Opening Statement of Hon. Bob Filner, Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs
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 our call to duty and their families who have joined in the military experience.
For many service members and veterans who have been severely-injured from service to our country, their rehabilitation can be a disheartening experience. Many become concerned about having the same quality of life that they had prior to their injuries.
This was known to be true in World War II, and has held true today in the midst of our nation's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fortunately, this Congress stands united in support of our members of the Armed Forces and veterans who deserve the best resources to succeed in life after their military service.
Some of my colleagues may be aware of the history of how paralympic sports have been used in the physical therapy of injured service members and veterans, and how it has evolved over the years since World War II.
As some of our panelists will testify today, the issue of paralympic sports being used as a method of physical therapy is not new to them with many sharing strong partnerships with the VA that span more than 20 years to provide rehabilitation services to our injured men and women who have worn the uniform.
In the last Congress, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity under the leadership of Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin and Ranking Member Boozman, held a series of hearings on the future role of the VA in paralympic sports.
In those hearings they received testimony highlighting the need to: conduct program outreach to veterans; conduct follow-ups with veterans after a flagship event such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games; and, the need to implement programs to appeal to veterans seeking to participate in non-traditional activities such as scuba diving.
Today, we will provide the needed oversight on the VA's Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events that we first authorized in Public Law 110-389 on October 10, 2008. This law authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make grants to the U.S. Olympic Committee to provide: paralympic instruction, competition activities, and, training program development activities for service members and veterans with physical disabilities.
Many of you may know that earlier this month I offered an amendment to the VA appropriations bill, with the support of Ranking Member Buyer, which ensures that this valuable program is fully funded and capable of providing the support and programs that our veteran athletes require.
As some of my colleagues in the Committee have highlighted in the past, it is important to understand the history of this new program so that we may avoid the same pitfalls that have been encountered by similar programs.
I look forward to working with Ranking Member Buyer, Chairwoman Herseth Sandlin, Ranking Member Boozman and all the Members of the Committee to ensure this new program succeeds in its mission to provide rehabilitative sports therapy to our injured service members and our veterans. They definitely deserve it.