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Witness Testimony of Kirk M. Bauer, J.D., USA (Ret.), Executive Director, Disabled Sports USA

Executive Summary

The VA funded Paralympic Sports has provided unparalleled opportunities for Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA), working in partnership with US Paralympics, to provide health enhancing sports and physical activity programs for severely wounded service members, all at no cost to the disabled veteran. Just this past year, it has enabled Disabled Sports USA to identify and serve over 1000 severely wounded, including those with single and multiple amputations, paralysis, visual impairments and traumatic brain injury. Many of these are suffering some degree of Post Traumatic Stress and have found that participation in sports helps them to deal with PTSD more positively.

The funding provided by the VA program has enabled DSUSA to “leverage” its resources, drawing upon the community chapters’ commitments of local resources, and encouraging corporate and individual donations to supplement the VA funding. Over $3 of funds were raised by Disabled Sports USA in the private sector, to every dollar provided by the VA grant funding.

In the fiscal year October 1 to September 30, 2011, Disabled Sports USA has provided over 130 teaching and competition programs in over 20 sports, for over 1000 disabled veterans nationwide. This has included instruction and advanced courses in the winter sports of alpine and Nordic Skiing, snowboarding, Biathlon and sled hockey.

It has also included adaptive cycling, running and wheeling, equestrian, golfing, shooting, archery, sailing, kayaking, rowing, outrigger canoeing, swimming, scuba, fishing, water skiing, river rafting, climbing, hiking and other sports.

One veteran with TBI, who is now training to become a Paralympic Ski Racer, reported that he was able to reduce his medications from 15 per day to 3 per day because of his commitment to training and becoming physically fit.

Another, a National Guard Non Commissioned Officer with TBI, learned to ski and now has committed to become a certified Adaptive Ski Instructor to help a local New York Chapter of DSUSA. He has also become involved in helping to staff youth camps conducted by the chapter, for children with disabilities. He reported at one camp this summer that he became so involved in helping the kids; he forgot his “alive day”, which had always caused him to become depressed and despondent as he dealt with PTSD. His therapists remarked that this was a major breakthrough for the veteran.

These programs have produced positive outcomes for hundreds of disabled veterans who are struggling with readjustment to their new physical and mental challenges.

Testimony

The VA funded Paralympic Sports has provided unparalleled opportunities for Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA), working in partnership with US Paralympics, to provide health enhancing sports and physical activity programs for severely wounded service members, all at no cost to the disabled veteran. Just this past year, it has enabled Disabled Sports USA to identify and serve over 1000 severely wounded, including those with single and multiple amputations, paralysis, visual impairments and traumatic brain injury. Many of these are suffering some degree of Post Traumatic Stress and have found that participation in sports helps them to deal with PTSD more positively.

It also has provided the opportunity for DSUSA to develop partnerships with 63 community based DSUSA chapters and Paralympic Sports Clubs in 32 states; to help implement health enhancing sports programs at the community level. The funding provided by the VA program has enabled DSUSA to “leverage” its resources, drawing upon the community chapters’ commitments of local resources, and encouraging corporate and individual donations to supplement the VA funding. Over $3 of funds were raised by Disabled Sports USA in the private sector, to every dollar provided by the VA grant funding.

Our chapters were so impressed with the programs provided through US Paralympics, that 39 of our 104 chapters have now become Paralympic Sports Clubs; spreading the excitement of Paralympic Sport and the benefits of physical activity for successful rehabilitation and reintegration back to an active, social life. Finally, VA funding has enabled DSUSA to leverage its private sector funding to provide additional sports services that increase health and wellness and provide increased opportunities for participation in Paralympic sport training and competition programs.

In the fiscal year October 1 to September 30, 2011, Disabled Sports USA has provided over 130 teaching and competition programs in over 20 sports, for over 1000 disabled veterans nationwide. This has included instruction and advanced courses in the winter sports of alpine and Nordic Skiing, snowboarding, Biathlon and sled hockey.

It has also included adaptive cycling, running and wheeling, equestrian, golfing, shooting, archery, sailing, kayaking, rowing, outrigger canoeing, swimming, scuba, fishing, water skiing, river rafting, climbing, hiking and other sports.

Through the VA Paralympic program, as well as private sector funding, DSUSA was able to expand training and racing opportunities in winter sports to disabled veterans, providing increased opportunities to achieve excellence in sports and train for possible Paralympic participation. This included 8 ski race (intermediate-advanced) training camps; 11 multi-level ski and snowboard training camps (beginner-intermediate); 11 ongoing, community programs (offering multiple participation opportunities, season long); grants to veterans pursuing adaptive instructor certification; and four regional “NorAm” elite races which included Paralympic level competitors from Europe, Australia and Canada.

Because of the partnership with US Paralympics and the VA, DSUSA is now working with more than 30 local VA Medical Centers on identification, outreach and recruitment of disabled veterans to its physical activity and sports programs. See appendix B for list of facilities.

