Veterans health and welfare issues have been at the top of our agenda the last several months. We have successfully pushed for needed reforms on behalf of our community: making sure the VA workforce runs smoothly, working to improve veterans employment benefits and helping to implement VA standards for adaptive vehicles in addition to calling for continued research to treat toxic chemical exposure symptoms in veterans.
On May 19, 2017 VetsFirst partnered with the Military Times to publish an opinion piece with icon environmentalist icon, Erin Brockovich, to help promote action on issues related to toxic wounds. VetsFirst staff participated in Operation Stand Together which was a one day rally in Washington, D.C. to urge action on the issue of toxic exposure. The event was widely attended by members of Congress and hundreds of veterans from around the country. Many veterans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts have faced pulmonary health issues and cancers associated with their service. This event and our team’s involvement has energized public support to ensure disabled veterans, exposed to toxic chemicals during service receive the best healthcare to treat their wounds.
VetsFirst also helped craft and pass the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 which was signed by President Trump June 23, 2017 at the White House. The legislation followed the Veterans Choice Act, passed in 2014 and allows for increased flexibility to remove, demote or suspend VA employees for workforce misconduct. The legislation was generated following both the current and previous VA Secretaries’ requests to Congress that additional authority was needed to get the Department back on track. The win on the VA Accountability First Act occurred soon after our 2017 Roll on Capitol Hill event in mid-June.
There’s other good news regarding funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). The Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) was established by Congress in FY09 with a $35 million appropriation to support research into regenerating and repairing damaged spinal cords and improving rehabilitation therapies. The SCIRP focuses its funding on innovative projects that have the potential to make a significant impact on improving the function, wellness, and overall quality of life for military service members as well as their caregivers, families, and the American public. From FY10-15, Congress appropriated an additional $122.85 million to continue this research. United Spinal successfully advocated for continued robust funding for this program. Recently, staff has confirmed that the President’s budget zeroed out the program but funding for FY2018 was able to be maintained at $30 million, the same as FY2017. This is great news as SCIRP is able to continue their important research.
We have had a busy last few months and we continue to pursue legislation and implement polices to improve your quality of life As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.