Two men in suits, identified by name plates as Robert Thomas and Carl Blake, sit at a conference table in a formal room. Both are focused, with others seated in the background, suggesting a professional or governmental setting.

Paralyzed Veterans of America National President Robert Thomas and CEO Carl Blake Issue Statement Following House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Hearing

Post Date: June 13, 2024
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 13, 2024) Paralyzed Veterans of America National President Robert Thomas and Chief Executive Officer Carl Blake released a joint statement following their testimony today before a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing entitled “A Call to Action: Meeting the Needs of the Spinal Cord Injury and Disorder Veteran Community.” Both testimonies were part of PVA’s annual Advocacy Legislation Seminar, which moved from March to June this year.

“The lives of veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases, like MS and ALS, depend on having access to VA-provided care through VA’s SCI/D system of care,” Thomas stated. “Without this care, I don’t know where I would be and many of my fellow veterans would say exactly the same if they were speaking with you today. That’s why we become very concerned when SCI/D centers have to close beds because they don’t have enough nurses to properly staff them. It’s why we become concerned when our members don’t have access to quality in patient mental health and substance use disorder treatment. It’s why we become concerned when our medical centers aren’t kept up to date with needed equipment and infrastructure enhancements. We need the care that’s available through the VA for our ongoing health and independence.”

While on Capitol Hill, both Thomas and Blake fiercely advocated for several key policy priorities as well as the importance of enabling and empowering our nation’s disabled veterans, their families, and caregivers. Thomas took a more personal approach, detailing the dire need to 1) preserve and strengthen VA’s specialty care systems due to the lack of comparable private options in the community; 2) improve availability of home and community-based services (HCBS); and 3) pass the Senator Elizabeth Dole 21st Century Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act. Meanwhile, Blake addressed the policy side of these issues, as well as highlighted current VA system deficiencies, like the 4) inexcusable VA staffing shortages; 5) lack of access to long-term care services across the country; and 6) outdated COVID-related restrictions. 

“Although the VA’s SCI/D system is critical for our veterans, we have been forced on more than one occasion to raise concerns to VA Central Office regarding degradations in the care veterans are receiving. Based on our site visits, member reports, and even concerns raised by center staff, we believe that the system sits on the precipice of significant decline. Two factors are adversely impacting its ability to properly care for veterans: insufficient funding and lack of sufficient staffing.”

Together, Thomas and Blake encouraged the committee to work together to address the needs of disabled veterans by passing vital legislation, such as the Senator Elizabeth Dole bill. They also reiterated PVA’s willingness to continue working collaboratively with legislators to enact meaningful policies that enhance the lives of those who have selflessly sacrificed for our nation.

To learn more about PVA’s 2024 policy priorities, send a letter to your member of Congress, and receive legislative alerts, join PVAction Force at PVA.org/PolicyPriorities. To view photos from today’s testimony and PVA’s 2024 Advocacy Legislative Seminar, visit Flickr.com/Photos/ParalyzedVeterans. 

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About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or diseases. The organization ensures veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitors their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funds research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, PVA also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces, and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families, and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at PVA.org.