U.S. Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) on Thursday introduced a bill to ensure that the VA is taking the best possible care of disabled veterans. Their bill, H.R. 5091, extends a mandate, previously signed into law, that the VA report to Congress its capacity for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs of disabled veterans.
“The number of disabled veterans nationwide has been increasing at an alarming rate,” said Rep. Denham. “This common-sense bill requires the VA to provide the comprehensive care they so clearly deserve.”
Severely disabled veterans suffer from a range of issues – spinal cord injury/dysfunction (SCI/D); blindness; traumatic brain injury (TBI); or mental health disorders. They require specialized care, including prosthetic, orthotic and sensory aids. To ensure their needs were met, in 1996 Congress mandated that the VA maintain its capacity for the specialized treatment and rehabilitative needs of disabled veterans based on a number of specific measurements. For spinal cord injuries in particular, this capacity was to be measured by the number of staffed beds and the number of full-time employee equivalents available to provide care. The VA was also required to report this information to Congress after it was reviewed by the VA’s Office of the Inspector General.
This reporting requirement has since lapsed. This bill reinstates the requirement and encourages the VA to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's Veterans.”
“VA is currently not required to tell Congress how or if it has adequate capacity to provide care for catastrophically disabled veterans,” said Carl Blake, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations at Paralyzed Veterans of America. “In the eight years since the report’s expiration, bed closures, staff shortages, and denied access to care have been continuously reported. Reinstating this report will provide Congress with the information necessary to conduct thorough oversight of VA specialized services. This is a high priority for PVA and we applaud Rep. Denham for taking up such a critical issue.”
This bipartisan legislation has also earned the support of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Rep. Denham previously introduced this bill in the 113th Congress as H.R. 4198, the Appropriate Care for Disabled Veterans Act.