SOURCE: Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America

April 28, 2016 20:09 ET

Paralyzed Veterans of America Supports Senate Omnibus Bill; Lauds Inclusion of Critical Caregiver Expansion Provision

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - April 28, 2016) - Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) today gave its measured support of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs comprehensive omnibus bill -- the "Veterans First Act," and called out the expansion of the Comprehensive Family Caregiver Program as a significant first step toward supporting veterans' needs. 

The new legislation would open access to the program for veterans injured prior to 9/11 over the next two years. The first group slated to benefit from the caregiver program is veterans injured prior to the end date of the Vietnam War, which accounts for the largest portion of Paralyzed Veterans' members.

"The Comprehensive Family Caregiver Program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans of all generation is one of our highest legislative priorities," said Sherman Gillums, Paralyzed Veterans' acting executive director. "Caregivers are the most critical component of rehabilitation and eventual recovery for veterans with a spinal cord injury or disease, and their well-being directly impacts the quality of care provided to veterans. We are pleased to see that the Committee has finally addressed this long-standing inequity." 

The bill reflects several other high priorities for the organization, including a strong focus on accountability within the ranks of the VA, and maintaining current protections for veterans in the claims and appeals process. Although Paralyzed Veterans expressed concerns about provisions that could lead to cutting the time a veteran has to appeal in half, the organization was encouraged by the tools the bill contains to better assess how claims and appeals are handled.

Paralyzed Veterans has been a vocal advocate for holding VA employees accountable for misconduct, but stresses that the current law challenges that goal. "Accountability for misconduct, failure, and negligence should go well beyond just the senior executives of VA," stressed Gillums. "Holding VA employees accountable in a manner that goes beyond the preemptive resignations of senior VA executives whose professional negligence or misconduct was rewarded with golden parachute retirement packages and benefits," stressed Gillums.

While giving measured support of the omnibus bill in its entirety, Paralyzed Veterans stressed that any final bill should address the challenges that many veterans still face when accessing health care and filing claims.

"It is too early to claim victory," emphasized Gillums. "Despite the wide scope of this omnibus bill, more work remains to be done, and cooperation is overdue between these two Committees. We need to move meaningful reform forward, and see that the needs of Paralyzed Veterans' members, veterans with spinal cord injury or disease, and all veterans, are properly addressed." 

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs has already passed more than two dozen bills, many of which reflect provisions similar to the "Veterans First Act." Paralyzed Veterans encouraged the Senate to act on this bill soon, so the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs can develop a final comprehensive bill to benefit veterans and their families.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America:

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. (

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    Lani Poblete