There is hope on the horizon for wounded soldiers returning from the conflict overseas. In the wake of troubling allegations concerning patient care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital and the release of a report showing widespread disparity in government disability pay for injured veterans, the U.S. Senate has taken action.

Wednesday morning lawmakers passed legislation to address many of the problems veterans face when they make the transition from active due to the veteran’s health care system.

The Dignified Treatment for Wounded Warriors Act of 2007, crafted by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and co-sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., requires the Pentagon to create a comprehensive policy on the care, management and transition to the VA or civilian life for service members with combat-related injuries or illnesses. The policy must be drafted by the end of this year.

The legislation was passed on the same day the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony on the importance of providing “a stable, reliable stream of funding to meet the health care needs of veterans,” according to information provided by Rockefeller.

This issue has been in the forefront since the report on veterans’ pay disparity showed numerous problems within the VA system, including poor standards, inadequate training and regional disability raters having too much power and discretion in deciding how much pay a veteran is entitled.

The Wounded Warriors Act seeks to help service members returning from combat. Among the bill’s key features:

o improving the delivery of services to veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by developing a plan for prevention, diagnosis and treatment

o military adoption of the presumption that a disease or injury is presumed to be related to service when the member has six months or more of active duty

o requiring the military to use VA standards when making disability determinations

o establishment of a board to review disability determinations of service members who were given a disability rating of 20 percent or less over a nine-year period.

o increasing severance pay for those with less than 30 percent disability

o requiring the Secretary of Defense to create uniform standards for military medical treatment facilities, specialty medical care facilities and military quarters housing patients

“Our soldiers are coming home with deep and debilitating wounds — both physical and mental,” Rockefeller said. “This can make their transition back into civilian life a truly difficult challenge. The last thing they need when returning home is a cumbersome paper process not worthy of their sacrifice. We’re determined to fix it, and this legislation will go a long way toward giving our wounded soldiers the support they’ve earned and deserve.”

We applaud Rockefeller, Byrd and other senators for their support and passage of this vital legislation.

We are certain this bill will move swiftly on its journey through Congress, and onto the president’s desk, where President Bush will sign it into law.