Promoting research partnerships to improve veterans’ health

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Advocacy & Government Relations

NAVREF is an active participant in advocacy efforts to secure robust support for VA research and development.  This entails lobbying for an increase in the annual appropriation of VA medical and prosthetic research account, which is separate from VA health care appropriation.  Also, when warranted, NAVREF works with House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to highlight pertinent research and education issues.  Finally, these committees also are critical to the statute that authorizes NPCs.

NAVREF coordinates its funding advocacy efforts with the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA), a coalition of more than 80 medical specialty, patient advocacy, scientific and academic organizations committed to high quality care for veterans. 


NAVREF Core Advocacy Aspects

NAVREF believes it is time to update our enabling legislation to clarify areas of confusion and/or misinterpretation. We believe these changes will improve the ability of VA-affiliated nonprofit corporations (NPCs) to satisfy Congressional intent to support VA research and education activities and bring greater benefit to Veterans.

Flexible Funding Mechanism – a key aspect of the original legislation is the opening sentence, “The Secretary may authorize the establishment at any Department medical center of a nonprofit corporation to provide a flexible funding mechanism for the conduct of approved research and education at the medical center.” One significant component of this flexibility is the ability of NPCs to accept non-VA appropriated funding under authority of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The statute should be updated to specify that transferring funds from VA to NPC by MOA has the force of a contract in the eyes of the Economy Act for purposes of obligating funds.

Independence – the statute states that an NPC is not “…owned or controlled by the United States” or “an agency or instrumentality of the United States.” However, the VA and other entities frequently question the authority of NPCs to operate independently. For example, the NIH Grants Policy Statement permits academic affiliates the authority to pay principal investigators up to a 60-hour work week, but specifically denies this authority to the NPCs because of a perception of “inter-dependence.” Furthermore, the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish or disestablish a NPC is often cited by VA personnel when imposing controls that limit the flexibility of NPCs. The statute should be updated to specify that while NPCs are clearly related to VA medical centers and designed to support research and education activities at VA medical centers, they remain independent and autonomous nonprofit corporations.

  • 6 Apr 2021 10:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    a.            Paycheck Protection Program Extension Act – On March 30th, President Biden signed into law the two-month extension to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. As a refresher, the legislation extends PPP through May 31. Further, if eligible organizations apply by May 31, the Small Business Administration will permit lenders an additional 30 days to process and approve any outstanding applications.  The maximum loan amount of a second PPP loan is two-and-a-half times the average monthly 2019 or 2020 payroll costs, up to $2 million.  Eligibility criteria for a second PPP loan are as follows:

    • The applicant received a first PPP loan and will or has used the loan only for authorized uses;
    • The applicant employs no more than 300 people; and
    • The applicant can demonstrate at least a 25-percent reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

    b.            The administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan/Build Back Better includes an $18 billion commitment to address VA hospital and clinic infrastructure. 


  • 23 Mar 2021 10:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    1. The House passed a bill last week extending the deadline for applying for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to May 31, and the Senate is expected to take up the legislation as soon as tomorrow. The popular PPP, created by Congress last year and recently expanded to include most 501(c) nonprofit groups, offers forgivable loans to businesses and nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    2. Both the House and the Senate have overwhelmingly passed a version of the VA Vaccine Act. This legislation authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide the COVID-19 vaccines to more veterans and to their caregivers.
    3. The Senate HELP Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings this week to review the Biden Administration’s pandemic response and ongoing COVID-19 vaccine distribution with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIH NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, HHS Chief Scientific Officer for the COVID Response Dr. David Kessler, and FDA CBER Director Dr. Peter Marks.  In their testimonies, the Administration officials underscored how utilizing past scientific discoveries in combination with new partnerships led to the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics at a record pace. They also spoke to concerns regarding equitable vaccine distribution, and how scientists are navigating emerging variants by modernizing existing research techniques. Addressing “long COVID-19” and the impending mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic also remain top priorities.
    4. A new version of the Endless Frontier Act may come to the Senate Floor as early as next month. Based on last year’s bill, the legislation would establish a new directorate at NSF and authorize $100 billion over five years to build out our nation’s technological capacity. You can view the bill from last Congress here and a recent letter from former NSF directors and National Science Board chairs here
    5. March 24 - The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing to examine the VA medical supply chain response to the pandemic.
    March 24 – Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing:  Coping during COVID:  Veterans’ Mental Health and Implementation of the Hannon Act


  • 16 Feb 2021 10:15 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Advocacy Update. 

