WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) National President Al Kovach, Jr. testified before the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, urging support for Paralyzed Veterans’ top legislative priorities—ensuring that VA specialized care services are protected, including procreative services in VA health care coverage and VA accountability.
Kovach began his remarks by holding up a 1970 issue of LIFE magazine which featured an exposé on the deplorable conditions veterans were subjected to at the Bronx VA at the time, to stress to the Senate and House committee members the importance of specialized VA care services—such as spinal cord injury care—and why they must be preserved in order for a tragic situation like that of the Bronx VA in 1970 never happens again.
He stated, “Additionally, you need to preserve the necessary support systems such as cardiology, radiology and laboratories that keep specialized services operational. If you continue to erode multidisciplinary services and replace them with a fragmented patchwork of outsourced services, you are guaranteeing the failure of all 25 VA spinal cord injury centers.”
Approximately 43,000 veterans with spinal cord injuries are currently served by the VA, and VA remains the best provider of health care for veterans. VA’s specialized services, such as spinal cord injury care most often cannot be duplicated in the private sector, but VA has not maintained its capacity to provide for the unique health care needs of severely disabled veterans. Paralyzed Veterans is urging Congress to pass legislation that will reinstate the annual capacity reporting requirement originally established by the “Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act” (P.L. 104-262) in 1996.
Paralyzed Veterans is also urging the passage of the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act (S.469), which would allow the VA to provide procreative services, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) to veterans with catastrophic injuries that preclude them from having children; as well as H.R. 2257, legislation that would end the VA ban on providing reproductive services to veterans. While the Department of Defense (DOD) does provide reproductive services to service members and retired service members, VA does not.
Kovach ended his testimony by stressing the need for accountability in the VA. He stated, “for many, VA is an abstraction where it has become far too easy to throw stones from a comfortable distance, especially for those whose lives don’t rely on the VA….But to those of us who do rely on the VA, it’s a system of parts where some are really good, some are really bad, but most are decent in terms of performance.”
In closing, he cautioned the committee members that “until the rules are rewritten for how VA employees are disciplined, how budgets are managed, how oversight is assured, and how Congress works with the VA instead of against it, that no VA Secretary will ever be successful. And it is our nation’s veterans who will pay a dear price.”
To read President Kovach’s full written statement from March 3, 2016, click here.
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. (www.pva.org)