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Submission For The Record of Thomas Guth, C.P., National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics, President

National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics
Washington, DC.
September 24, 2010

The Honorable Bob Filner
Chairman
House Veterans Affairs Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Michael Michaud
Chairman
House VA Health Subcommittee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

RE: Testimony for the Written Record: Strong Support for H.R. 5428, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights

Dear Chairman Filner and Chairman Michaud:

The National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (“NAAOP”) strongly supports H.R. 5428, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights. We thank you for your leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with you to enact this key legislation this year for all veterans with amputations and other orthopedic injuries who require orthotic and prosthetic (“O&P”) care.

As servicemembers return from the conflicts of the past decade with amputations and musculoskeletal and neuromuscular injuries, they are joining many other veterans who receive services from the Veteran’s Administration (“VA”) healthcare system who require artificial limbs and orthopedic braces. In order to ameliorate the impact of these potentially debilitating injuries and to ensure consistent access to O&P patient care, the VA should establish a written set of standards that outline the expectations that all veterans should have with respect to their prosthetic and orthotic needs.

The Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, H.R. 5428, accomplishes this by proposing the establishment of a written “Bill of Rights” for recipients of VA healthcare who require orthotic and prosthetic care. This Bill of Rights will help inform and ensure that veterans across the country have comparable access to the highest quality O&P care regardless of their geographic location. It will ensure that veterans know they are entitled to the most appropriate O&P technology provided by a skilled practitioner of their choosing (whether or not that practitioner has a formal contract with the VA). They will know they have the right to a second opinion with respect to treatment decisions and to continuity of care when being transferred from the Department of Defense health program to the VA health system, as well as other rights and protections.

Overall, the VA has provided quality orthotic and prosthetic care to veterans over the years, whether or not their underlying impairment has been service-connected. But there are many areas where inconsistencies across the country are apparent and require improvement. As the national focus on those injured by war begins to wane in the coming years, we are concerned that these inconsistencies will intensify across the country. That is why enactment of this legislation in the 111th Congress is so important.

Your bill proposes a straightforward mechanism for “enforcement” of this “Bill of Rights,” an explicit requirement that every O&P clinic and

rehabilitation department in every VA facility throughout the country be required to prominently display this Bill of Rights. The VA website is also required to post the Bill of Rights. In this manner, veterans with amputations and other injuries across the country will be able to read and understand what they can expect from the VA healthcare system. And if a veteran is not having their orthotic or prosthetic needs met, they will be able to avail themselves of their rights and work through the VA system to access the care they require.

The Bill of Rights would help educate injured and amputee veterans of their rights with respect to O&P care, and would allow them an avenue to report violations of that set of standards to the VA central office. In this manner, Congress would have easy access to the level of compliance with this Bill of Rights across the country and could target particular regions of the country where problems persist.

Again, we thank you for your leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with you to enact this legislation by the end of the 111th Congress.

Sincerely,

Thomas Guth, C.P.
President