BVA’s Policy team is a consistent presence on Capitol Hill. We work to educate congressional leaders on the needs of our blind and low vision veterans, their families and caregivers. The resolutions adopted by BVA members during the annual National Convention drive our legislative advocacy – ensuring the federal laws, regulations and policies governing the Department of Veterans Affairs – and other federal agencies – are continually improved.

Legislative Action Center

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee

Phone: (202) 224-9126
Website: (CLICK HERE)

House Veterans Affairs Committee

Phone: (202) 225-9756
Website: (CLICK HERE)

Department of Veterans Affairs

Phone: (800) 827-1000
Website: (CLICK HERE)

VA Blind Rehabilitation Service

Phone: (202) 461-7317
Website: (CLICK HERE)

VA Specially Adapted Housing

Phone: (877) 827-3702
Website: (CLICK HERE)

Legislative Priorities

BVA is constantly seeking the support of legislators in enacting policies that will assist blind and low vision veterans, monitoring favorable legislation, and keeping members apprised of new information regarding legislation. Our members are represented on the Hill during congressional committee meetings – and with individual congressional members and their staff – by the national legislative team. BVA has successfully supported several key pieces of legislation in the past – and looks forward to continuing to fight the good fight for blinded veterans, their families, caregivers, and blind rehabilitation service providers in the year ahead.

It is our hope that this second session of the 118th Congress will proactively address the following critically important issues:

  • Call for the establishment of a Veterans Advisory Committee on Equal Access at VA to ensure compliance with federal disability laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act;
  • Request congressional oversight of the VA Veteran Travel Service (VTS) program to identify and document challenges blind and low vision veterans are dealing with when trying to get to and from their VA medical appointments. Furthermore, BVA seeks VIST Coordinators be granted authority to make clinical determinations for Special Mode Transportation (SMT) authorizations for blind and low vision veterans;
  • Ensure that VA implement caregiver benefits for catastrophically “blinded” disabled veterans, mandating the modification of eligibility criteria regarding “Activities of Daily Living” to include caregivers for blinded veterans, and create a clinical eligibility standard for blindness in both eyes (defined as 2/200 or worse, or a visual field of 5 degrees or less);
  • Support adequate funding of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Blind Rehabilitation Service (BRS);
  • Seek congressional mandate that VA immediately reinstate the following language into the VA Community Care “Standardized Episode of Care (SEOC): Eye Care Comprehensive” guidelines that “Only ophthalmologists can perform invasive procedures, including injections, lasers, and eye surgery.” Urge VA to be mindful of the appropriate roles of optometry and ophthalmology as it seeks to establish national standards of practice within VA health care systems;
  • Request FY25 appropriations of $30 million for the Department of Defense (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) Vision Research Program (VRP), strengthening the “ONLY” research program focused on prevention and treatment of combat-related ocular trauma and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) visual dysfunction;
  • Support the continued improvement of programs and services for women veterans;
  • Call for the de-stigmatization of mental health assistance within the veteran community, while increasing access by encouraging Congress to robustly fund VAs suicide prevention outreach budget and peer support programs, while simultaneously addressing the longstanding mental health staffing shortages across the enterprise and requiring data analysis of special populations of veterans to include blinded veterans be reinstated;
  • Request the enactment of adequate protections for guide dogs and service dogs on federal properties;
  • Support the Independent Budget recommendations for Prosthetics and Sensory Aids;
  • Support legislation recognizing that DoD retired pay and VA disability compensation are two different benefits established by Congress for two different reasons, and collecting both benefits should never be considered “double dipping,”; and
  • Support continued oversight of VA compliance with accessibility requirements.

Accomplishments during 117th Congress

  • Enacted H.R.7939 “Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022,” authorizing VA to issue eligible veterans a second automobile grant., and authorizes the provision of medically necessary van lifts, raised doors, raised roofs, air conditioning, and wheelchair tiedowns for passenger use. Signed into law on January 5, 2023;
  • Supported the passage of H.R. 3967 “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) of 2022” that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances. Signed into law on August 10, 2022;
  • Supported and urged passage of Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations (MILCON-VA) Act, 2023. Encourages the Department of Veterans Affairs to explore options, such as a VA Accessibility Office led by a Chief Accessibility Officer, to ensure the accessibility needs of disabled veterans and employees are met. Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to review VA's 508 accessibility compliance and Information and Communication Technology accessibility, report findings to the Committees within 90 days after enactment of this Act, and continue to report on the progress of 508 accessibility compliance annually for 3 years after enactment. Urges the Department to maintain open lines of communication with VSOs, particularly the Blinded Veterans Association, during the ongoing effort to improve accessibility. Signed into law on December 29, 2022.

