Legislative Priorities for 2019
- Ensure that VA’s implementation of benefits for caregivers for catastrophically disabled veterans from previous war eras, is appropriate and timely, and insure that the eligibility criteria employed by VA to determine who is eligible for such benefits do not inadvertently preclude caregivers for blinded veterans from receiving assistance;
- Urge continued Congressional oversight of VA’s compliance with the Rehabilitation Act’s effective communication requirements;
- The need for members of the Veterans’ Affairs Committees to support an appropriation of $20 million for the DoD Vision Research Program in FY 2020 in order to strengthen the only research program in the nation that focuses on prevention and treatment of combat-related eye injuries and visual dysfunction;
- The need for Congress to conduct oversight of the implementation of the Vision Center of Excellence, joint Defense Veterans Eye Injury Vision Registry;, as well as the hearing Center of Excellence;
- The need for Congress to pass H.R. 1092, the bipartisan bill to improve resources and care for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST), by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).
- The need for the Veterans’ Affairs Committees to support changing specially adapted housing grant eligibility criteria to enable blinded veterans to qualify based on their blindness alone;
- The need for members of the veterans’ affairs committees to support reinstatement of eligibility for blinded veterans to use special mode transportation provided by the VA and its contractors;
- BVA supports FOVA request an appropriation of $840 million for VA research in FY 2020;
- The need for support from the Health Subcommittees of the veterans’ affairs committees to hold the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) accountable for adhering to the highest standards of quality care with regard to decisions related to rehabilitation training and the hiring of professionals to provide rehabilitative services to blind and other disabled veterans;
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION
TO THE HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
BVA recommends that the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs take the following legislative actions:
- Support legislation to reinstate eligibility for blinded veterans to use special mode transportation provided by the VA and its contractors.
- Urge VA to develop policies and practices that enable VA’s agencies to identify those veterans and VA employees who need access to materials and correspondence in formats other than print by virtue of disabilities, and to ensure that the VA has the capacity to communicate with such individuals in appropriate accessible formats.
- Conduct an Oversight Hearing on VA lack of compliance with Section 508 throughout the VHA and VBA Information Technology programs, and require that VA set timelines, funding levels, and staffing goals for addressing areas of noncompliance.
- Hold VA accountable for progress on implementing upgrades to hardware and software needed to provide blind patients with access to updated prescription drug labels in all VA hospitals and outpatient facilities whose pharmacies provide labels for ScripTalk units to blind and visually impaired patients.
- Express support to appropriators for funding of the DoD Vision Research Program (VRP) within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program at $20 million in FY 2019.
- Provide oversight of full establishment of the VCE and the Defense Veterans Eye Injury Registry (DVEIR) on resources, program management, and funding. Request similar oversight for the Hearing Center of Excellence.
- Ensure VA’s adherence to high standards in the recruitment of employees and contractors who provide rehabilitation training to blinded veterans and Congress to also insure that VA continue requiring certification by recognized accrediting bodies.
- Support passage of legislation providing for research and treatment of vision-related conditions that continue to plague Vietnam era veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service, and further requests support for a VA study of the link between Agent Orange and Choroidal Melanoma Eye Cancer.
- Support legislation to expand caregiver benefits and make such benefits available to caregivers of veterans from all conflicts who have catastrophic disabilities and a demonstrated need for caregiver support.
For further information, contact Melanie Brunson, Director of Public Affairs at (202) 355-9525, or e-mail at [email protected]