    1. The House Appropriations Committee expects to finalize guidance for a new version of earmarks by the end of this month. Earmarks enable a lawmaker to specify funding for a particular project, usually within their own district or state. The elimination of earmarks has been blamed, in part, for the current dismal state of the Congressional appropriations process. With earmarks, every lawmaker has a reason for voting for the spending bill, even if they do not like everything in it. The elimination of earmarks took away this important negotiating tool from appropriations committee leaders trying to build support for their bills.
    2. The House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing at 1pm on Friday on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ COVID-19 response.
    3. The House Committee on Veterans Affairs announced committee assignments for the 117th Congress.  The Chair and Ranking Member also highlighted their priorities:
    •                                                                i.      Committee chair Rep. Takano (D-CA) said, in the coming year, they must work to account for service members’ toxic exposures during their military service. He also wants to do more to ensure equality in veterans’ access to benefits. That will mean hearing from organizations that represent traditionally underserved communities.
    •                                                              ii.      Committee ranking member Rep. Bost (R-IL) said he wants to focus on improving health services for women veterans, and streamlining and easing the transition process out of the military into the civilian world. He wants to ensure the VA’s implementation of a new electronic health record goes smoothly. Among other priorities, Bost stressed the importance of continuing to work to prevent suicide among veterans.
    1. Committee Assignments:

    Health:

    o Chair: Rep. Brownley (C-CA)

    o Ranking Member: Rep. Bergman (R-MI)

    Oversight and Investigations:

    o Chair: Rep. Pappas (D-NH)

    o Ranking Member: Rep. Mann (R-KS)

    Technology Modernization:

    o Chair: Rep. Mrvan (D-IN)

    o Ranking Member: Rep. Rosendale (R-MT)

    Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs:

    o Chair: Rep. Luria (D-VA)

    o Ranking Member: Rep. Nehls (R-TX)

    Economic Opportunity:

    o Chair: Rep. Levin (D-CA)

    o Ranking Member: Rep. Moore (R-AL)


  • 1 Feb 2021 11:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    President Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, Denis McDonough, appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on January 27th for his confirmation hearing.

    The former Obama administration White House Chief of Staff was questioned by Senators who were concerned about the impact the transition would have on the Department of Veteran Affairs to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

    Committee Chairman, Senator Jon Tester from Montana, said the VA had tested nearly 1.3 million veterans and employees for COVID-19. “And now there are more than 8300 veteran families who are without their loved ones, including the more than 3100 VA is cared for within its facilities,” he said.

    McDonough testified that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden take the duty of caring for veterans seriously, because they “are members of a proud military family.”

    “If confirmed, I will dedicate myself with every fiber of my being to fulfilling what President Biden rightly refers to as our country’s most sacred obligation: to prepare and equip our troops that we send into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return,” he said.

    McDonough was also asked to support veteran caregivers and address the issue of veteran suicide.

  • 24 Nov 2020 11:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    FY 2021 Appropriations. Senate Republicans released an explanatory statement and text of their FY 2021 spending bill, including a total of $800 million for VA research, which would provide no increase over the comparable FY 2020 funding level. The press statement and highlights prepared by the committee staff are also available.

    The FOVA Executive Committee sent a Nov. 16 letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders (also attached) urging passage of at least $840 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research program in FY 2021, as included in the House-passed MilCon-VA spending bill. Please forward this letter to your Hill contacts urging appropriators to increase the VA research budget during this critical time for medical research.

    Bicameral appropriations leaders are working to negotiate topline spending levels for all 12 FY 2021 spending bills in hopes of finalizing an omnibus appropriations package by the end of the calendar year. The current continuing resolution is set to expire on December 11.

