A picture of Senator Richard J. Durbin
Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2013-03-11

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    DURBIN (for himself, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mr. Harkin): S. 521. A bill to require the Secretary of Defense to award grants to fund research on orthotics and prosthetics; to the Committee on Armed Services.



    Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I want to tell you about a wounded warrior.

    He was fitted with a prosthetic leg that fit reasonably well and he was able to carry on with his life. But from time to time his leg would give out.

    He would fall, but he carried on.

    Then he and his wife were blessed with their first child. He was immensely happy to be a father. But he was terrified to hold his baby.

    He was afraid that his leg would give out and he would fall and hurt his baby.

    Can you imagine going to war to make the world safe for your children and then being afraid to hold your own child? One day this young father mentioned his fear to a prosthetics practitioner, who began researching other prosthetic legs and was able to find a leg that fit him better and was more stable.

    Finally, that new father was able to hold his baby without fear.

    Most Americans will never need for a prosthetic limb. But many do. They include people who suffer catastrophic injuries in battle and accidents and others who lose limbs to illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.

    For these people, proper-fitting, advanced prosthetics and orthotics fitted by highly trained, experienced clinicians can mean the difference between constant pain and discomfort--and a certain amount of anxiety, or living a happier, healthier and more productive life.

    Let me tell you about another veteran who lives in Illinois.

    He lost a leg in Vietnam.

    He was fitted with a prosthetic leg that included a hydraulic knee unit. That was the state of the art decades ago.

    Several times a year he would fall. Many of the falls resulted in broken bones and other injuries.

    This veteran was also overweight, with high blood pressure.

    About 6 years ago, he was fitted with his first computer-controlled knee.

    He had more stability and more range of motion. He moved with more confidence.

    With his new, advanced knee, he was able to exercise. He lost weight.

    His health improved and he was able to stop taking multiple medications. He is living a happier, healthier life.

    Finding the right prosthetic is more than luck or guess work. It requires a great deal of education, training and experience. There are many talented prosthetic clinicians working today in Veterans Administration Hospitals and other hospitals and rehabilitation clinics.

    But we have a problem. Just as the need for these health professionals is increasing, many are retiring.

    Wounded warriors deserve the best medical care our grateful Nation has to offer.

    Today, with Senators Blumenthal and Harkin, I am introducing two bills to help ensure that service members and veterans who need prosthetics receive the care and equipment they deserve.

    The first bill, the Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act, will establish a competitive grant program at the Department of Veterans Affairs to train more health professionals in the fields of orthotics and prosthetics.

    These grants can be used to create new degree programs or expand existing programs in these fields.

    Our bill will also require the VA to establish a Center of Excellence in Prosthetic and Orthotic Education to research and share information about the knowledge, skills, and training clinical professionals in the field need the most.

    The work at the Center would add to higher education's clinical expertise to train the students going into prosthetics and orthotics.

    The second bill we are introducing today, the Wounded Warrior Research Enhancement Act, directs the Secretary of Defense to establish an ongoing program of research and best practices in orthotics and prosthetics care.

    We ask OD to then make sure clinical professionals serving service members and veterans are kept up to date on innovations in technology and care.

    In the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of our service members have been wounded by roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.

    As our involvement in these wars winds down, many returning veterans are living with complex wounds that require sophisticated prosthetics and orthotics.

    We can build on the breakthrough advances made by researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and by private providers such as Scheck & Siress, founded in Oak Park, IL.

    Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is home to the largest and oldest prosthetics and orthotics program in the Western Hemisphere.

    It offers first-rate master's level education and training and graduates 50 clinicians every year.

    Northwestern can be a model for other universities around the country to meet the needs of veteran amputees.

    New technologies are improving the quality of life for amputees. We need to make sure that clinicians in the field have the skills and training to help veterans take advantage of these advances.

    Recently the standard for entry-level qualifications for clinicians in prosthetics was changed to require a master's degree.

    That makes sense. There is a lot to know. But right now there are not enough master's degree programs in our universities to meet the current demands for prosthetics and orthotics technicians.

    Many experienced clinicians are nearing retirement age.

    Veterans are not the only people who benefit when we train more clinicians in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics.

    As America's population ages and rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease increase, more Americans find themselves in need of prosthetics and orthotics. They, too, will benefit from this investment in research and training.

    When we ask our service members to risk their lives for us, they don't say, ``Ask me later.'' They go.

    If they come home needing a new limb, we shouldn't tell them, ``Ask me later.'' We know that the VA is facing a critical and impending shortage of clinicians who are trained in prosthetics and orthotics.

