Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) conducted its annual Advocacy and Legislation Training Seminar the week of March 10, 2014. Approximately 70 representatives from Paralyzed Veterans chapters across the country attended to learn about current and future issues facing both disabled veterans as well as other members of the disabled community.
The highlight of the week was the presentation of Paralyzed Veterans' annual testimony by National President Bill Lawson to a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. The week also included opportunities for our members to meet with both their senators and representatives as well as congressional staff.
The four-day conference provided opportunities to hear from Paralyzed Veterans staff and members of federal agencies and independent organizations about issues important to attendees. Advocacy topics ranged from airline access issues and long-term services for those with disabilities to discussions about the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Legislative issues included updates on changes to the VA prosthetics process as well as current legislation being considered on veterans' issues. Attendees also had an opportunity to interact with a congressional panel of staff members representing the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. Lastly, the training portion of the seminar wrapped up with presentations from Paralyzed Veterans' Architecture, Medical Services, and Communications Departments.
In conjunction with the seminar, on March 12, 2014, Paralyzed Veterans National President Bill Lawson presented Paralyzed Veterans' annual testimonyto a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs. President Lawson highlighted several concerns facing veterans, in particular, those with catastrophic disabilities. These included Congress’ failure to once again pass a budget that funded the Department of Veterans Affairs and that veterans would have been even more severely impacted had veterans’ health care not had advance appropriations which shielded the VA health care system from partisan wrangling and political gridlock.
President Lawson went on to praise efforts by House Committee Chairman Miller and Senate Committee Chairman Sanders to expand advance appropriations to all VA programs. President Lawson also addressed ongoing problems with VA’s prosthetics programs that are hampering the VA ability to quickly deliver much-needed devices that are critically needed by disabled veterans. Finally, he emphasized the need for Congress to expand the Comprehensive Caregiver Assistance program to all veterans. Currently the program is only for post-9/11 veterans.
Following the Annual Testimony, attendees spread out across Capitol Hill for meetings with their individual Senators and Representatives as well as staff. During these meetings, attendees were able to address many of the issues that had been presented during the previous seminar days. Overall, it was a very successful and informative week. President Lawson’s full written statement from the joint hearing can be found at this link.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America on Capitol Hill