Senate VA Bill S. 1950 Would Establish the Joint AOPA & NCOPE Priority of New Federal Education Program to Support Both New O&P Masters Programs and Expansion of Existing O&P Advanced Education Programs
We reported to you last week that AOPA, through the hard work of its lobbyist Catriona Macdonald of Linchpin Strategies, was successful in securing $10 million in new appropriated moneys for outcomes research in O&P as part of the Congressional appropriations package. At that point we also underscored our continued efforts to support educational advances for new O&P Masters programs, as well as increased funding for existing O&P programs (via S. 522).
Today, Catriona brings us further good news: Senate VA Committee Chairman Sanders is advancing legislation that, among other provisions, would, consistent with the priorities of a 3-year joint NCOPE and AOPA project, funded and staffed by AOPA, create competitive grants to institutions of higher education both for development of new O&P Masters programs, as well as expansion of existing O&P educational programs. (This is completely different from the $10 million in federal funding for O&P outcomes research enacted into law last week.) These new grants have been included as Section 322 of S.1950,, which is likely to be voted on quickly by the full Senate.
The O&P education provisions are included in the omnibus reauthorization legislation for VA programs. Section 322, which starts on page 63 (see excerpt below), gives the VA the authority to award up to $10 million in grants to institutions of higher learning to support the creation or expansion of programs of higher learning in prosthetics and orthotics.
Majority Leader Reid has designated this bill for a process that allows it to move straight to the Senate floor for a vote without being voted on in committee (most of the pieces that comprise this bill, including ours, have already been considered in committee). The leadership discussion now is how to pay for the bill, which is large and costly. However, it is expected to come up for a vote soon.
It is important to recognize that this bill is at this early stage. Once it is passed by the Senate, it must be reconciled with legislation in the House and signed into law. Then, the Appropriations Committee must provide the funding for the VA to distribute. We look forward to Congress completing its authorizing bill quickly, and to working with the Appropriations Committee to include funding in the legislation that takes effect on October 1 of this year.
But today’s good news is a major step forward. It is particularly important for the schools and all AOPA members to be contacting both their Senators and the Representatives from their state to convey support for this language – as well as additional details we would like to have added that were included in the original Durbin-Blumenthal bill. To establish an easy way for YOU to register your support for this potential second wave of federal funding for O&P, this time for education, AOPA is re-activating a mechanism that will permit AOPA members to go on our AOPA Votes website and generate letters to their legislators voicing support for enactment of this important provision.
Thanks again to Catriona, Senator Sanders, Senator Durbin, and all the AOPA folks who have worked with them to get us this far! Having our language included in this omnibus is a huge and important step forward, and a great way to start the new year.
Senate VA Omnibus S 1950
Advanced Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics Language
Section 322, starting on page 63
Subtitle B—Health Care
8 SEC. 322. EXPANSION OF AVAILABILITY OF PROSTHETIC
9 AND ORTHOTIC CARE FOR VETERANS.
10 (a) ESTABLISHMENT OR EXPANSION OF ADVANCED
11 DEGREE PROGRAMS TO EXPAND AVAILABILITY OF PRO
12 VISION OF CARE.—The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall
13 work with institutions of higher education to develop part
14 nerships for the establishment or expansion of programs
15 of advanced degrees in prosthetics and orthotics in order
16 to improve and enhance the availability of high quality
17 prosthetic and orthotic care for veterans.
18 (b) REPORT.—Not later than one year after the date
19 of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit
20 to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and
21 the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the House of Rep
22 resentatives a report setting forth a plan for carrying out
23 subsection (a). The Secretary shall develop the plan in
24 consultation with veterans service organizations, institu
25 tions of higher education with accredited degree programs
1 in prosthetics and orthotics, and representatives of the
2 prosthetics and orthotics field.
3 (c) FUNDING.—
4 (1) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.—
5 There is hereby authorized to be appropriated for
6 fiscal year 2015 for the Department of Veterans Af
7 fairs, $10,000,000 to carry out this section.
8 (2) AVAILABILITY.—The amount authorized to
9 be appropriated by paragraph (1) shall remain avail
10 able for expenditure until September 30, 2017.
Questions regarding this issue may be directed to Steve Custer at scuster@AOPAnet.org.
American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association
330 John Carlyle Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314