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Subcommittee on Health
Recreation Therapy and Healing our Wounded Warriors

source: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?NewsID=598

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Subcommittee on Health
June 8, 2010

Opening Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

The Subcommittee on Health will now come to order. I would like to thank everyone for attending this hearing. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the city of New Port Richey and Congressman Bilirakis for hosting us today.

Modern medical advances have increased the survival rate of our soldiers who sustain injuries while serving this country, but these soldiers are often left with serious and complex wounds which require continued care once they return home. One of the key challenges facing VA today is the ability to meet the rehabilitative needs of our veterans by providing a broad and varied menu of therapies and treatments. There is a clear need for high quality rehabilitative care for all of our veterans, both of older generations and those now returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today’s hearing offers us the opportunity to examine a particularly exciting rehabilitative method.

Recreational therapy is an ideal component of the rehabilitative regimen because it allows veterans to be active by engaging in their favorite sports and recreational activities, while simultaneously healing the mental and physical wounds of war. Recreational therapists can use a variety of techniques, including sports, games, dance, arts and crafts, animals, drama, music, and community outings to help reduce depression, stress and anxiety; enhance basic motor functioning; and build confidence among the program participants. In other words, servicemembers and veterans have an opportunity to engage with their communities and participate in sports and other activities that they may have enjoyed prior to sustaining their war injuries.

Today, I look forward to hearing from the veterans on our first panel about their personal testimonies on how recreational therapy has benefited them. I am also eager to learn from our second and third panels about the different types of recreational therapies that are available to our veterans, and how VA and private organizations are working together to offer this valuable treatment option to wounded warriors in the Tampa region and across the country.

I now recognize Mr. Bilirakis for any opening statement that he may have.

Opening Statement of Hon. Gus Bilirakis, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Good morning. I am so pleased to be here today in the heart of the 9th Congressional District and want to thank my fellow Floridian colleagues, Corinne Brown and Jeff Miller, for taking time out of their busy schedules to be here today.

It is a pleasure to serve this great state with two individuals so committed to championing the best interests of our servicemembers, veterans, and all of the residents of Florida. I am grateful to both of you for being here. I am proud to call you colleagues and even prouder to call you friends.

Most importantly, I am happy this morning to see my constituents from the ninth district. Whether here as a witness or as an interested participant - seeing so many that have gathered so early and are willing to spend their Tuesday morning exploring the role of recreation therapy in healing our wounded warriors is a testament to the depth of patriotism and caring in this community. I thank you for being here – representing you is a true honor.

Throughout my career, honoring the service and sacrifices of our veterans has been among my very highest priorities. Ensuring the men and women who fought so bravely for our freedoms are given access to the highest quality care and services is a commitment I take seriously. That is why I specifically requested a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee when I was elected to serve in Congress in 2006.

Since then, I have introduced numerous bills, many of which were incorporated into law, aimed at improving veterans care and benefits. I was pleased to lead the effort to bring a VA outpatient health clinic to Hillsborough County, to work with local and national VA officials to expand the Pasco County Outpatient Clinic and bring additional services such as dental care to ninth district veterans.

I am very appreciative of the fact that we have a world class medical and polytrauma center in the nearby James A. Haley VA Medical Center. The dedicated medical staff at Haley are second to none. However, it is always important that we strive to enhance the care and services provided to our brave veteran patients. And, today, I anticipate learning from those of us gathered here about the important topic of recreation therapy.

Recreation therapy is a therapeutic endeavor that improves an injured veteran’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health through activities aimed at increasing independence and quality of life.

It doesn’t surprise me that Florida is a national leader in recreation therapy. And, I look forward to taking the ideas we discuss today back to Washington to improve the lives of veterans not only in our state, but in every VA facility throughout the nation.

In closing, I would like us to take a moment to recognize and honor those veterans in the room. As always, I am humbled by your bravery and your dedication to a cause bigger than yourselves. Because of your efforts, we are able to gather this morning freely, safely, and democratically. On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank you for your service. I yield back my time.

Opening Statement of Hon. Jeff Miller, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida

Thank you and good morning.

It is a pleasure for me to join my colleagues, Corrine Brown and Gus Bilirakis, in this historic city of New Port Richey to participate in this important hearing. Having worked together for several years on the Veterans Affairs Committee, we have made great strides toward better serving those who served our country.

I am honored to represent the Western Panhandle of our great state and to stand for our servicemembers, veterans and all Floridians with my two distinguished colleagues and friends.

I want to welcome our witnesses and thank all of you for taking the time to be here today and to share your story, wisdom and expertise with all of us.

For those veterans on our witness panels and in the audience, I salute you for your service to this great nation. You exemplify the bravery and goodness inherent in our beloved state and all of Florida should be proud to call you their own. Your sacrifices will not be forgotten.

A sergeant once said that “morale is what makes your feet do what your head knows just ain’t possible.” I am sure this sentiment resonates with all service members and veterans who are accustomed to performing seemingly impossible tasks with courage, integrity, and ease.

That is also the attitude that lays the groundwork to understanding the significance of our discussion today about the role of recreation therapy in the healing process. Maintaining a sense of self sufficiency and a high quality of life is vital as our wounded warriors move through the process of rehabilitation and reintegration. It is important for VA to provide guidance and support the allocation of funds for recreation therapy because recreation therapy supports wellness and provides the first opportunity to engage veterans in sports as a part of their rehabilitation.

I very much look forward to our discussion about recreation therapy services in the VA and exploring how we can better design, expand, and maximize these programs to meet the individual needs and support the recovery and enrich the lives of every veteran patient.

Again, I thank you all for being here and yield back.

Witness Testimonies

  • Panel 1
  • Mary Ann Keckler, Spring Hill, FL (Veteran)
  • Davis Celestine, Vice President, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, Tampa, FL
  • Lee Nelson, Land O'Lakes, FL (Veteran)

  • Panel 2
  • Edie E. Dopking, Ph.D., President and Founder, Quantum Leap Farm, Inc., Odessa, FL
  • Melinda Wheatley, Senior Recreation Therapist, Hillsborough County, FL, Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, and Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay, FL
  • Sandy Ackley, Programming and Events Coordinator, Sailability Greater Tampa Bay, Clearwater, FL
  • David B. Windsor, Principal Instructor, Professional Golfers' Association of America, Adaptive Golf Academy, Inc.

  • Panel 3
  • Cathy Chiovitti Williams, CTRS, Supervisor, Recreation Theraphy Section, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa, FL, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Steven G. Scott, D.O., Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Serivce, James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa, FL, Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Panel 4
  • Submissions for the Record 

  • Verax Technologies, Inc., Pensacola, FL

 

 

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