On Wednesday, June 1, the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics’ (NAAOP) immediate past president, Tom Guth, CP, along with NAAOP general counsel, Peter Thomas, returned to Capitol Hill to press the case for House passage of HR 805, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights.
The VA Bill of Rights passed the House of Representatives last December with strong bipartisan support but time ran out before the Senate could act. A new bill was introduced earlier this year by the bill’s chief sponsor, Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA). Congressman Filner is Ranking Member of the House VA Committee and was Chairman of the same committee last year.
Congressman Filner and his staff clearly remain committed to passing this legislation. In fact, they are pressing to include this bill in a legislative hearing being held by the VA Committee in mid-June. The chances for the Committee to report out the bill to the entire House for a vote are fairly good, despite VA’s lack of support for the bill. This is because the same bill passed the House last year with bipartisan support and the VA Committee in the House is well known for working in a bipartisan manner.
We also learned that the provision of quality O&P care to our nation’s veterans is not going away as a national issue anytime soon. Recent military statistics apparently show a sharp spike in serious injuries in the Afghanistan conflict, raising the stakes for a set of reliable and well understood rights and expectations that veterans in need of O&P care should have.
Our final meeting of the day was with staff for Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL), the new chairman of the House VA Committee. The meeting went well and the reception we received on the bill was very positive but no firm commitments were made. It is now our expectation that ranking member Filner will meet with Chairman Miller to seek movement of HR 805 as expeditiously as possible.
In this context, it is imperative that O&P patients and the professionals who serve them keep the public pressure on Congress to address this issue.