Saturday, May 23, 2015

Paralyzed Veterans of America Presents Legislative Priorities Before Congress

Paralyzed Veterans of America issued  the following this week:

Paralyzed Veterans of America press release header
  May 20, 2015
Media contact:                  
Lani Poblete 202-416-7667            

Washington, DC—Today Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) National President Al Kovach Jr. testified before Congressional leaders expressing the organization’s concern with funding levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the availability of the Comprehensive Family Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans and their caregivers, and the major construction problems that currently plague the VA.

“The funding levels outlined in the FY 2016 VA appropriations bill that recently passed the House of Representatives suggest that Congress (particularly the House) is not committed to addressing the internal capacity problems that the VA faces, first and foremost, the Spinal Cord Injury & Disease service line,” stated Kovach. “Moreover, it reflects an attitude that suggests the VA should figure out how to do more with less. But taking care of veterans on the cheap was never part of the deal when our country mortgaged its future on the lives of the few who came forward to protect it.”

He went on to state:  “If Congress is serious about fixing the problems with timely access to high-quality care and timely delivery of appropriate benefits, then it needs to get serious about the funding levels it will provide for the VA.”

In his testimony, National President Kovach also addressed the inequity of the VA Comprehensive Family Caregiver program that currently only provides comprehensive benefits to caregivers of service-connected veterans injured after 9/11.

“No reasonable justification can be provided as to why veterans injured prior to 9/11 should be excluded from the caregiver program.  No single group of veterans understands the necessity of caregiver support better than Paralyzed Veterans’ members.”

Currently, the majority of Paralyzed Veterans members are excluded from these VA caregiver benefits because of the current date requirement. The law also excludes veterans with serious illnesses or diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS), both of which have a catastrophic impact on activities of daily living, and eventually leave veterans dependent upon caregivers.

Also of deep concern to the organization are the major construction problems that currently plague the VA, particularly in Denver, Colorado, and that the VA appropriations bill slashes requested funding for Major Construction by more than $580 million.

In his oral testimony Kovach urged Congress to restore that funding: “While there are certainly valid concerns about construction projects such as Denver, Orlando, and New Orleans, all other construction projects—and the veterans whose access to health care rely upon there completion—are now being punished by this congressional decision.  We call on Congress to restore the significant dollars that you have stripped from the major construction request.”

Finally, Kovach expressed some optimism that Congress and the VA will develop a workable solution to complete the Denver VA medical center.  He emphasized: “We are encouraged by the VA memo on Denver outlining a way forward on this project and we hope that the Committees will address this request with the urgency and seriousness it deserves before reaching the authorization cap.” He concluded: “We urge Congress to give Secretary McDonald an opportunity to fix this problem created by his predecessors.” 

Read President Kovach’s full written statement from May 20, 2015 at


Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For nearly 70 years, we have ensured that veterans have received the benefits earned through their service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a partner for life, Paralyzed Veterans also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation and advocates for veterans and all people with disabilities. With more than 70 offices and 34 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. (