By Alex Bennewith, Vice President of Government Relations for United Spinal Association
It’s that time of year again! This June 26-29, we will celebrate our fifth year of Roll on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. At the time of printing, we already know that members and advocates from 28 states plus the District of Columbia will be joining us this year, and I know there will be more states represented by the time June comes around.
We’ll kick things off with a welcoming and networking reception Sunday night and then dive right into a full day of speaker presentations and issue education on Monday. Advocates will be ready to spend all day Tuesday on Capitol Hill meeting with their legislators and making sure that our voices are heard on issues that matter to us. We’ll take care of scheduling the meetings and leave the fun part, the actual meetings, to you.
The day of legislative meetings will be capped off with an entertaining awards reception on Capitol Hill where we thank you, as well as our congressional champions, for all the support and leadership over the past year. This year, notably missing will be Finn Bullers, a strong advocate and friend to United Spinal. Finn was United Spinal’s inaugural Consumer Advocacy Award recipient in 2014 for his outstanding and persistent advocacy at the federal level and in his home state of Kansas on home and community services and complex rehab technology. Finn passed away too early at the age of 52 at the end of January. To honor his memory, United Spinal is renaming United Spinal’s Advocate of the Year Award the Finn Bullers Advocate of the Year Award.
The issues we will be focusing on at this year’s ROCH include ensuring access to the right medical equipment, prescription drugs, and medical supplies; safeguarding the provision of home and community-based services and supports so that individuals can live and participate in their communities; providing standards for vehicle modifications to guarantee safety and quality; expanding the pool of veterans entitled to home modification grants and tax credits; and ensuring that policymakers understand what SCI/D is.
If you know about these issues, great! If not, don’t worry. We will cover them extensively in our Monday sessions so you feel well-prepared for Tuesday’s meetings. Here are a few of the specific policies we will focus on:
We are advocating for improved access to complex rehab technology. There are a number of bills on this issue, including Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act, H.R. 1516/S. 1013 and H.R. 3229, S. 2425.
We are opposing the expansion of a government program, called competitive bidding, to urologic, ostomy and prosthetic supplies as proposed in the president’s FY2017 budget. The program has the impact of restricting access to physician-prescribed products and services.
Regarding community supports and services, the Disability Integration Act, S. 2427, states that individuals with disabilities have the right to receive supports and services in their communities as opposed to in institutions.
In the rehabilitation and medical research area, we will advocate for Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the National Institutes of Health Act, S. 800/HR 1631, which streamlines and expands rehabilitation and disability research at the National Institutes of Health. With the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act, S. 849/H.R. 292, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is required to monitor and track neurologic diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases, and the National Institutes of Health is required to facilitate further research on neurological diseases. Both CDC and NIH include SCI/D in their categorization of neurologic diseases and disorders.
The VetsFirst program will be advocating on the following: The Veterans Mobility Safety Act, H.R. 3971, establishing minimum standards of safety and quality for adaptive equipment at the VA; The Housing Assistance for Veterans Act/HAVEN Act, H.R. 385, support of funding of home modifications and adaptations for all categories of disabled veterans; Veterans Homebuyer Accessibility Act of 2015, H.R. 3975, advocating for funding, grants and tax credits for veteran homebuyers.
For those of you wanting to know more about all of the bills we will be addressing at Roll on Capitol Hill, visit United Spinal’s Roll on Capitol Hill page at www.unitedspinal.org/events/roll-on-capitol-hill/.