Good morning. This Committee's first responsibility to our veterans is enable those injured in military service have the broadest opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and that is what today's oversight hearing is all about.
While I was not a member of the 110th Congress, one of the legislative bright spots was the provision in Public Law 110-389 that established the VA-US Paralympics Adaptive Sports Program, an initiative to expand the use of sports as part of a veteran's rehabilitation program.
To do that, the law authorizes $8 million per year to fund veteran adaptive sports programs from the local level through elite levels of competition. The law limits use of the funds to disabled veterans and service members and includes a provision to pay a per diem to those selected to participate in high-level adaptive sports competitions.
There was a good reason to direct VA to partner with US Paralympics and that was to use the cache of the Olympic brand and it ability to attract local and national organizations. Just as important, we saw how the Olympic brand would attract disabled veterans to adaptive sports.
Given what we will hear today, that strategy has worked very well. It appears that thousands more disabled veterans are now involved in adaptive sports and at the elite levels, our national Paralympic and adaptive sports teams now include many more disabled veterans. It seems the program is also fostering further cooperation between adaptive sports clubs and programs at the local and national level.
While the Paralympics has yet to draw the viewership like the Olympics, I believe the next steps would be to expand media coverage and I would ask Mr. Huebner to include their media plans in his remarks.
In short, I believe the VA-US Paralympics program is the right thing at the right time and this why I have introduced H.R. 2345, which extends this program through 2018. I am happy that we were able to favorably report H.R. 2345 to the Full Committee in July, and I look forward to its consideration at the Full Committee.
Before I recognize the Ranking Member, I believe it is important to mention the role of recreational therapy as part of rehabilitation. When Staff visited a Midwestern VA medical center and asked the Director about the hospital's rec therapy program, the reply was, "We don't have Bingo here." I find that myopic view of a well-documented rehabilitation resource incredible and I intend to speak with Chairwoman Buerkle about taking a look at VA's national recreational therapy program -- or lack of a program. If nothing else, it should be a major source of participants for the VA-Paralympic program.
I now recognize to the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Braley for his opening remarks.