Supported Initiatives

BVA joins other Military Service Organizations and Veteran Service Organizations in their support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in its efforts to protect the financial wellbeing of servicemembers, veterans and their families. The Bureau’s fate will be determined by the outcome of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America that is currently before the Supreme Court. BVA has signed on to a amicus brief as well as a press statement in support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

BVA, along with Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (“ITEM”) Coalition, supports the Department of Justice’s proposed rules that would establish  requirements governing the accessibility of public services, programs, and activities offered by State and local government entities through the web and mobile apps. BVA strongly concurs with the coalition and has signed onto a letter of support. 

The Joint ITEM/CPR Coalition Comments on Proposed Rule Updating Section 504 Regulations: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities comments on the updating of Section 504. The ITEM Coalition is a national consumer- and clinician-led coalition advocating for access to and coverage of assistive devices, technologies, and related services for persons with injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and chronic conditions of all ages. The comment addresses the Department of Health and Human Services efforts to ensure equality and clarify  accessibility regulations for Web, mobile applications and kiosk accessibility as well as medical equipment.

The ITEM Coalition Support for the Ensuring Patient Access to Critical Breakthrough Products Act of 2023 supports H.R. 1691, the Ensuring Patient Access to Critical Breakthrough Products Act of 2023. The letter comments on access to life-saving devices, the  Transitional Coverage for Emerging Technologies pathway,  and the importance of of timely access emerging medical devices. 

The ITEM/CPR Coalition Comments on Proposed Rule Updating Title II Regulations: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Medical Diagnostic Equipment of State and Local Government Entities (RIN: 1190-AA78) comments on proposed updates to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act to improve accessibility of medical equipment in state and local government medical providers.

This letter is from a collection of Veterans Service Organizations in support of provisions focused on the experience of disabled airline passengers. It was sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

 

BVA, along with Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (“ITEM”) Coalition, supports S. 2984, the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act of 2023, which would require that websites and applications used by covered entities  to communicate or interact with applicants, employees, participants, customers, or other members of the public be readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. BVA strongly supports the ITEM coalition and has signed onto its letters of support for S. 2984 and H.R. 1583.

Legislative Library

FY 2024 Congressional Requests

CDMRP Vision Research Request

Read how BVA is on the cutting edge of advancing key vision research in the United States by advocating for higher levels of Congressional funding.

View Request: (PDF) (DOC)

CDMRP Vision Research Sign-On Letter

Read BVA’s letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting that the Vision Research Program be funded at $30 million for Fiscal Year 2024.

Legislative Testimony

2024 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF) (DOC)
Presented by: Paul L. Mimms, National President

2023 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF) (DOC)
Presented by: Joseph D. McNeil, Sr., National President

2022 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF) (DOC)
Presented by: Joseph D. McNeil, Sr., National President

2021 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF) (DOC)
Presented By:  Dr. Thomas A. Zampieri, National President

2020 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF)
Presented By:  Dr. Thomas A. Zampieri, National President

2019 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF)
Presented By:  Dr. Thomas A. Zampieri, National President

2018 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF)
Presented By:  Paul L. Mimms, National Vice President

2017 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF)
Presented By:  Robert D. (Dale) Stamper, National President

2016 Testimony

Testimony: (PDF)
Presented By:  Robert D. (Dale) Stamper, National President

Supported Legislation

H.R. 1282 “Major Richard Star Act”

H.R. 1282 “Major Richard Star Act”
This bill provides that combat-disabled uniformed services retirees with fewer than 20 years of creditable service may concurrently receive, without reduction, veterans’ disability compensation and retired pay or combat-related special compensation.
Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis, [R-FL-12]

H.R. 3967 “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act)”

H.R. 3967 “Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (PACT Act)”
This bill addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service.
Then HVAC Chairman Mark Takano [D-CA-41]

H.R. 5819 “Autonomy for Disabled Veterans Act”

H.R. 5819 “Autonomy for Disabled Veterans Act”
A bill increasing the maximum amount authorized under the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grant program to $10,000 for veterans with a service-connected disability and $5,000 for those with disabilities that are not service-connected.
Rep. Al Lawson, Jr. [D-FL-5]

H.R. 7735 “The Improving Access to the VA Home Loan Act of 2022”

H.R. 7735 “The Improving Access to the VA Home Loan Act of 2022”
A bill requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to update regulations, requirements, and guidance related to appraisals for housing loans guaranteed by the VA to specify when an appraisal is required, how an appraisal is to be conducted, and who is eligible to conduct an appraisal for such loans.
Then HVAC Ranking Member Rep. Mike Bost [R-IL-12]

