Blinded Vets Set Forth Annual Legislative Priorities

The BVA Legislative Committee’s round of visits included freshman Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3), seen behind group. The 6’7”, 330-pound former Offensive Tackle for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles retired from the National Football League only a year ago to run for his Congressional seat. He chairs the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on the House VA Committee.

The BVA Legislative Committee’s round of visits included freshman Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3), seen behind group. The 6’7”, 330-pound former Offensive Tackle for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles retired from the National Football League only a year ago to run for his Congressional seat. He chairs the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs on the House VA Committee.

With the organization’s continued emphasis on seamless transition issues, vision loss connected to Traumatic Brain Injury, funding for vision research, and special adaptive housing for blinded veterans, BVA National President Dr. Roy Kekahuna testified on March 16 before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs.

National Vice President Sam Huhn, left, and Director of District 1 David VanLoan concentrate on BVA testimony presented during Congressional Committee hearing.

The hearing also included representatives, seated together at a witness table, of the Non Commissioned Officers Association, Gold Star Wives of America, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Jewish War Veterans, the Military Officers Association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and AMVETS. The Senate arranged for a live webcast of the hearing via its website.

National Vice President Sam Huhn, left, and Director of District 1 David VanLoan concentrate on BVA testimony presented during Congressional Committee hearing.

“It has now been three years since Congress authorized the establishment of the Vision Centers of Excellence to centrally track severely eye-injured OIF and OEF service members,” Roy stated. “We are frustrated that full implementation of the Centers has still not occurred and that many of the eye injured may not be able to access the full continuum of Department of Veterans Affairs Eye Care Service, Blind Rehabilitation Service, and Low-Vision Outpatient Programs that these Congressional Committees helped establish.”

Roy also reminded the Representatives and Senators present that this failure places service members and veterans at risk of further complications from their injuries.

BVA Legislative Committee with Representative Tim Walz (D-MN-1), center, following meeting to discuss content of oral testimony the following day.

“During the past three years, BVA has attempted to work through Members of these two Committees in an attempt to hold the Department of Defense accountable for the many funding and organizational problems associated with establishing the Centers,” he said. “These problems directly affect those with visual system dysfunction and other complications related to Traumatic Brain Injury experienced on the battlefield.”

Roy’s oral remarks were preceded by opening statements by Members of Congress and followed by a question-and-answer session. His comments summarized a larger written document submitted for the Congressional Record and accessible by clicking on the appropriate date of the testimony at http://veterans.senate.gov/hearings.cfm.

BVA Legislative Committee with Representative Tim Walz (D-MN-1), center, following meeting to discuss content of oral testimony the following day.

The testimony was the pinnacle event of a busy week for BVA’s Legislative Committee and its full National Board of Directors. The Committee, consisting of Roy, National Vice President Sam Huhn, Secretary Mark Cornell, Treasurer Dr. Steven Beres, and Director of Government Relations Dr. Tom Zampieri, moved swiftly from one appointment to another at both the VA Central Office and on Capitol Hill throughout the two days prior to the testimony.

BVA’s Board of Directors also conducted a full slate of mid-winter meetings March 16-18 at the Association’s National Headquarters that included reports from the Field Service staff and Directors of each headquarters department.

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