by Dale Stamper
Every year, the National President of the Blinded Veterans Association has an opportunity to present the legislative concerns and priorities of the organization before a joint session of the House and Senate VA Committees. Several other Veterans Service Organizations regularly join us on a panel, each seated side-by-side at a long table.
This year, on March 22, the entire BVA National Board was also in attendance. This arrangement had not been possible for three years because of scheduling conflicts.
The BVA Legislative Committee is made up of the four National Officers (President Dale Stamper, Vice President Joe Parker, Secretary Paul Mimms, and Treasurer Joe McNeil) along with Past President Mark Cornell, District 5 Director Thomas Zampieri and Director of Government Relations Melanie Brunson.
Together, the Committee spent an entire day (March 20) at VA Central Office discussing BVA concerns with heads of departments. The next day we met with Members of the House of Representatives, Senate, and staff members. This is a special time and complements the work Melanie regularly performs as she meets with these same individuals.
Because of these efforts over the past several years, we were able to get legislation passed that will make it easier for veterans to attend a Blind Rehabilitation Center. Our request was for travel funds for the catastrophically disabled, especially for blinded veterans with low incomes living in rural areas. We are thankful to Montana Senator Jon Tester and California Congresswoman Julia Brownley for their sponsorship in the Senate and House, respectively. We will continue to advocate for BVA on vital issues before the House, Senate, and VA Central Office.
BVA was chartered by Congress specifically to represent our nation’s blinded veterans. It is a great honor to testify and present our priorities. This privilege is especially significant when there are so many voices vying for the attention on Capitol Hill, both from the private sector as well as from organizations like ours.
I am thankful for the great responses and reception we received. Following both the testimony and our one-on-one discussions, I believe our concerns were heard. I also believe that, in the days and weeks ahead, commitments to follow up on our priorities will be honored and faithfully kept.
House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe welcomes Dale Stamper to witness table prior to hearing in which Dale presented BVA’s legislative priorities for upcoming fiscal year.