    By working together now, we can prevent that shortage and help America's wounded warriors live the fullest lives possible. I hope my colleagues will join me in this effort.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 521 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Wounded Warrior Research Enhancement Act''.

    SEC. 2. ORTHOTIC AND PROSTHETIC RESEARCH.

    (a) Purpose.--The purpose of the grants described in this section is to advance orthotic and prosthetic clinical care for members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and civilians who have undergone amputation, traumatic brain injury, and other serious physical injury as a result of combat or military experience.

    (b) Grants for Research on Patient Outcomes.--The Secretary of Defense shall award grants to persons to carry out research on the following: (1) The actions that can be taken to prevent amputation of limbs.

    [[Page S1597]] (2) The point in the course of patient treatment during which orthotic and prosthetic intervention is most effective.

    (3) The orthotic interventions that are most effective in treating the physical effects of traumatic brain injury.

    (4) The patients that benefit most from particular orthotic and prosthetic technologies.

    (5) The orthotic and prosthetic services that best facilitate the return to active duty of members of the Armed Forces.

    (6) The effect of the aging process on the use of prosthetics, including-- (A) increased skin breakdown; (B) loss of balance; (C) falls; and (D) other issues that arise during the aging process.

    (c) Grants on Materials Research.--The Secretary shall award grants to persons to carry out research on the following: (1) The improvement of existing materials used in orthotics and prosthetics for the purpose of improving quality of life and health outcomes for individuals with limb loss.

    (2) The development of new materials used in orthotics and prosthetics for the purpose of improving quality of life and health outcomes for individuals with limb loss.

    (d) Grants on Technology Research.--The Secretary shall award grants to persons to carry out research on the following: (1) The improvement of existing orthotic and prosthetic technology and devices for the purpose of improving quality of life and health outcomes for individuals with limb loss.

    (2) The development of new orthotic and prosthetic technology and devices for the purpose of improving quality of life and health outcomes for individuals with limb loss.

    (e) Request for Proposals.--A person seeking the award of a grant under this section shall submit to the Secretary an application therefore in the form and accompanied by such information as the Secretary shall require.

    (f) Award Requirements.-- (1) Peer-reviewed proposals.--Grants under this section may be awarded only for research that is peer-reviewed.

    (2) Competitive procedures.--Grants under this section shall be awarded through competitive procedures.

    (g) Grant Use.--A person awarded a grant under subsection (b), (c), or (d) shall use the grant amount to carry out the research described in the applicable subsection.

    (h) Reports.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, veterans, community-based clinicians, and expert researchers in the field of orthotics and prosthetics, submit to Congress a report setting forth the following: (1) An agenda for orthotic and prosthetic research that identifies and prioritizes the most significant unanswered orthotic and prosthetic research questions pertinent to the provision of evidence-based clinical care to members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and civilians.

    (2) For each report after the initial report under this subsection-- (A) a summary of how the grants awarded under subsection (b) are addressing the most significant orthotic and prosthetic needs; and (B) the progress made towards resolving orthotic and prosthetic challenges facing members of the Armed Forces and veterans.

    (i) Veteran Defined.--In this section, the term ``veteran'' has the meaning given that term in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

    (j) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Defense for the Defense Health Program, $30,000,000 to carry out this section.

    ______ By Mr. DURBIN (for himself, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mr. Harkin): S. 522. A bill to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to award grants to establish, or expand upon, master's degree or doctoral degree programs in orthotics and prosthetics, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

    Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record as follows: S. 522 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act''.

    SEC. 2. ORTHOTICS AND PROSTHETICS EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT.

    (a) Grants Required.-- (1) In general.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall award grants to eligible institutions to enable the eligible institutions-- (A) to establish a master's degree or doctoral degree program in orthotics and prosthetics; or (B) to expand upon an existing master's degree program in orthotics and prosthetics, including by admitting more students, further training faculty, expanding facilities, or increasing cooperation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense.

    (2) Priority.--The Secretary shall give priority in the award of grants under this section to eligible institutions that have entered into a partnership with a medical center or clinic administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or a facility administered by the Department of Defense, including by providing clinical rotations at such medical center, clinic, or facility.

    (3) Grant amounts.--Grants awarded under this section shall be in amounts of not less than $1,000,000 and not more than $1,500,000.

    (b) Requests for Proposals.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act and annually thereafter for two years, the Secretary shall issue a request for proposals from eligible institutions for grants under this section.

    (2) Proposals.--An eligible institution that seeks the award of a grant under this section shall submit an application therefor to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the Secretary may require, including-- (A) demonstration of a willingness and ability to participate in a partnership described in subsection (a)(2); and (B) a commitment, and demonstration of an ability, to maintain an accredited orthotics and prosthetics education program after the end of the grant period.

