The North American Spine Society in partnership with other organizations coordinated several efforts to remove legislative language from a Department of Defense spending bill that would have eliminated a funding stream for spinal cord injuries through the U.S. military.
Here are five things to know:
1. Congress initially established the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program as part of the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program to fill the gap in medical research areas that other agencies ignored. Since then, Congress appropriated more than $150 million to projects that improve the "function, wellness and overall quality of life" for military members, their families and the American people.
2. For the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill, Congress considered making a change. The Senate bill included four provisions that would have weakened the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, imposing barriers to grant applications and funding. The House bill did not include those provisions.
3. NASS teamed with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which benefited from the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program Funding, as well as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons and other organizations to oppose funding cuts.
4. While the House and Senate worked to reconcile the two bills, several organizations signed a letter to the Chairman of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee advocating against the provisions that would weaken funding. A second letter signed by 179 members of the House requested the committee chairs remove the language imposing restrictions on spinal cord injury funding as well.
5. The Chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees removed the language from the final bill that would have eliminated key funding. "We thank members of the House and Senate for ensuring that this funding remains available for U.S. armed forces who incurred significant injuries while protecting our country," said Alan Hilibrand, MD, NASS Advocacy Council Director.