On Tuesday, April 17th, the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss several pieces of VA legislation. One of the bills was H.R. 2322, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights. The VA Bill of Rights is bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI). See Congressman Walberg’s statement before the Subcommittee at www.naaop.org.
The same bill passed in 2010 in the House but the Senate did not act. The bill has since been reintroduced several times but recently, the bill took on much greater importance as the VA announced last fall a proposed regulation that would grant the VA the “sole authority” to determine which prosthetist provides care for each veteran, changing over five decades of VA patient choice.
NAAOP has spearheaded this legislation since Tom Guth, C.P., served as President of the organization. All of the O&P Alliance organizations (AOPA, AAOP, ABC, and BOC) support passage of the bill, as does the Amputee Coalition. In fact, the hearing coincided with the Amputee Coalition’s Capitol Hill fly-in and several amputees were front and center in the hearing room during the committee’s deliberations on the bill.
In addition, the Wounded Warrior Project and the Paralyzed Veterans of America support H.R. 2322. The Disabled American Veterans have not taken a position and the Independence Fund is supportive but offered minor amendments to the bill in their written testimony. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion submitted written testimony opposing the legislation but after outreach from NAAOP before the hearing, both organizations were more conciliatory toward the bill in their oral remarks. NAAOP will continue its follow up with these organizations to ultimately seek their support.
The next step is to continue working with Congressman Walberg and his able staffer, Mac McKinney, to seek a mark-up of H.R. 2322 in the VA Health Subcommittee. During the hearing, both the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee, Congressman Wenstrup (R-OH), and the Chairman of the full VA Committee, Congressman Roe (R-TN), spoke favorably about the bill. In fact, Chairman Roe mentioned that he had recently become aware of H.R. 2322 at a VA field hearing in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home to both Fort Bragg and George Breece, NAAOP’s Executive Director, who attended the field hearing. This bodes well for the future of this legislation in the House. And then, on to the Senate……