Legislation authored by Congressman Chris Smith that will help military veterans treat their PTSD through enhanced outdoor medical therapy and recreation passed in the U.S. Senate last night, the eve of Veterans Day, and is on its way to the White House to be signed into law.
The Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act (H.R. 2435), which was endorsed by more than 120 veteran service organizations, outdoor recreation groups and conservation organizations, will provide increased access to federal lands for the purposes of veterans’ medical recovery therapy. Smith’s bill—cosponsored by 135 bipartisan lawmakers—was included in a package of veterans’ legislation, The Veterans’ COMPACT Act (H.R. 8247), which passed the House of Representatives in September and was approved by the Senate late last night.
“Research has increasingly shown that outdoor recreation can be an effective form of treatment, rehabilitation and healing for veterans,” said Smith, author of the Veterans Health Programs Improvement Act (P.L. 108-422), and 13 other veterans laws.
“While many nonprofit organizations, veteran service organizations and private companies have used the outdoors to help heroes heal, providing greater coordination among key federal agencies will open new opportunities for veterans on public lands and other outdoor spaces,” said Smith, who has twice served as chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The new law will require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide medical treatment and therapy to veterans through outdoor recreation. After undertaking a comprehensive analysis, the task force will submit recommendations to Congress, within one year, on how to eliminate barriers and provide more public outdoor space for use by our veterans.” Click here to watch Chris Smith’s remarks on the House Floor.
“Nearly 75 years ago, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed a law changing Nov. 11 from Armistice Day to Veterans Day,” Smith said. “It’s a day for us all to recall those who’ve served, those who didn’t come home and those who came back with the scars of war who need help to heal. That’s what this bill is all about, and it is especially fitting that today, on Veterans Day 2020, this bill is heading to the White House to be signed into law.”