DSUSA is also working with more than 17 Military Medical Centers and Warrior Transition Units at major military bases on identification, outreach and recruitment of severely wounded warriors to its physical activity and sports programs. See appendix B for list of facilities.

These programs have produced positive outcomes for hundreds of disabled veterans who are struggling with readjustment to their new physical and mental challenges. One veteran with TBI, who is now training to become a Paralympic Ski Racer, reported that he was able to reduce his medications from 15 per day to 3 per day because of his commitment to training and becoming physically fit.

Another, a National Guard Non Commissioned Officer with TBI, learned to ski and now has committed to become a certified Adaptive Ski Instructor to help a local New York Chapter of DSUSA. He has also become involved in helping to staff youth camps conducted by the chapter, for children with disabilities. He reported at one camp this summer that he became so involved in helping the kids; he forgot his “alive day”, which had always caused him to become depressed and despondent as he dealt with PTSD. His therapists remarked that this was a major breakthrough for the veteran.

Another Chicago based disabled veteran, an Air Force Senior Airman demolition expert  was seriously injured when an IED in Iraq he was attempting to diffuse exploded. He lost his arm, and had the skin on his legs literally blown off so he had to be treated like a burn victim and suffered extensive muscle and bone damage. He became involved in the golf, scuba and skiing programs offered by DSUSA and has now become a single digit handicapped golfer. Just this last month, in August, he was offered a job with one of DSUSA’s sponsors, AON, to help with their crisis management program for US corporations located in foreign lands.

An Army Captain with TBI from an IED just finished competing in the Hood to Coast Relay, a 12 man team that runs 197 miles from the top of Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast. DSUSA entered the only wounded warrior team in the race which involved over 1,200 teams with nearly 15,000 runners. That veteran, who was encourage by DSUSA Chapter Team River Runner, to become involved in kayaking in the hospital; is now teaching kayaking and helping DSUSA start a new chapter in Portland, Oregon.

DSUSA is now surveying veterans participating in the Paralympic Sport programs offered through the VA funding. Initial survey results are showing that the veterans are now more active, committed to a healthier lifestyle and coping with their disabilities better, because of their involvement in sports and physical activity.

Finally, because DSUSA is able to promote the VA sponsored Paralympic Sports Program on its website, in its national magazine Challenge, and with its network of 104 chapters operating in 38 states; thousands of readers and supporters are becoming aware of the Paralympic Sports Program and of its positive, health enhancing benefits to disabled veterans.  Disabled Sports USA has provided several veteran success stories for use on the new VA Paralympic website.

In addition, because of agreements with participating DSUSA chapters to market the program, more veterans are learning about the benefits of sports and physical activity through local chapter outreach efforts.

In summary, the VA funded Paralympic Sport Program for disabled veterans has been an outstanding success to date. More disabled veterans are getting involved in the sports programs from entry level to elite Paralympic levels. They are benefiting through increased physical activity and are reporting that they are fitter, more active and better adjusted to civilian life because of the sports opportunities provided to them.

With the newly injured returning from Afghanistan, the need for these programs is more urgent than ever before. Because the troops are being forced to dismount their armored vehicles in the highlands of Afghanistan, the military is reporting an alarming increase in the number of single and multiple amputees getting injured by IEDs, mortars and gunfire while dismounted.

DSUSA staff has been witnessing first hand this resurgence for several months; and now USA Today is reporting a doubling of the amputee injured from recent previous years and a tripling of the number returning with multiple amputations. These deserving wounded warriors will need our help as they separate from the military and become disabled veterans. With the help of the VA, DSUSA will continue to be there for them.


Appendix A

Testimonials

“I had the time of my life and learned something I thought I would not learn very easy. I am looking forward to participating in more upcoming events. My wife Amanda loved the trip also and was happy to make new friends with spouses that deal with the same issues as herself with me. You all have helped me cope even better with my disabilities and raise my self-esteem.”

Army SSGT Olan W. Aldrich
Wounded Warrior, Traumatic Brain Injury

 “You get injured like this, you tell yourself you’ll be OK, but deep inside you know there are limits. But doing something like this, you realize there aren’t as many as you think, if you put your mind to it.”

Marine LCPL Ufrano Rios Jimenez
Wounded Warrior, Leg amputee

 “I wanted to touch base with you to thank you for an awesome opportunity with The Hartford Ski Spectacular. I personally was mesmerized by the organization and the overwhelming support provided to me and my patients. My patients were glowing by the time they returned to FL. Laurie and Jimmy progressed to higher functioning adaptive ski equipment. Dustin was “stoked” that he can ski again, as he was a snowboarder prior to his injury. Please let everyone know that we greatly appreciated this program and it was an honor to have been a part of such a wonderful program.”

Tammi Pasquel, Certified Therapeutic
Recreation Specialist & Brain Injury Specialist
Tampa VA

“Pushing myself to the limits, knowing that I can accomplish anything regardless of my injuries is what the ski weekend represents. I’ve done a lot of things that I never did when I was healthy and definitely didn’t think I could do when I got injured.”