H.R. 7939 “Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022”

H.R.7939 “ Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022”
A bill to provide permanent authority for the application of certain flexibilities to assist veterans with their educational assistance benefits during emergency situations (as declared by the President). Specifically, the bill extends certain program adjustments that were implemented during the COVID-19 emergency to other emergency situations that may arise and have an effect on veterans and their educational assistance benefits. Additionally, this bill authorizes a second auto grant for eligible veterans.
Rep. Mike Levin [D-CA-49]

H.R. 8736 “Guard VA Benefits Act”

H.R. 8736 “Guard VA Benefits Act”
This bill imposes criminal penalties and/or fines on individuals for directly or indirectly soliciting, contracting for, charging, or receiving any unauthorized fee or compensation with respect to the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. The attempted commission of such offenses is also punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Rep. Chris Pappas [D-NH-1]

S. 344 “Major Richard Star Act”

S. 344 “Major Richard Star Act”
This bill provides that combat-disabled uniformed services retirees with fewer than 20 years of creditable service may concurrently receive, without reduction, veterans' disability compensation and retired pay or combat-related special compensation.  
SVAC Chairman Jon Tester [D-MT]

S. 444 “Auto for Veterans Act”

S. 444 “Auto for Veterans Act”
A bill that authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide (or assist in providing) an eligible veteran or service member with an additional automobile or other conveyance under the VA automobile allowance and adaptive equipment program.
Sen. Susan Collins (D- ME)

S. 4276 “Helping Heroes Act of 2022”

S. 4276 “Helping Heroes Act of 2022”
A bill to implement programs and procedures related to the provision of support services for veterans and their families.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

S. 5121 “The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act of 2022 (CVTA Act)”

S. 5121 “The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act of 2022 (CVTA Act)”
A bill to improve access to communications technology for Americans with disabilities to ensure they have equal opportunities in an increasingly online world by updating policies for television programming and online video streaming platforms.
Sen. Markey (D-MA)

S. 1315 "Veterans’ Health HEALTH Act"

S. 1315 “Veterans’ Health HEALTH Act”

A bill to codify the current community care access standards as the minimum access standard and expand them to include all extended care services.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)

S. 1459 "Mobility Aids on Board Improve Lives and Empower All (MOBILE) Act"

S. 1459 “Mobility Aids on Board Improve Lives and Empower All (MOBILE) Act” 

A bill to require airlines to publish cargo hold dimensions, evaluate types and frequency of damage to wheelchairs, require the Department of Transportation to submit a strategic roadmap on wheelchair accommodations on flights and, assess the feasibility of accommodating wheelchairs during flight.   

S.1309 "Student Veterans Transparency and Protection Act of 2023"

S.1309 “Student Veterans Transparency and Protection Act of 2023”

A bill to improve veterans’ access to information about higher education and allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to restore benefits that veterans use at schools subject to civil enforcement.

S. 1913 "Care for COFA Veterans Act"

S.1913 “Care for COFA Veterans Act”

A bill that authorizes the VA to provide medical care to veterans living in the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) – countries with which the United States has Compacts of Free Association (COFA).

Senator Schatz (D-HI)

S. 2067 "Service Dogs Assisting Veterans (SAVES) Act"

S. 2067 Service Dogs Assisting Veterans (SAVES) Act

This bill builds on the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act by requiring nonprofit organizations to submit an application to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that includes a description of the training that will be provided by the organization to eligible veterans; the training of dogs that will serve as service dogs; the aftercare services that the organization will provide for the service dogs and eligible Veteran; the plan for publicizing the availability of service dogs through a marketing campaign; the committee of the organization to have humane standards or animals. Nonprofit organizations would also need to certify that they are accredited by Assistance Dogs International or another widely recognized accreditation organization. 

Senator Tillis (R-NC)

H.R. 3981 "The Veterans Education Oversight Expansion Act"

H.R. 3981 – the Veterans Education Oversight Expansion Act

This bill strengthens the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) oversight capacity and restores education benefits to defrauded veterans by requiring educational entities to preemptively report any non-compliance within 30 days, and allows a veteran’s GI Bill education benefits to be restored if an educational entity is found to have acted maliciously or is otherwise found to be inadequate or ineligible under the discretion of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

Representative McGarvey (D-KY)

H.R. 3935 "Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act"

H.R. 3935 – Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act

This bill implements training requirements for assisting passengers with limited mobility and properly stowing assistive devices; improving the Department of Transportation’s complaint process; addressing the need for more access standards; and requiring continued study into safe and secure in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems. 

