December 9, 2016
Appropriations Bill Sent to Senate
The Senate has until midnight to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to continue funding federal government in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. Yesterday, the House passed House Resolution 2028 to continue funding until April 28, 2017. The current CR funding government expires today.
21st Century Cures Bill Sent to President's Desk
This week, the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act which is now on its way to the President's desk for his signature. The bill invests nearly $3 billion to build upon major biomedical research initiatives, including the B.R.A.I.N. Initiative and the Precision Medicine Initiative, both of which research brain-related injuries and disorders and are to create new research models to find cures and better target treatments.
Congress Includes Fairness for Veterans Amendment in Defense Spending Bill
Yesterday, the Senate passed the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report, which included a provision to help veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who had introduced the Fairness for Veterans Act of 2016 (H.R.4683), led the effort to pass the amendment in the House defense authorization bill last week. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the amendment in the Senate version in May. The bill is now on its way to President Obama for his signature.
Congress Passes Distance Health Education and Technology Bill
S. 2873, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), has passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to the President. The bill requires studies and reports examining the use of, and opportunities to use, technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity-building models to improve programs of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A "technology-enabled collaborative learning and capacity-building model" is a distance health education model that connects specialists with other health care professionals through simultaneous interactive videoconferencing for the purpose of facilitating case-based learning, disseminating best practices, and evaluating outcomes. The HHS Secretary is to study the impact on using this model to address issues such as mental and substance use disorders, chronic diseases and conditions, pain management, health care workforce issues and shortages, public health programs including disease prevention and public health surveillance, and the delivery of health care in rural or medically underserved areas.
House Passes Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016
On Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 6416, the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, which, among other provisions, requires an independent review of process by which Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assesses impairments that result from a TBI for purposes of awarding disability compensation; temporarily increases the number of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and approves education and training courses for purposes of the VA vocational rehabilitation program. Rep. David Roe (R-Tenn.) sponsored the legislation.
Senators Introduce the RISE Act
This week, Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced the Respond, Innovate, Support and Empower Act (RISE Act) to help ease the transition to higher education for students with disabilities. The bill provides more funding for a one-stop resource for information about disability services in college. It would also:
- Require colleges to accept an IEP or 504 plan as evidence of a disability. This would make it easier and less costly for students to get accommodations.
- Support a technical assistance center to highlight strategies that help students with disabilities to succeed in college. The center would also train college faculty on those strategies.
A number of disability-related organizations support the legislation and plan to work with bill sponsors to reintroduce the legislation in the upcoming Congress.