Today Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) National President Bill Lawson urged Congressional leaders to protect Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) health care from politics and to provide sufficient and timely funding for all VA programs.
“As Congress and the Administration continue to face immense pressure to reduce federal spending, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of ensuring that sufficient, timely and predictable funding is provided to the VA. While we appreciate the increases offered by the Administration’s budget for FY 2015 and the FY 2016 advance appropriations, particularly with regards to health care and benefits services, we have real concerns that the serious lack of commitment to infrastructure funding to support the system will undermine the VA’s ability to deliver those services. Similarly, we remain concerned that the funding levels provided by the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations in the recently passed omnibus appropriations bill will be insufficient to address the continuously growing demand for VA health care services,” Lawson told lawmakers.
In oral and written testimony before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Lawson also urged legislators to enact legislation that would open the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance program to all veterans. Currently, the VA only offers this program to veterans with a service-connected injury that was incurred after September 11, 2001, which excludes the majority of Paralyzed Veterans’ members from these VA caregiver benefits; and because the law also excludes veterans with serious illnesses or diseases such as ALS and MS, both of which eventually leave veterans dependent upon caregivers.
“No reasonable justification can be provided as to why pre 9/11 veterans with a service-connected injury or illness should be excluded from the caregiver program. It is time for the Committees to step up and get this done,” stated Lawson.
Lawson also brought attention to changes in VA’s prosthetics program and the need for greater oversight of a new VHA policy that essentially turned a 5-day ordering process into one that now takes months or longer in cases involving life-critical devices like customized limbs and wheelchairs costing over the micropurchase threshold of $3000.
“When veterans are forced to bear the excruciating wait for independence that prosthetics offer due to red tape, the country’s reputation suffers. George Washington declared: ‘A nation is judged by how well it treats its veterans.’ We declare today that this Congress and VA will be judged by the independence—or lack thereof—enjoyed by veterans who rely on VA prosthetics to live,” added Lawson.
Read President Lawson's full written statement from March 12, 2014
Learn more about the legislative priorities for the 113th Congress, second session