Army SPC Mike Green
Wounded Warrior, Above Elbow Amputee

“We all found ways to grow and push ourselves on the Grand Canyon. It gave us a look inside ourselves and gave us all the courage to say - as my friends at Disabled Sports USA say “if I can do this, I can do anything”. You have started a new adventure and nothing, not a stroke, not the loss of a limb, not the loss of sight, nor PTSD or TBI will stop you from enjoying life.”

 Army CAPT Chip Sell
Wounded Warrior, Traumatic Brain Injury

“I have observed firsthand how Disabled Sports USA’s Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project offers safe, reliable and effective programs for the severely wounded service members who undergo treatment here. Your programming is always top-notch and provides high quality adaptive instruction. Participation in recreation and sports has been a key element in the successful rehabilitation of our population.”

Rebecca Hooper, PhD Program Manager
Center for the Intrepid

To All The People That Believe In Me.

I want to thank all these programs for helping me lose weight. I used to weigh 275 lbs and now I'm down to 245 lbs. and going down.  All because I have been given a chance to be active as a disabled person. Wounded Warrior Project, DSUSA, AbilityPLUS, Central Jersey Rifle & Pistol Club, New Jersey Quail Project, Bart J Ruggiere Adaptive Sports Center, Challenge Aspen, New England Disabled Sports, Wheelers for the Wounded, Adaptive Sports Foundation. I want to give a very special thank you to all the volunteer and supporters without you we wouldn't have  these program. God Bless You All.

 Army SSG. Heriberto Vidró
Wounded Warrior, Traumatic Brain Injury


Appendix B 

List of VA Medical Centers

Tampa (FL) Saginaw (MI) San Diego (CA)
Palo Alto (CA) Johnstown (PA) Jewell VA Outpatient Rehabilitation Center (CO)
Richmond (VA) Missouri (MO) Stratton (NY)
Washington (DC) Hines (IL) Salt Lake (UT)
Northport (NY) Boston (MA) Johnson City (TN)
Los Angeles (CA) Martinsburg (VA) Asheville (NC)
Seattle (WA) Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center (CT) Phoenix (AZ)
Albany (NY) Puget Sound Healthcare System (WA) Tucson (AZ)
Syracuse (NY) America Lake (WA) Prescott (AZ)
Western (NY) Togus (ME) Cheyenne (CO)
Hampton (VA) Clement J Zeblocki (WI) Baltimore (MD)

 List of Warrior Transition Units and Military Medical Centers

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (MD) Fort Belvoir (VA) Fort Drum (NY)
Naval Medical Center San Diego (CA) Fort Sam (TX) 29 Palms (CA)
Brooke Army Medical Center (TX) Walter Reed (DC) US Marine Corp Wounded Warrior Battalion East (Lejeune NC)
Fort Carson (CO) Fort Eustis (VA) US Marine Corp Wounded Warrior Battalion West (Pendleton CA)
Fort Bragg (NC) Fort Lewis (WA) US Marine Corp Wounded Warrior Battalion HQ (Quantico VA)
Fort Meade (VA) Fort Campbell (KY) Wounded Warrior Detachment (HI)

Appendix C

List of participating (partner) organizations (*denotes DSUSA chapter and Paralympic Sports Club)

Ability Plus*
Adaptive Action Sports
Adaptive Adventures*
Adaptive Sports Center, Crested Butte*
Adaptive Sports Foundation*
Arizona Disabled Sports*
Bart J. Ruggiere Adaptive Sports Center*
Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports
Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center*
Bridge II Sports*
Cape Ability Outrigger Ohana, Inc.*
Challenge Alaska*
Challenge Aspen*
Challenged Athletes of West Virginia
Colorado Discover Ability
Common Ground Outdoor Adventures
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra*
Disabled Sports USA Far West*
Eagle Mount Bozeman
Friends of Stowe
Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association*
Greek Peak Adaptive Snowsports
Lakeshore Foundation*
Leaps of Faith Disabled Water Skiers
Maine Handicapped Skiing*
National Ability Center*
National Sports Center for the Disabled*
New England Disabled Sports*
New England Handicapped sports Association*
Northeast Passage*
Operation Comfort
Oregon Adaptive Sports
Outdoors For All*
San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation*
SouthEastern Wisconsin Adaptive Ski Program
Sports Association, Gaylord Hospital
Sports, Arts, and Recreation of Chattanooga
STRIDE Adaptive Sports*
SUDS Diving, Inc.
Sun Valley Adaptive Sports Program Inc
Team River Runner
Telluride Adaptive Sports Program*
Teton Adaptive Sports
The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition
Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation
U.S. Handcycling
UCO Sports & Recreation*
United States Adaptive Recreation Center
Wheelchair Sports Inc.
Wintergreen Adaptive Sports