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Brain Injury Legislative Update

Here is this week's legislative update produced by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA):

Brain Injury Awareness Month Resolution Reported Favorably Out of House Committee

On Tuesday, The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ordered by unanimous consent that the measure (H.Res. 178) recognizing March as Brain Injury Awareness month be reported favorably to the house floor.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. currently boasts 90 cosponsors and will await action on the house floor.  The resolution expresses the need for enhanced public awareness of brain injury and also supports the designation of the Month of March as National Brain Injury Awareness Month. 

BIAA has been integral in this development and we expect floor consideration for this measure the week of March 23rd.

Appropriations Update

FY09

On Tuesday, the Senate cleared the $410 billion omnibus spending package finally closing the book on Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations.  Passage came by voice vote moments after a 62-35 Senate vote to invoke cloture on the bill.
 
President Obama signed the bill into law on March 11th, relieving the stopgap spending measure (H.J.Res. 38) from supporting government operations at FY08 funding levels.

The highlights of the measure are as follows:

Department of Education

The conference agreement provided a $4.45 billion increase over last year for a total of $66.5 billion for the programs of the Department of Education in FY 2009.  For Rehabilitative Services and Disability Research, the bill provides $3.387 billion in FY 2009 funding, or nearly $111 million increase over last year's levels.

Within this amount, the bill allocates nearly $108 million for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) which supports disability research, demonstration projects, and related activities for individuals with disabilities. The bill specifies that the increase funding should be used to restore the number of rehabilitation research and training centers (RRTCs) focusing on issues of traumatic brain injury, arthritis, neuromuscular disease and spinal cord injury.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The omnibus provides $6.6 billion for the public health programs administered by CDC, which is $239 million above last year's funding. About $900 million is designated for chronic disease prevention programs - $76 million more than the budget request.

National Institute of Health (NIH)

The omnibus bill provides just over $30 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over $1 billion more than the budget request, and the first time the agency's one year budget has exceeded $30 billion. After accounting for this increase and the additional temporary funding in the recent stimulus legislation, NIH will have $11 billion over their existing budget to spend over the next two years.

The NIH has reported that this influx of funds will allow the agency to capitalize on unprecedented scientific opportunities with almost 10,600 new research grants. Before this infusion, funding for NIH projects had been at critically low levels.

Most importantly, the bill provides nearly $1.6 billion for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, $52 million more than the 2008 level.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

The omnibus bill provides over $7.25 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) -- nearly $1.4 more than President Bush requested for HRSA for FY 2009.

Specific to Traumatic Brain Injury, $9.877 million was awarded to HRSA, an increase of $1.123 million dollars from Fiscal Year 2008. 

The funding for HRSA, which provides a health safety net for medically underserved populations, will help the agency meet its goal of achieving 100 percent access to healthcare.

Social Security Administration

To address the mounting backlog of disability claims at the Social Security Administration, improve claims processing times, and support field offices, the bill provides $10.5 billion to combat these pitfalls.

(Pyles, Powers, Sutter, & Verville appropriations memo, February 26, 2009)

FY10

It's that time again!  This week BIAA joined other brain injury stakeholders in authoring and submitting fiscal year 2010 Appropriations requests to the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.  The task force, led by Representative, Bill Pascrell, Jr., and Rep. Todd R. Platts issued a dear colleague letter to fellow house members in line with these requests:

* $11 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) TBI Registries, Surveillance, Prevention, and
    National Public Education and Awareness;
* $20 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal TBI State Grant Program;
* $6 million for the HRSA Federal TBI Protection & Advocacy (P&A) Systems Grant Program; and
* $13.3 million for the NIDRRs TBI Model Systems of Care Program.

As we move forward with FY10 Appropriations, BIAA will closely monitor the situation and continue to advocate for TBI related programs!

Lifetime Insurance Caps Bill Update

As part of the lifetime caps coalition, BIAA has been working to advance two important bills, HR 1085 and S 442 (the Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act).  These measures would raise lifetime health insurance caps to $10 million in order to better protect people that require post acute rehabilitation or other means of long-term care. 

BIAA strongly supports this legislation and has worked tirelessly to advocate for the access to care that this bill embodies.  Currently, there are fifteen cosponsors in the House and three Senate cosponsors.  Notably, BIAA advocates have contributed directly to ensuring cosponsorship of HR 1085!

National Neurotech Bill Introduced

This week members of both houses of Congress introduced the National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI) Act, a bill designed to foster new discoveries and accelerate the development of new and safer treatments for Americans living with a brain-related illness, injury or disease.

The sponsors of this Act, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI 1st) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 18th), have called upon Congress to reverse the growing economic burden generated by brain-related illness, which exceeds $1 trillion per year in the U.S. due to healthcare costs and lost income.

BIAA strongly supports this initiative and will continue to monitor the bill closely.
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BIAA Participates in Military Health Support Systems Conference

On March 11, 2009, BIAA's President and CEO, Susan Connors spoke to a group of military health support personnel, physicians and service members about living with the effects of brain injury. 

Susan noted that the stigma associated with brain injury in the military is likely due to a severe lack of awareness about TBI and inaccurate beliefs about recovery time and the extent of recovery expected.  Also, the sense that physical wounds are more deserving of treatment and the notion that experiencing a brain injury could be viewed as a sign of weakness among peers are both examples of scenarios that could prevent service members from seeking treatment.

In conclusion, Susan stressed that the military TBI advocacy needed at this time includes, but is not limited to, proper screening, caregiver assistance, and access to the best brain injury care that our country has to offer.

BIAA Issues Individual Comments on NIDRR's Long Range Plan to the Department of Education

This week, BIAA issued comments regarding the proposed long range plan (Fiscal Years 2010-2014) for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

The NIDRR proposal focuses mainly on employment, making only passing references to health and function research. 
 
In the comments, BIAA urges NIDRR to restore the broad focus of research and development activities by recognizing the critical importance of all major life domains affecting persons with brain injury specifically, i.e., participation and community living, health and function, as well as employment.

BIAA also distributed the letter to each state affiliate in order to maximize the responses given to NIDRR.  This united front will help ensure that NIDDR recognizes the importance of sustaining health and function research, a program that is vital to brain injury research.

St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center Issues Report to Congress

At a Capitol Hill briefing on Thursday, St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center of Paterson, NJ, in conjunction with the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, announced the official recommendations of the International Conference on Behavioral Health and Traumatic Brain Injury that was held in October of 2008.

Experts in field of TBI, PTSD and psychological health called on Congress to provide wounded service members with care equal to that offered by the private sector, to develop health-centric tools for warriors, to establish scientifically-valid standards of care, and to better disseminate TBI and PTSD research.  The report also proposes a nationwide network of partnered agencies, organizations, and programs that will coordinate and disseminate resources, information, referral contacts and support, with aggressive outreach to rural areas and underserved populations.

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