U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Begich (D-AK) today introduced legislation to extend the authorization for the U.S. Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program through 2018.
The U.S. Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program partners with local organizations to develop programs and skills that meet the needs of our wounded warriors. Current authorization for the program expires in 2013.
"Physical activity offers injured members of the Armed Forces and veterans additional opportunities for rehabilitation for both physical and mental health. Using the expertise of the United States Olympic Committee to work with local programs is a great tool to helping to help our veterans improve their quality of life. The impressive record of accomplishment of the U.S. Paralympic Integrated Adaptive Sports Program shows that this is a worthwhile program that provides great benefits," Boozman said.
"The U.S. Paralympic program is an excellent way for our returning service members to rehabilitate, compete and excel," said Begich. "This program is just as important and relevant for today's veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as it was decades ago for soldiers returning from WWII. Funding for this important program should not be interrupted."
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Mark Takano (D-CA) are the cosponsors of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives.
"The Veterans Paralympics Act will ensure that disabled veterans in local communities throughout the country continue to have opportunities for rehabilitation, stress relief and higher achievement through adaptive sports. This legislation is about more than simply giving veterans a chance to play sports, it's about giving them the chance to regain a small part of what they sacrificed on the battlefield," said Coffman. "The introduction of a companion bill in the Senate is an important step towards ensuring the funding for this program is protected."
"I'm proud to be an original cosponsor of the House bill to reauthorize the U.S. Paralympic Military Program through 2018. Since its inception, over 14,000 veterans have benefited from the sporting opportunities offered by the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events. These year-round sporting activities have been shown to advance the rehabilitation of our veterans, whose sacrifice is immeasurable. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to join me in aiding our heroes by supporting this reauthorization," Takano said.
As a result of this legislation, the program has reached more than 5,000 participants in more than 150 communities in 46 states and has successfully collaborated with 85 VA Medical Centers in 39 states to provide adaptive sports programs to veterans in their local communities through outreach programs, training, practices, camps, clinics, and competitions.
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is uniquely qualified to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase interest and access to wounded warriors in Paralympic sports programs for veterans and injured servicemembers. There are now 57 veteran athletes who are developing into U.S. National Team prospects, and 45 veterans who have already qualified for the U.S. National Team. 17 disabled veteran athletes and three active duty service members qualified and competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. Those athletes helped earn the U.S. 12 medals.