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Opening Statement of Hon. Bruce L. Braley, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity

Since the early years of our country, Congress has had to reassess programs created to care for our men and women in uniform, our veterans who have courageously answered the call to duty, and their families who have shared in the military experience. 

Fortunately, this Congress stands united in support of our members of the Armed Forces and veterans who deserve the best resources we can muster to help them succeed in life after their military service.  Paralympics sports have been used as a method of adaptive sports therapy since World War II. Paralympics continue to provide rehabilitation services to our disabled service members who continue to use them successfully and these services have proven to be popular.

Today’s hearing will give the Subcommittee the opportunity to hear from the U.S. Olympic Committee how the Paralympics program, first authorized under Public Law 110-389 on October 10, 2008, has assisted our service members and veterans to heal from the wounds of war.  The price of war is not paid by money alone; service member that are called upon to serve on behalf of our country pay the ultimate price.  This is especially true for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice of life and injury sustained while in service.

I am pleased to welcome Mike Boone, the Director of Adaptive Sports Iowa, who is here to testify today. In March, his organization hosted a forum that brought people together interested in increasing opportunities for persons with physical and visual disabilities to be active in daily physical activity programs. Guests at this form included the National Guard and the VA Hospital. Although I was unable to attend, my staff was there at the forum. My staff has provided great feedback on the work Adaptive Sports Iowa is doing and how it positively impacts physically disabled athletes.

I also recently had the opportunity to meet with Andy Yohe from Bettendorf, Iowa. He is a member of the Team USA sled hockey team, who in 2006 helped his team win a bronze medal at the Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Then he helped the U.S. capture the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.  He was accompanied in the meeting by U.S. Olympic gymnast and fellow Iowan Shawn Johnson, who has been a tremendous advocate on behalf of the Paralympics.  Shawn earned a gold medal and three silver medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

We have an obligation to our service members to provide them the best training and equipment to ensure that they rehabilitate successfully, as well as to provide post-military services to help them live a healthy and active lifestyle in their civilian lives.

Many of my colleagues would agree that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides world class care to our injured service members and veterans.  Knowing this, I would like to hear about the VA and USOC Memorandum of Understanding and its implementation.  I am very interested to see if there have been any issues of concern in the partnership process. Additionally, I would like to hear about program outreach to veterans, and outreach to other veteran organizations that may help coordinate important events such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

I look forward to continue working with Chairman Stutzman and Members of this Subcommittee to ensure that this program continues to be successful in its mission to provide rehabilitative sports therapy to our injured service members and our veterans.