Two recent hearings of the House and Veterans Affairs committee addressed prosthetic procurement and an audit of outside contractors that provide prosthetic services to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In a prepared video statement, Peter W. Thomas, general counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP), addressed the outcome from the two hearings.
The first hearing with the VA Health Subcommittee and the House focused on patient access to private practitioners, which is central to the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights (H.R. 805). According to Thomas, the bill would “require the VA to post a list of rights for amputees and for others who need orthotic and prosthetic care in every VA facility that treats patients of this nature.” The bill would also require that all patients understand that they have the right to see the practitioner of choice and to access the technology that meets their needs.
John Register, board member of NAAOP, Army veteran and amputee, spoke at the hearing in support of HR 805, and provided his experience with VA prosthetic care. Thomas noted that although Register’s overall care with the VA had been positive, there was a prosthetic facility closer to his home that he didn’t know he was eligible for.
At the second hearing, the Oversight Investigation Subcommittee delved into section 8123 of the VA law, which was passed in 1957. Section 8123 allows the VA to contract with any private practitioner for prosthetic appliances without respect to any other provision of law. This meant that the contracting officers did not have to follow federal or VA federal acquisition regulations.
“What’s happened over the years is that the definition of prosthetic appliances has grown and the VA has considered many different types of devices in that category of care,” Thomas said. “There was some concern that perhaps the VA was not taking all of the proper routes to contracting and getting the best resources for the amount spent.”
“These are very important hearings and it lays the foundation for some additional work that hopefully the VA will carry out itself,” he concluded. “We look forward to working with the VA, but if Congress feels that legislation needs to be addressed and passed to address the issue, then NAAOP will continue to do what we’ve been doing for several years now and advocating for passage of the Injured and Amputee Bill of Rights.”