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TMCNet:  Paralyzed Veterans of America Urges Veterans' Affairs Committees to Ensure Access in VA for Veterans Needing Specialized Care

[June 12, 2014]

Paralyzed Veterans of America Urges Veterans' Affairs Committees to Ensure Access in VA for Veterans Needing Specialized Care

WASHINGTON --(Business Wire)--

Today Paralyzed 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.

The letter, 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 real risk.

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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