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Senators Press Pentagon On Health Care

Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and eight other senators urged the Pentagon on Monday to expand health benefits to cover cognitive rehabilitation treatments for traumatic brain injury.

“We are concerned that at a time when TBI is recognized as the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the most widely accepted and critical rehabilitative treatments for this injury, known as cognitive rehabilitation therapy, is excluded by the military’s TRICARE health insurance program,” the senators wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates, citing the treatment of wounded ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff as a model for the use of cognitive rehabilitation.

The letter’s signatories – nine Democrats and independent Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut – also included Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, both of Massachusetts; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Ken Salazar of Colorado; Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Also prominent on the list was Sen. Evan Bayh, a potential running mate for Obama, who’ll join the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee this week on the stump in Bayh’s home state of Indiana.

The decision to send this letter suggests that Senate Democrats will continue to focus on the issue of veterans’ benefits after the Senate’s passage last May of a bill that increased educational benefits for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Congress recently enacted a historic GI bill to honor our responsibility to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who return home seeking an education and a better future for their families,” the senators wrote.  “We have no less of a responsibility to maximize the potential of our wounded warriors returning from battle nursing the wounds of war.”