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 Advocacy Agenda

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 a 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.

The VA Office of Research and Development contracted for a study of this issue that is scheduled for completion in September 2018.  While we hope the outcome of this study will be a more uniform approach to NPC administration of federal awards, we encourage Congress to closely monitor this issue.

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:

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  • 8 Jun 2017 1:30 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    On Thursday, June 8th, NAVREF testified before members of Congress and sent a clear message to the House VA Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee that our relationship to VA was not only valuable, but highly beneficial to the continued success of the VA research program. NAVREF would like to appreciate the strong support from our members, especially our colleagues that took time from their busy schedules to join us in Washington, D.C. 

    Their presence showed Congress that we were united in our message, and it also represented our strength to the CRADO who joined our delegation for lunch. The hearing was another step forward to improved collaboration and communication with VACO, ORD, and all stakeholders who join us in our vision to provide veterans with the finest healthcare in the nation.

    Read the written testimony here

  • 16 May 2017 9:16 AM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) held a Spring Capitol Hill Briefing on May 16th to present ongoing research and technologies to Congressional Staffers in two sessions. The event was moderated by Rick Starrs, NAVREF CEO, with remarks given by the CRADO, Dr. Rachel Ramoni and Dr. Patricia Dorn from ORD.

    Dr. Leigh Hochberg from the VA RR&D Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology in Providence presented research into neural pathways between the brain and computers to communicate with writing programs as well as robotic limbs. He emphasized that with current Wi-Fi technologies, we may be close to neural implants that communicate with computer systems. Dr. Dustin Tyler from the VA RR&D Center for Advanced Platform Technology in Cleveland presented research into peripheral nerve interfaces for prosthetics that can deliver the sense of feeling and was joined by vet Keith. Dr. Goldish from the Minneapolis VA Health Care System Extended Care and Rehabilitation Service Line brought vet John along to help demonstrate the progress made with a mobile manual standing wheelchair and the need for further advancements, such as lighter materials. Dr. Ann Spungen from the VA RR&D Center for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury at James J. Peters VAMC in Bronx, NY was joined by vet Luke and biomechanical engineer Pierre to demonstrate how an exoskeleton uses natural tilt to assist person with SCI in walking.

    Presenters expressed the need for VA support to continue their research as well as how much more these technologies can do to help veterans in the future. Staff members from the offices for Representatives Banks (R-IN), Coffman (R-CO), Grisham (D-NM), Lawson (D-FL), Palmer (R-6-AL), Veasey (D-TX), and Walorski (R-IN) attended the briefing sessions. Audience members also included members from Vietnam Veterans of America, ORD, OCLA, RR&D, AAMC, APA, IAVA, Academy Health, NAEVR, NAMI, SVAC, and the Senate Committee of Veterans Affairs.

    NAVREF is an executive member of the Friends of VA coalition.

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