Money a Key Topic at PVA Seminar

Reprinted from PN June 2012

Finance, VA healthcare cuts, and travel benefits are major issues at PVA's annual Advocacy and Legislation Training Seminar.

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Like many companies, organizations, and families these days, finances are a key concern for the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

Those financial concerns were among the chief topics heard in March during PVA’s annual Advocacy and Legislation Training Seminar in Arlington, Va. Each year, PVA’s Government Relations Department facilitates the seminar for PVA chapters and representatives. The four-day seminar provides workshops on current legislative and advocacy issues, training in media/public relations, and opportunities to network with policymakers. 

The seminar also included PVA National President Bill Lawson testifying before the joint House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, and chapter representatives meeting with members of Congress to discuss PVA’s legislative priorities.

VA Funding

Although presentations for the seminar vary each year, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a recurring issue. This year wasn’t any different.

Discussion of the federal budget was included in numerous presentations in light of the current federal deficit. As the country faces a difficult and uncertain fiscal future, VA also has significant challenges ahead. 

PVA National Vice President Eduardo Oyola-Rivera (left) and Ben Ritter meet with Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

In an attempt to lower federal spending, VA faces a potential reduction in funding for healthcare services that would negatively impact its delivery of care to veterans. This is an issue of extreme importance not only for PVA but for all veterans.

When chapter representatives met with members of Congress and their staffs, they made it clear protecting VA from efforts to reduce federal spending is a legislative priority for PVA.

Cuts to Care?

Last year, Congress failed to agree on a bipartisan compromise to reduce the deficit and federal debt, and as a result, Public Law 112-25, a deficit reduction measure that calls for automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, could lead to a 2% reduction in spending for VA healthcare programs.

While PVA believes all VA programs are excluded from these automatic cuts by Public Law 111-139, the “Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010,” questions remain about whether VA healthcare spending could be included in broader discretionary spending reductions.

Seminar participants informed members of Congress this potential reduction in VA healthcare funding would be devastating to veterans and their families. They also urged Congress to support pending legislation that would ensure VA healthcare programs are protected from any efforts to reduce spending as a result of sequestration or other federal deficit and debt reduction methods. 

Travel Benefits

Another issue of priority for this year’s seminar was expanding VA’s beneficiary travel benefit to catastrophically disabled, nonservice-connected veterans seeking inpatient care at a special disabilities rehabilitation program of VA.

Currently, VA does not provide travel reimbursement for catastrophically disabled, nonservice-connected veterans. Too often, catastrophically disabled veterans choose not to travel to VA medical centers for care due to significant costs. When these veterans don’t receive the necessary care, the result is often the development of far worse health conditions and higher medical costs.  

Extending VA beneficiary travel benefits to these vets would eliminate the burden of transportation costs as a barrier. For this population of veterans, an inpatient visit would include hospitalizations or annual examinations that require overnight hospital visits. Ultimately, extending this benefit will lead to an increasing number of severely disabled veterans receiving quality comprehensive care.

More Topics

Besides federal sequestration and expanding VA beneficiary travel benefits, issues discussed during the week included the following:

- Reauthorization of funding for federal transportation programs

- Long-term care and home and community-based services

- Protection and improvement of the VA Veterans Benefits System

- The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the VA (CHAMPVA)

- The Inclusive Home Design Act

This year’s seminar included presentations from the U.S. Access Board; the Community Transportation Association of America; the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Center on Budget, Policy and Priorities; and House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs staff members.

In addition to the Government Relations staff providing seminar participants with detailed analysis and discussion of PVA’s legislative priorities and most prominent issues, presentations from PVA’s national staff also included the departments of Communications, Medical Services and Health Policy, Veteran Benefits, and Architecture.

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Money a Key Topic at PVA Seminar


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