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Brain Injury Legislative Update

I have been requested to distribute the following update on federal traumatic brain injury funding by the Brain Injury Association of America:

As you will unfortunately read, although there has been a lot of talk in Congress about the need to dramatically increase appropriations for traumatic brain injury, the final bill failed to include the increases requested and advocated by the Brain Injury Association of America and in many cases failed to even maintain funding at last year's level. 

Traumatic brain injury is a national health crisis.  The failure on the part of Congress to make appropriate appropriations for brain injury is unforgivable.  The Brain Injury Association of America should be thanked for all of their efforts.  Although understaffed and underfunded, they have worked long and hard for those with brain injury and their families.  The failure to appropriate necessary funding is certainly not the fault of the association. 

"Last night, Democratic leaders in Congress filed a massive omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) that largely matches President Bush’s proposed spending limit of $933 billion for all Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 appropriations.  The omnibus spending bill combines the 11 remaining FY2008 appropriations bills not yet enacted into law this year.

Note: Although the Fiscal Year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill (H.R. 3043) was passed by Congress earlier this fall, it was subsequently vetoed by President Bush, and thus has now been included in the omnibus appropriations bill.

Unfortunately, the Labor-HHS-Education spending included in this week’s omnibus appropriations bill includes $145.1 billion in discretionary spending, which represents about $5.6 billion less discretionary funding than was included in H.R. 3043.   Overall discretionary funding in the Labor-HHS-Education section of the omnibus bill includes about $600 million more than was provided through last year’s Labor-HHS-Education bill.

TBI programs, unfortunately, were among those losing discretionary funding compared to the amounts contained in H.R. 3043.  While H.R. 3043 would have increased funding for the HRSA TBI Program from last year’s total of $8.910 million to $9.455 million, this week’s omnibus bill would instead reduce funding for this program to $8.754 million. 

Despite this inexplicable and unacceptable decrease in funding for the HRSA TBI program, this week’s omnibus bill nevertheless contains a few heartening funding increases for other TBI programs.  CDC TBI-related activities would receive an increase of approximately $500,000 over last year. In addition, the TBI Model Systems of Care program received a boost of approximately $800,000 over last year’s funding amounts, with specific legislative language directing that the funding increase be used to fund two additional TBI research centers.

The outlook for final passage of this omnibus appropriations bill by the end of the week has been deemed likely, although not assured.  Republicans are currently reviewing the bill, and it is anticipated that the Senate will add Iraq War supplemental funding when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

Democrat leaders in Congress have asserted that although undesirable, the funding cuts contained in this week’s appropriations omnibus appropriations bill are still preferable to the President’s budget blueprint (which would have eliminated all funding for HRSA TBI Act programs).  Although the funding level for the HRSA TBI program contained in this omnibus bill is extremely disappointing and unacceptable, strong TBI advocacy efforts this year undoubtedly produced a more positive outcome than would have resulted if the voices of TBI advocates were not heard.  We will continue to fight to ensure that these voices are heard, louder than ever, next year.

OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS BILL (H.R. 2764) FUNDING NUMBERS IN BOLD

CDC TBI Programs (HHS):  $5.811 million

-H.R. 3043 (Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill passed earlier this year by Congress but vetoed by President Bush): $5.960 million

-Last Year (Fiscal Year 2007):  approx. $5.3 million

HRSA TBI Programs (HHS) (TBI State Grant Program and Protection and Advocacy Systems):  $8.754 million 
-H.R. 3043:  $9.455 million

-Last Year:  $8.910 million

TBI Model Systems of Care (NIDDR/Department of Education):  $8.3 million, with specific conference report language included in the final bill as follows:“The amended bill specifies $8,300,000 within the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to carry out the traumatic brain injury model systems of care program and to fund two additional centers that submitted applications for the last grant competition.” 
-H.R. 3043:  $8.4 million

-Last Year:  $7.5 million

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