Paralyzed Veterans of America Urges Protection of VA Specialized Care and Expansion of Caregiver Support Services to Veterans of All Eras

Organization Presents Top Legislative Priorities to House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs

WASHINGTON, DC—Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) National President, David Zurfluh, presented the organization’s top legislative priorities today at a joint hearing before the House and Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.  Zurfluh’s testimony focused on Paralyzed Veterans’ two most important legislative priorities for its members—protection of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) specialized care and expansion of caregiver support services to veterans of all eras.

In his testimony, Zurfluh, an Air Force veteran, emphasized the vast differences in community care versus VA specialized care noting his own personal experience. He stated:

“The fact is community care for someone with a spinal cord injury or disease pales in comparison. I personally experienced these challenges and this was magnified to me on three separate emergency room visits in the community during the last eight years, and on a recent trip to check on the welfare of our members in Puerto Rico this last December. Post hurricane Maria we found out the Spinal Cord Injury Unit in conjunction with VA Staff in San Juan, Paralyzed Veterans’ staff and local Paralyzed Veterans’ Chapter representatives were the only entities to reach out to our paralyzed veterans nearly three months after hurricane Maria. Members looked me in the eye and said had it not been for the VA and SCI Unit coordinating and providing care to them, they would be either dead or forced to leave for VA SCI Centers in Florida.  Paralyzed veterans told us that post hurricane community care was non-existent and limited to FEMA care that had no knowledge of how to specifically treat someone with a Spinal Cord Injury or disease.”
 
Zurfluh’s testimony then turned to expansion of VA caregiver support services to veterans of all eras. Currently, VA caregiver services are only open to post 9/11 veterans.
 
“Right now a majority of paralyzed veterans are being denied this support based on an arbitrary date and perceived expanded costs. What is not factored in is the long term savings when paralyzed veterans are not in the hospital beds driving up hours for nursing and care related to their initial injury or diagnosis. There are many pre 911 paralyzed veterans who as they age or deal with their post rehab life, find it very difficult to maintain their health without a caregiver.  They seek VA or nursing home care that is expensive and demoralizing versus a caregiver and being able to live at home.
 
Zurfluh ended his testimony by telling the Committee members:
 
“We call on you to take all steps necessary to ensure that the specialized services that our members rely on are preserved and strengthened as you debate more care in the community. There are also no more excuses available to deny access to the caregiver program to veterans of all eras. Our members and thousands of other veterans will hold you accountable if you fail to do what everyone in this room and people around this country know is right.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Lani Poblete, 202-416-7736, lanip@pva.org