Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) sent letters to the
chairmen and ranking minority members of the House and Senate Veterans'
Affairs Committees encouraging them consider revisions to the final
compromise legislation regarding access issues within the Department of
Veterans Affairs health care system to ensure appropriate steps are
taken to expand access within VA for specialized services.
under the signature of Carl Blake, acting associate executive director
for Government Relations, contained the following:
"On behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and its
members, I write to encourage you to consider proposed revisions to the
final bill that you will negotiate with your colleagues on the Senate
Committee on Veterans' Affairs to address the access challenges facing
the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. We recognize
the fact that your compromise legislation-H.R. 4810, the 'Veterans'
Access to Care Act'-is meant to get veterans who have waited too long
the medical care that they need immediately. Paralyzed Veterans
continues to believe that the VA currently has the authority to address
the issues that this legislation would provide through contract care,
yet we understand the need to refocus the VA on the importance of this
authority through the tighter provisions of this bill.
While we accept the notion that veterans should have a choice about
their health care, we must emphasize that it should be a well-informed
choice. Moreover, we beieve that this legislation ignores a population
of veterans that have no choice-veterans with specialized health care
needs such as spinal
cord injury or dysfunction,
amputation, blindness, and polytrauma. The flaw in this legislation is
the presumption that even veterans with specialized needs have a choice
when they do not. In fact, the specialized programs of the VA are
incomparable services that cannot be duplicated in the private sector.
We do not believe this legislation properly addresses the idea that when
veterans with catastrophic disabilities are denied access to care in the
VA health care system-a fact that Paralyzed Veterans has identified over
the last 30 years in our site visits to VA spinal cord injury
centers-choice is not an option for them because the services are not
available in the private sector.
In order to address this problem, we would like to see the final
compromise legislation amended to ensure that appropriate steps are
taken to expand access within the VA health care system for specialized
services while other veterans awaiting care are still afforded the
opportunity to seek care that is properly coordinated and managed in the
private community, as necessary. We believe language must be included in
the final bill (or in report language at a minimum) that commits to
providing necessary resources to expand the capacity of specialized
programs to adequately meet the demands of catastrophically disabled
veterans seeking care. This should include an emphasis on infrastructure
and proper staffing. Failure to address the concerns that we have
outlined will place veterans with the most complex health care needs at
We are prepared to offer support for any compromise legislation that
will expand access to health care to all veterans through both the VA
system and private providers if the House and Senate Committees on
Veterans' Affairs make the necessary changes to ensure that veterans
with catastrophic disabilities are not left without access all together.
Unfortunately, this will be their reality if this legislation is finally
approved by Congress without amendment.
Paralyzed Veterans of America stands ready to work with your respective
staffs to ensure that appropriate protections for veterans with
specialized health care needs are provided."
Paralyzed Veterans of America was founded by a group of seriously
injured American heroes from the "Greatest Generation" of World War II.
They created a nonprofit organization to meet the challenges that they
faced back in the 1940s-from a medical community not ready to treat them
to an inaccessible world.
For more than 68 years, Paralyzed Veterans' national office and its 34 chapters across
the nation have been making America a better place for all veterans and
people with disabilities. (www.pva.org)
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