Prior to the August recess, the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs advanced health care legislation that addresses issues involving VA health care research, veterans’ caregivers, women’s health, and long-term care.
In July and early August the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs approved H.R. 2726, the “Long-Term Care Veterans Choice Act,” which gives VA the authority to enter into contracts or agreements for the transfer of veterans to non-VA adult foster homes for certain veterans who are unable to live independently. Paralyzed Veterans of America supported this bill, and in a written statement for the record emphasized that when a veteran with a spinal cord injury or disorder is eligible and willing to be transferred to an adult foster home, the VA must continue to use the already established systems in place that require the VA home based primary care team to coordinate care with the VA SCI/D Center and the SCI/D primary care team that is within the closest proximity to the adult foster home. During the markup hearing this bill was amended to include an implementation date to be no earlier than October 1, 2014, and to limit the authority of the VA to enter into contracts or agreements for the transfer of veterans to adult foster homes for no more than three years.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs also approved H.R. 1443, the “Tinnitus Research and Treatment Act.” When initially introduced, this bill proposed to direct the VA to recognize tinnitus as a mandatory condition for research and treatment. Paralyzed Veterans testified that while we support VA research efforts involving hearing loss and conditions such as tinnitus, we were not able to support this bill because the selection of research subject areas and projects should be done through the VA scientific peer review process. As a result, during the markup hearing this bill was amended, no longer mandating tinnitus research, or including language in opposition to the VA’s scientific peer review process.
Pending health care legislation recently reviewed by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs during a markup hearing included S. 851, the “Caregiver Expansion and Improvement Act of 2013,” and S. 131, the “Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act of 2013.” Paralyzed Veterans fully supports S. 851 as it would expand eligibility for VA caregiver assistance benefits to veterans who became injured or ill prior to September 11, 2001. Paralyzed Veterans members are likely to benefit from this program more than any other population of veterans; yet, the majority of Paralyzed Veterans members have been excluded from VA caregiver benefits as a result of the arbitrary date of September 11, 2001. No reasonable justification (other than cost considerations) can be provided for why pre-9/11 veterans with a service-connected injury or illness should be excluded from the comprehensive caregiver program. It is Paralyzed Veterans' position that catastrophically disabled veterans needs are not different simply because they may have been injured prior to the selected date.
The second health care bill, S. 131, proposes to improve health care services for women veterans within the VA and includes provisions related to reproductive services for catastrophically disabled service-connected veterans. Specifically, this bill would authorize the VA to include reproductive assistance as standard VA medical services provided to veterans. In this legislation, reproductive assistance services include care and delivery options for fertility counseling and treatment for service-connected veterans and their spouses. Paralyzed Veterans has long sought inclusion of reproductive services in the spectrum of health care benefits provided by the VA and is pleased that the Committee is working to move this legislation forward.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill