Blinded Veterans Recognize Tester, Brownley for Key Legislative Support

Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) National President Dale Stamper and members of the organization’s National Legislative Committee have presented Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA-26) with its Legislative Champion Award for 2017.

The March 21 plaque presentation recognized the staunch support each of these legislators have given to blinded veterans in recent years. It noted in particular their key leadership in ensuring passage of legislation allowing VA to assist catastrophically disabled veterans with the cost of travel to and from specialized rehabilitation centers. This legislation passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 2016. VA has already begun providing travel assistance to veterans in accordance with its requirements.

“We owe tremendous thanks to you for your staunch support for veterans with catastrophic disabilities,” said President Stamper as he made the presentations in the Capitol Hill offices of both Tester and Brownley. “This recognition is a way for us to express our gratitude for your extra-mile support of legislation that will help many more veterans with vision loss obtain access to rehabilitation services.”

BVA’s Legislative Committee, chaired by Director of District 6 Tom Zampieri, also includes Stamper, National Vice President Joe Parker, National Secretary Paul Mimms, National Treasurer Joe McNeil, Director of Government Relations Melanie Brunson, and BVA Executive Director Al Avina.

Brownley sponsored the beneficiary travel legislation, H.R. 288, during the early days of the 114th Congress while Tester sponsored a companion bill, S.171, in the Senate. After the Senate bill was incorporated into the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations bill passed in the summer of 2016, Senator Tester was then able to include provisions of the appropriations bill in a Continuing Resolution that provided full-year funding for veterans initiatives and military construction projects through September 30, 2017.

"The Blinded Veterans Association thanks both Congresswoman Brownley and Senator Tester for their recognition of the value of rehabilitation services for catastrophically disabled veterans and for their commitment to ensuring that those who need such services the most have access to them,” said Al Avina. “This legislation now fills a vital need in a fiscally responsible manner by reducing the veterans' need for assisted living and nursing home care."

The plaques presented to the two lawmakers included a Braille U.S. flag and an expression of appreciation for their efforts on behalf of veterans throughout the United States who have experienced vision loss.