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NAEVR Works with Blinded Veterans Association To Seek Congressional Support for FY2011 Peer Reviewed Medical Research-Vision Funding
at $10 Million

Legislative Update
March 4, 2010

BVA’s Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. (left) and National President Roy Kekahuna, Ph.D. (right) with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
BVA’s Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. (left) and National President Roy Kekahuna, Ph.D. (right) with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
NAEVR member organization Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) used its significant presence on Capitol Hill the week of March 1 to support Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Peer Reviewed Medical Research-Vision (PRMR-Vision) funding at $10 million as one of its top priorities in the current appropriations process.

On March 2, BVA President Roy Kekahuna, Ph.D. presented the organization’s National Legislative Recognition Award to three Members of Congress, including Cong. John Boozman, O.D., (R-AR), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Senator Bernie Saunders (I-VT), each of whom sits on their respective chamber’s Committee on Veterans Affairs. The award recognizes each recipient’s support for healthcare and benefits legislation affecting blinded veterans.

Dr. Kekahuna was accompanied by BVA’s National Vice President Sam Huhn, National Treasurer Steven Beres, Ph.D., and Director of Government Relations Tom Zampieri, Ph.D. NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky joined the meeting with Sen. Brown, as NAEVR and BVA are working with his staff to generate a "Dear Colleague" letter to Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI, who also serves as Appropriations Committee Chair) in support of PRMR-Vision at $10 million in FY2011 defense appropriations.

In presenting the award to Sen. Brown, Dr, Kekahuna commented that, "he has sponsored a bill that provides scholarships for future VA Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialists, which will allow more blinded veterans to receive the services and rehabilitation training for which they are eligible." Sen. Brown also made a statement on January 26 on the Senate floor regarding the importance of non-military vision rehabilitation and the need to have coverage of the professionals who provide these specialized services. His remarks pushed for vision rehabilitation’s inclusion in health plans created by the new health exchange proposed in healthcare reform legislation. NAEVR member organization Lighthouse International, along with a nationwide coalition, has been advocating for Medicare coverage of vision rehabilitation specialists.

On March 4, Dr. Kekahuna joined representatives of several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) in testifying before a joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, at which the VSOs set forth their legislative requests in FY2011 funding. Dr. Kekahuna highlighted PRMR-Vision funding at $10 million as one of BVA’s top priorities. BVA has been instrumental in getting seven VSOs to support this request in letters to House and Senate leaders, as well as having it included in The Independent Budget, an annual set of recommendations to Congress regarding veterans’ needs.

NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right), who is originally from Ohio, with Senator Brown
NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky (right), who is originally from Ohio, with Senator Brown
The panel of VSO representatives at the March 4 joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, which included BVA’s Dr. Kekahuna
The panel of VSO representatives at the March 4 joint session of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans Affairs, which included BVA’s Dr. Kekahuna