Representative Graves (R-MO)

S. 5121 "Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility (CVTA) Act"

S. 5121 – Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility (CVTA) Act

This bill builds upon  the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 and ensures individuals with disabilities have equal access to mainstream communication platforms and the technology services needed to participate in professional, educational, recreational, and civic spaces. The CVTA bolsters standards for television programming and emergency communication, expands accessibility requirements—including closed captions and audio descriptions—to online platforms and video conferencing services, and equips the federal government with the ability to improve accessibility of emerging technologies.

Senator Markey (D-MA)

S. 2516 "The Veterans Accessibility Act of 2023"

S.2516 The Veterans Accessibility Act of 2023 

This bill will establish a Veterans Advisory Committee on Equal Access at VA. The advisory committee will issue regular reports on VA’s compliance with federal disability laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The reports will include recommendations for improving VA’s compliance, and will be shared with Congress, the public, and agencies that oversee the Nation’s disability laws. Veterans with disabilities will be among the advisory committee’s members, ensuring that their voices are heard.

Senator Casey (D-PA)

H.R. 6551 "Heroes Earned Affordable Lifts Act"

H.R. 6551 – Heroes Earned Affordable Lifts Act

This bills sets the VA reimbursement rate at the General Services Administration (GSA) reimbursement rate. The current VA rate is 41.5 cents per mile whereas the current GSA rate is 65.5 cents per mile. This difference harms veterans as they are not being given the necessary resources to access care.

Senator Warner (D-VA)

H.R. 1691 "Ensuring Patient Access to Critical Breakthrough Products Act of 2023"

H.R. 1691 – the Ensuring Patient Access to Critical Breakthrough Products Act of 2023

This bill provides Medicare coverage of medical devices that are approved under the Food and Drug Administration Breakthrough Devices Program. It also designates a four year transitional period for medical breakthrough devices covered under Medicare and requires the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to assign payment codes for such devices within three months of FDA approval. 

Representative Wenstrup (R-OH)

H.R.7136 "SCHEDULES Act of 2024"

H.R.7136 – SCHEDULES Act of 2024

This bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to submit reports concerning timing between referrals and appointments for care.

Representative Scott (R-FL)

H.R.7126 "Autonomous Vehicle Accessibility Act"

H.R.7126 – Autonomous Vehicle Accessibility Act

This bill prohibits a State from issuing a motor vehicle operator’s license for the operation or use of an ADS-equipped vehicle operating at Level 4 or Level 5 in a manner that discriminates on the basis of disability.

Representative Stanton (D-AZ)

H.R.7342 "Veterans Accessibility Advisory Committee Act of 2024"

H.R.7342 “Veterans Accessibility Act”

This bill is a companion to S. 2516, which would establish a federal advisory committee to oversee VA’s accessibility efforts. 

Representative Valadao (R-CA)

H.R.1328/S.3621 "Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act of 2023"

H.R.1328 /S.3621- Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act of 2023 

These bills require certain medical devices with a digital interface to meet nonvisual accessibility standards established by the Food and Drug Administration.

Senator Hassen (D-NH)

H.R. 5322 "Time Off to Vote Act"

H.R. 5322 Time Off to Vote Act 

This bill requires employers, upon the request of an employee, to provide the employee with at least two consecutive hours of paid leave in order to vote in federal elections.

Representative Cartwright (D-PA)

S.2975 "Road to Access Act of 2023"

S.2975  “Road to Access Act of 2023”

This bill would automatically process travel claims for veterans who have a service-connected disability rate over 50% or any veteran with a disability defined as section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This bill would also allow paper travel claims to be submitted for processing. 

Senator Moran (R-KS)

H.R. 7539 "LOANS for Biomedical Research Act"

H.R. 7539 “LOANS for Biomedical Research Act”

This bill would finance the advancement of promising
treatments and cures into human studies for a broad range of urgent medical conditions
including: cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rare pediatric syndromes, and blindness. The loans provided would amount to $10 billion per year for three years with the maximum amount given to a company being $25 million. 

Representative Fitzpatrick [R-PA-1]

H.R. 7365 VETS Safe Travel Act

H.R. 7365 “VETS Safe Travel Act”

This bill would make veterans with a disability rating of 50% or higher eligible for TSA PreCheck at no cost to them. 

Representative Gosar [R-AZ-9]

Congressional Statements of Record

This statement was submitted to the Senate Special Committee on Aging for the hearing, Unlocking the Virtual Front Door: Ensuring Accessible Government Technology for People with Disabilities, Older Adults, and Veterans. It addressed Section 508 compliance and accessibility in the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the Department of Justice’s proposed rule changes to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.