humanitarian assistance at home and around the world, and supports world-class medical education, training, and research.

FY 2010 budget:

• $27.9 billion to fund the Defense Health Program, which includes operations and maintenance (day-to-day operational costs), procurement, and research, development, test and evaluation
• $10.8 for the Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund
• $7.7 billion to support more than 84,000 military health care service providers
• $3.3 billion to provide world-class health and rehabilitative care for wounded, ill and injured service members
• $1 billion for military construction including 23 medical construction projects in 16 locations

Regarding psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI), Embrey said significant progress was made throughout 2008 to comprehensively transform the system of care for service members with those conditions including:

• The establishment of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE)
• Early mental health identification and intervention programs
• The development of clinical standards and guidelines in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
• The new Military Acute Concussion Evaluation tool to assess the likelihood o mild TBI
• Increased funds for research development, testing and evaluation.

Going forward, Embrey said the Defense Department will continue to work to ensure the quality and consistency of care; meet the needs of Reserve forces, especially those in underserved areas; improve efforts to recruit and retain high-quality mental health providers; reduce the rate of suicide, improve our ability to share and exchange data with the VA; and continually seek new ways to expand our knowledge and improve our ability to care for service members, veterans and families.

Embrey also discussed many of the specific ways that the MHS keeps its service members fit to fight, including:

• Comprehensive health assessments program before, during and after deployments
• Vaccination programs with an unparalleled record of safety that is setting the standard for the private sector
• Global disease surveillance, education and rapid eradication
• Environmental force health protection that routinely monitors air, water and soil to detect and prevent hazardous exposure before it occurs
• State-of-the-art treatment and equipment that reaches the wounded within the first hour of injury, and transports personnel from the battlefield to the U.S. in less than 48 hours

Embrey noted that, as a result of these and other measures, the disease, non-battle injury rates for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are the lowest in history, 5 percent and 4 percent respectively, and the battlefield survival rate now stands at 97 percent.

“The Military Health System,” Embrey said, “is about doing the very best we can
for the men and women who give everything they have for each one of us.

“We can never fully repay them for the sacrifices they make on our behalf,” she said. “But we can and will continue to do everything we can to heal their wounds and honor their courage and commitment to our nation.”

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