Veterans, Families Want Better Healthcare for Injured Service Members

Ariana Del Negro
Ariana Del Negro

FOSTER VILLAGE (KHNL) -- Close to 29,000 U.S. service members from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned home with injuries, according to Pentagon statistics.

Now, the Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Enhancement Act (S 1233) -- a new, aggressive spending bill -- looks to increase funding for military veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries, and help them get the medical care they need.

This is good news for military families. The VA spending bill, which the senate will tackle next month, includes $43 billion, some $3.6 billion more than was in the original budget request.

Injured veterans and their families say this is the kind of help they need.

A maximum capacity audience greets Senators Daniel Akaka, (D) Hawaii, and Daniel Inouye, (D) Hawaii, during a hearing on health care for veterans.

Ariana Del Negro speaks on behalf of her husband, an Army ranger who suffered traumatic brain injury during a tour of duty in Iraq a year ago.

"When he came back, he couldn't speak," said Del Negro. "He couldn't process information very well. So, I was his representation, his agent, so to speak."

Del Negro has been speaking and fighting for her husband ever since. They faced ongoing medical care issues at Tripler Army Medical Center.

"I would say the lack of coordination of care was by far the most complicated," said Del Negro. "That's what we struggled with the most."

This is why Senator Akaka is introducing a bill that would strengthen healthcare for veterans.

"Given the existing relationship between VA and Tripler Army Hospital, Hawaii should be in the forefront of national efforts to ensure that the two departments work closely together," he said.

Del Negro's husband eventually got the help he needed at San Diego's Sharp Rehabilitation Program, but she said other injured veterans are not as lucky.

"A lot of families in need that don't have the voice, that don't know they can be advocates, and don't know that they're not getting good care," she said. "And those people need help."

Help in the form of increased healthcare funding for injured veterans.

Senator Akaka will continue talking with Hawaii veterans and their families, traveling to neighbor islands through the end of next week.