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FUND BETTER VA CARE

The nation owes another debt to former Republican Sen. Bob Dole and Donna Shalala, who ran Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, for their sound recommendations for improving medical care for America's veterans. A presidential commission they led has presented Congress and the Bush administration with a clear guide for making the health care system more responsive to veterans and their families. This should be a priority for a nation that asks ever more of its servicemen and women.

The panel called for case-managers to help patients navigate the huge veterans medical bureaucracy, easier Web-based tools for veterans to manage their benefits and new steps to expand training and treatment programs to deal with combat stress and serious head injuries that are a hallmark of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The proposals seek to bring more order to the regimen of care and make it easier for veterans' families to look after loved ones who are often incapacitated. The panel called for clarifying the rules that govern disability benefits, and for expanding respite care and other services for families of those injured.

The White House was rightly criticized for accepting the proposals with little sense of urgency. Americans have been shamed this year by reports in the Washington Post about the poor conditions and inadequate care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's outpatient facilities. The troop surge in Iraq has only added to the stress in the veterans' health care system. This administration and Congress should move immediately to fund and implement changes that already were long overdue.

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