Portman, Blumenthal Urge DOD to Support Ukranian Medical Professionals Caring for Wounded Ukrainian Soldiers

June 26, 2018 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C - Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urging the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide funding for education and training for Ukrainian healthcare specialists so that they can provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

We urge you to prepare Ukraine’s medical professionals to address the unique needs of Ukraine’s soldiers as they transition to their civilian lives, both as a force multiplier and a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to support Ukraine as it defend its sovereignty. Improving Ukraine’s capability and capacity to care for wounded soldiers supports the country’s democratic trajectory and aligns with U.S. geopolitical interests in the region. Likewise, it sends a strong signal to Russia that the United States is willing to pursue all options to ensure Ukraine’s success and stability,” Portman and Blumenthal wrote today in the letter to Secretary Mattis.

Russia’s persistent military aggression in Ukraine continues to inflict grievous injuries on Ukrainian soldiers – many of whom have combat-related injuries and illnesses that require long-term care. Portman and Blumenthal have been vocal advocates for improving access to care for Ukrainian soldiers, having previously secured a provision in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act that created a new funding authority for the treatment of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at DoD military treatment facilities. Portman and Blumenthal have also led calls to condemn Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity.

Portman and Blumenthal continue, “Ukrainian soldiers will not only have the capability to succeed on the battlefield against Russia, but when they transition out of military service, they will receive the quality care and treatment needed to succeed in their civilian lives.”

Since the conflict began in 2014, tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers now require treatment for conditions they developed in combat. Ukraine’s Chief Military prosecutor, Anatoliy Matios, recently reported that more than 500 Ukrainian soldiers who fought in Donbas committed suicide – an equivalent of two to three soldiers taking their lives each week since the start of the conflict.

The full text of the letter is here and below.

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We ask that as you prepare the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for Fiscal Year 2018, you use your authority under Sec. 1250 of Public Law 115-91 to implement education and training for Ukrainian healthcare specialists so that they can provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Russia’s persistent military aggression in Ukraine continues to inflict grievous injuries on Ukrainian soldiers – many of which have combat-related injuries and illnesses that require long-term care.

To date, the Multinational Joint Commission for Ukraine, led by General Allvin, has provided medically-related training and assistance to Ukraine – including technical assistance to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on medical training and exercises in the field. We urge you to prepare Ukraine’s medical professionals to address the unique needs of Ukraine’s soldiers as they transition to their civilian lives, both as a force multiplier and a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to support Ukraine as it defend its sovereignty. Improving Ukraine’s capability and capacity to care for wounded soldiers supports the country’s democratic trajectory and aligns with U.S. geopolitical interests in the region. Likewise, it sends a strong signal to Russia that the United States is willing to pursue all options to ensure Ukraine’s success and stability. It emphasizes that Ukrainian soldiers will not only have the capability to succeed on the battlefield against Russia, but when they transition out of military service, they will receive the quality care and treatment needed to succeed in their civilian lives. 

In addition, Section 1234 also provides for expanded use of the Secretarial Designee Program under which Ukrainian soldiers are able to receive treatment at DoD military treatment facilities when Ukraine cannot provide the necessary care in country. Specifically, Section 1234 authorizes the use of USAI funds to cover the non-medical costs associated with medical treatment such as lodging, transportation, and food, services which would be unattainable without American assistance. Without U.S. support in defraying these costs, Ukrainian servicemembers risk losing access to the very services Congress intended DoD to provide when it authorized enhanced use of the Secretarial Designee Program.

Since the war began in 2014, tens of thousands of soldiers have left the front lines in eastern Ukraine and now require treatment for conditions they developed in combat. Ukraine’s Chief Military prosecutor, Anatoliy Matios, recently reported that over 500 Ukrainian soldiers who fought in Donbas committed suicide – an equivalent of two to three soldiers taking their lives each week since the start of the conflict. Sufficient support for advanced care provided through the Secretarial Designee Program as well as training and education for Ukrainian healthcare specialists, either through bringing Ukrainian doctors to train alongside U.S. surgeons at military treatment facilities or through a program where American medical professional provide training within Ukraine, will ensure that Ukrainian soldiers receive the care they need to recover from the physical and psychological wounds of war. 

Thank you for your consideration of this matter. We look forward to working with you.

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