    VA COVID-19 Research Activities. The VA Office of Research and Development publishes regular communications about its COVID-19 research efforts. The ORD webpage “VA Research During the COVID-19 Pandemic” is updated regularly, and the recent Research Currents edition focused on COVID-19 efforts at VA.

    Clinical Repurposing Funding Opportunity. The global nonprofit Cures Within Reach recently launched the Clinical Repurposing for Veterans Initiative.  The program’s goal is to identify new medical treatments for already approved medications and devices to impact high-priority health concerns for veterans and active military. Cures Within Reach is launching its Clinical Repurposing for Veterans Initiative with a Request for Proposals (RFP) specifically for repurposing research in any disease area that will benefit veterans. Investigator-initiated proposals can come from any US-based institution, and at least one project will be selected to receive a $50,000 grant from Cures Within Reach and its funding partner, the Kahlert Foundation for a clinical repurposing trial. Additional details are in the attached press release or at cureswithinreach.org.


  • 6 Oct 2020 1:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On Sep 30, 2020, The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) held a hearing to review the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) intention to go live on October 24 with its new EHR system, from Cerner. VA witnesses emphasized they are fully ready for that date, with employees trained and Cerner support staff in place. VA EHR modernization lead John Windom also told the committee the Department has enough money for its plans throughout the coming fiscal year. The pandemic has delayed the program’s implementation, but the VA expects to still finish within the ten-year timeline.


  • 29 Sep 2020 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Introduced by Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL-6) in January 2020, HR 5605 dubbed the United States-Israel PTSD Collaborative Research Act, is currently cosponsored by 87 members of the House, but still in the very early stages of moving to the House VA Committee. The bill aims to take collective research and experience to develop best-practices in research, diagnosing, and treating PTSD.

    Specifically, HR 5605 would establish a grant program for collaborative efforts between the United States and Israel to advance research on post-traumatic stress disorders. The Department of Defense, in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of State, would award grants to eligible academic institutions or nonprofit entities in the United States.

    Work would be conducted by eligible entities which includes nonprofits conducting research, and an entity in Israel under a joint research agreement.

    NPC leaders are encouraged to reach out to their members of Congress and urge their support for HR 5605.


  • 28 Sep 2020 9:31 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Despite the legislative challenges presented by COVID-19 in the past months, the U.S. House passed Senate legislation, S. 785 on September 23 to help prevent veteran suicide. 

    Originally introduced by Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, S. 785 aims to prevent veteran suicide by expanding access to care, services and support for at-risk individuals within the VA healthcare system and in their local communities. The bill includes a subcomponent dubbed the Fox provision which is a suicide prevention grant program that would include community resources in veteran care.

    U.S. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who chairs the House committee on Veterans’ Affairs, noted the committee has passed 15 pieces of legislation to address veterans’ mental health conditions.


  • 25 May 2020 1:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research asked Congress on May 21st to support an additional $50 million towards Veterans Affairs COVID-19 research. As many know, the VA Office of Research and Development has been working tirelessly to quickly setup trials and studies aimed at finding solutions to fight COVID-19. This shift of effort has also required as shift of resources which is where FOVA has come in to play. Read more about this effort here in their letter to Congress.  

  • 30 Mar 2020 9:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Please click here to read NAVREF's analysis of HR 748. 

ADVOCACY THROUGH PARTNERSHIP.

Together with the Friends of VA Medical Care and Research, NAVREF works with a network of organizations to deliver our message to Congress.


FOVA activities including:

  • Developing recommendations for VA research funding
  • Monitoring the federal budget/appropriations process
  • Meeting with key House and Senate committee members and their staffs
  • Organizing congressional briefings
  •  Maintaining a roster of organizations that endorse FOVA’s funding recommendations
  • Recommending report language on topics of importance to VA research
  • Testifying before the appropriations subcommittees
  • Sending letters to members of Congress at key times during the budget/appropriations cycle

For up-to-date information on the funding needs of VA research and raising awareness of the VA research program, please go to the FOVA website: http://www.friendsofva.org.




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