Complex rehab briefing draws large crowd

Friday, July 19, 2013

WASHINGTON – A congressional briefing on July 15 to educate staffers about two bills to create a separate benefit for complex rehab sparked 15 minutes of questions—a good sign, stakeholders say.

“It showed they were engaged with the issue,” said Alex Bennewith, vice president of government relations for the United Spinal Association. “They asked about numbers for how many people weren’t getting what they needed, and what issues the provisions in the bills fix.”

It was standing-room-only at the briefing, which was co-hosted by the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and the offices of Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. Crowley and Sensenbrenner, along with Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., have introduced legislation to create a separate benefit for complex rehab. H.R. 942 currently has 58 co-sponsors, and S. 948, has three. 

Only 17 of the lawmakers represented by staffers at the briefing have already signed on to H.R. 942 or S. 948—leaving 71 more who RSVP’d to the event and expressed interest in learning more about complex rehab.

“That’s been our biggest challenge—we need to increase education and awareness of what CRT is,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART.

During the briefing, Clayback, with Paul Tobin, CEO of the United Spinal Association, and Adam Lloyd, an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and wheelchair user, gave an overview about CRT and the bills, focusing on the difference between specialized and other mobility equipment, and what the separate benefit would do for people with disabilities. 

For his part, Lloyd was happy to field questions about the equipment he relies on and the importance of maintaining access.

“‘Confined to a wheelchair’ is such a common phrase, but it couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “It’s a liberation tool. Without my wheelchair, I would be confined to my home.”