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RE: Choice in Rehabilitation for Veterans

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RE: Choice in Rehabilitation for Veterans

WHEREAS, the conflict in Iraq reminds all Americans of the sacrifices that members of the American armed services make in defense of the freedoms we often take for granted; and

WHEREAS, among these sacrifices is a heightened risk of loss of life or serious injury that may include blindness; and

WHEREAS, veterans who become disabled either from an injury directly related to their service or from other disabling conditions are rightly awarded an array of benefits, those with service-connected disabilities receiving more due to their being injured in the service of their country; and

WHEREAS, among the benefits to which blind veterans are entitled are rehabilitation, training in the skills of blindness, and the opportunity to learn to do the things once accomplished with sight by alternative methods so that the blind veteran can live safely and can work if desired; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitation is provided to blind veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at one of several blind rehabilitation centers scattered throughout the country so that a blind veteran attends the center nearest to his or her home, and all VA centers use an identical model for rehabilitation training of the blind; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has evolved an approach to training blind people that results in confident, independent blind people and has established residential training centers that use this approach in their training, and many state programs have adopted these methods, but this model of rehabilitation is unavailable to blind veterans because no VA center uses this model; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the principle of informed choice in the civilian rehabilitation system for blind people and in advocating that this principle guide choice of services, service providers, vocational goals, and the entire relationship between consumer and agency in the civilian rehabilitation program; and

WHEREAS, veterans are rightly excluded from receiving funding from the civilian rehabilitation program because of the existence of the Department of Veterans Affairs program, but this produces the unfortunate result that America’s civilian blind population has choice among approaches, providers, and outcomes, including the ability to travel to a state other than the client’s state of residence to effectuate this choice, while America’s veterans who encounter blindness are consigned to a single approach, provider, and outcome, provided in the center nearest to their homes; and

WHEREAS, the VA will pay to send a blind veteran to the civilian rehabilitation program in his or her state of residence, but this does not afford the blind veteran the choice of public or private centers, the choice of models, and the choice of attending a center in any state that civilian blind rehabilitation consumers have; and

WHEREAS, our country should offer its blind veterans, especially those blinded in the service of their country, the widest array of options and the most choices possible, but the current situation results in civilians having far wider options than service men and women injured while serving their country in dangerous places: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona in Convention assembled this eleventh day of September, 2005, in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, that this organization call upon Congress to enact legislation that expressly instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to afford the widest choice among approaches, providers, and outcomes to America’s blind veterans by contracting with rehabilitation providers outside of its own system, including contracts with public and private providers of rehabilitation services in any state.

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