    (c) Grant Uses.-- (1) In general.--An eligible institution awarded a grant under this section shall use grant amounts to carry out any of the following: (A) Building new or expanding existing orthotics and prosthetics master's or doctoral programs.

    (B) Training doctoral candidates in fields related to orthotics and prosthetics to prepare them to instruct in orthotics and prosthetics programs.

    (C) Training faculty in orthotics and prosthetics education or related fields for the purpose of instruction in orthotics and prosthetics programs.

    (D) Salary supplementation for faculty in orthotics and prosthetics education.

    (E) Financial aid that allows eligible institutions to admit additional students to study orthotics and prosthetics.

    (F) Funding faculty research projects or faculty time to undertake research in the areas of orthotics and prosthetics for the purpose of furthering their teaching abilities.

    (G) Renovation of buildings or minor construction to house orthotics and prosthetics education programs.

    (H) Purchasing equipment for orthotics and prosthetics education.

    (2) Limitation on construction.--An eligible institution awarded a grant under this section may use not more than 50 percent of the grant amount to carry out paragraph (1)(G).

    (3) Admissions preference.--An eligible institution awarded a grant under this section shall give preference in admission to the orthotics and prosthetics master's or doctoral programs to veterans, to the extent practicable.

    (4) Period of use of funds.--An eligible institution awarded a grant under this section may use the grant funds for a period of three years after the award of the grant.

    (d) Definitions.--In this section: (1) The term ``eligible institution'' means an educational institution that offers an orthotics and prosthetics education program that-- (A) is accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education in cooperation with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (referred to in this section as the ``National Commission''); or (B) demonstrates an ability to meet the accreditation requirements for orthotic and prosthetic education from the National Commission if the institution receives a grant under this section.

    (2) The term ``veteran'' has the meaning given that term in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

    (e) Authorization of Appropriations.-- (1) In general.--There is authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, $15,000,000 to carry out this section. The amount so authorized to be appropriated shall remain available for obligation until September 30, 2016.

    (2) Unobligated amounts to be returned to the treasury.-- Any amounts authorized to be appropriated by paragraph (1) that are not obligated by the Secretary as of September 30, 2016, shall be returned to the Treasury of the United States.

    SEC. 3. CENTER OF EXCELLENCE IN ORTHOTIC AND PROSTHETIC EDUCATION.

    (a) Grant for Establishment of Center.-- (1) In general.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall award a grant to an eligible institution to enable the eligible institution to-- (A) establish the Center of Excellence in Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (hereafter in this section referred to as the ``Center''); and (B) enable the eligible institution to improve orthotic and prosthetic outcomes for veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and civilians by conducting evidence-based research on-- [[Page S1598]] (i) the knowledge, skills, and training most needed by clinical professionals in the field of orthotics and prosthetics; and (ii) how to most effectively prepare clinical professionals to provide effective, high-quality orthotic and prosthetic care.

    (2) Priority.--The Secretary shall give priority in the award of a grant under this section to an eligible institution that has in force, or demonstrates the willingness and ability to enter into, a memoranda of understanding with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, or other appropriate Government agency, or a cooperative agreement with an appropriate private sector entity, which memorandum of understanding or cooperative agreement provides for either, or both, of the following: (A) The provision of resources, whether in cash or in kind, to the Center.

    (B) To assist the Center in research and the dissemination of the results of such research.

    (3) Grant amount.--The grant awarded under this section shall be in the amount of $5,000,000.

    (b) Requests for Proposals.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall issue a request for proposals from eligible institutions for a grant under this section.

    (2) Proposals.--An eligible institution that seeks the award of the grant under this section shall submit an application therefor to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by such information as the Secretary may require.

    (c) Grant Uses.-- (1) In general.--The eligible institution awarded the grant under this section shall use the grant amount for purposes as follows: (A) To develop an agenda for orthotics and prosthetics education research.

    (B) To fund research in the area of orthotics and prosthetics education.

    (C) To publish or otherwise disseminate research findings relating to orthotics and prosthetics education.

    (2) Period of use of funds.--The eligible institution awarded the grant under this section may use the grant amount for a period of five years after the award of the grant.

    (d) Definitions.--In this section: (1) The term ``eligible institution'' means an educational institution that-- (A) has a robust research program; (B) offers an orthotics and prosthetics education program that is accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education in cooperation with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs; (C) is well recognized in the field of orthotics and prosthetics education; and (D) has an established association with-- (i) a medical center or clinic of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and (ii) a local rehabilitation hospital.

    (2) The term ``veteran'' has the meaning given that term in section 101 of title 38, United States Code.

    (e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, $5,000,000 to carry out this section.

    ____________________

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