blinded veterans while New York provides them to veterans both service-connected and nonservice-connected.
Veterans on VA pensions are affected by how the states regard this annuity. For well over a decade, various attempts to legislatively change this classification have failed. Much to our surprise, VA testified in favor of the bill on October 8 during a hearing in which we also presented prepared testimony. The Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Benefits and Memorial Affairs under which this legislation falls is Representative John Hall (D-NY-19), who also co-sponsored the bill.
We had hoped this bill would move quickly. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office cost estimate requires the Committee to find an offset to pay for it before a full Committee vote can occur. In the meantime, blinded veterans in New York may want to ask their members of Congress if they are aware of H.R. 3485.
We continue to receive a surprising number of requests to present oral and written testimony before the House VA Committee and many of its Subcommittees.
Following our October 8 testimony, we were asked to address our positions on a series of bills, one of which was the previously mentioned Veterans Pension Protection Act. On November 19, we submitted a statement and commented “on the record” regarding Special Adaptive Housing Grant programs. In addition to our oral testimony, our written statement was quoted extensively by Chairman Filner’s Committee staff in a follow-up press release.
We were originally scheduled to testify a second time on the same day, November 19, this time before the Subcommittee on Health. The subject of the hearing was to be Contracted Care. Unfortunately, on short notice, the hearing was postponed until a later date.
Even with the temporary cancellation, BVA has now presented testimony six times this year and submitted for the record twice. These opportunities serve to raise our stature before Congress and increase our credibility among fellow VSOs. Through this greater visibility, we hope to appear capable of providing well-researched information on a wide range of legislation regarding quality of life, disability, “seamless transition,” and general health care issues.
These testimony opportunities and their subsequent rewards are well worth the increased workload involved in preparing for them.
Seamless Transition and
Vision Center of Excellence
BVA continues to seek improvements in the seamless transition process for all combat eye-wounded returning from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the most effective means for implementing these improvements will be the ongoing progress of the Vision Center of Excellence (VCE).
After prolonged delays, VCE Director Colonel Donald Gagliano has now been provided with six offices near the Pentagon. He has three administrative staff members helping to develop the operational aspects of the Center. During meetings in which we recently participated at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, we learned of construction plans for VCE headquarters within that facility. The current floor plan is for 3,482 square feet of administrative space next to a new 18,000 square-foot optometry clinic and across from a new eye surgery center.
Even with the progress, we feel compelled to continue pressing both Department of Defense (DoD) and VA leadership to move forward. The projected completion date for all three phases of