On Thursday, the House Veterans' Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee, led by Chairwoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), conducted a hearing to evaluate how the U.S. Paralympic Military Program assists service members and veterans in healing from the wounds of war.
The Paralympic Military Program provides post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to American service members and veterans who have sustained physical injuries. The service members and veterans are introduced to adaptive sport techniques and opportunities through clinics and camps and are also connected with ongoing paralympic sports programs in their hometowns. Mentors play a significant role for paralympic athletes, as they connect with athletes who share similar experiences and have overcome their own physical disabilities to achieve excellence.
"Those who serve on behalf of our country pay a heavy price as they sacrifice for our freedom," said Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin. "We owe it to our injured service members and veterans to provide the best training, equipment and rehabilitative therapy to help them live a healthy and active lifestyle in their civilian life."
The U.S. Paralympic Military Program is run by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). Twice a year, the U.S. Paralympics hosts Military Sports Camps, which are multi-day events for veterans with physical disabilities. During each camp, participants attend sports clinics conducted by paralympic athletes and coaches and participate in light competition.
U.S. Paralympics is leading the development of new paralympic sport programs in 250 American cities by 2012. With 21 million physically disabled Americans, including more than 28,000 military personnel who've been injured during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is an important community need. Research shows that people who participate in daily physical activity experience enhanced self-esteem and improved peer relationships, which correlate to increased achievement, overall better health and a higher quality of life.
Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, recently introduced H.R. 4255, the United States Olympic Committee Paralympic Program Act of 2007. This bill authorizes the VA to provide grants to the USOC to plan and implement a Paralympic Program for veterans and members of the Armed Services. Collaboration with the VA is critical for USOC to meet the growing need for serving men and women injured while serving their country.
"Sports for the physically disabled has origins in World War II when the paralympic movement offered sports as rehabilitation for injured veterans," said Chairman Filner. "The purpose of the program in my bill is to enhance the rehabilitation and quality of life of current severely injured service members and veterans and to reduce the chance of secondary medical conditions. To date, more than 1,200 injured veterans have been introduced to paralympic sports as a result of these training programs, but much more needs to be done in order to continue to provide this dynamic rehabilitative environment."
-Andy Krieger, Director of Sports and Recreation, Paralyzed Veterans of America
-Adrian Atizado, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
-Jose Ramos, Veteran, El Paso, Texas
-Julia Ray, Manager, Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, Disabled Sports USA
-Charles Huebner, Chief of U.S. Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee
-Dan D. Scott, MD, Physical and Rehabilitation Service, Denver VA Medical Center, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Prepared testimony for the hearing and an audio recording of the hearing is available on the internet at this link: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=212.