Friday, October 23, 2009

Paralympic Community Initiative to Serve Physically Disabled Veterans

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Olympic Committee Launch

Paralympic Community Initiative to Serve Physically Disabled Veterans

WASHINGTON (Oct. 21, 2009) - Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) signed a memorandum of
understanding to provide Paralympic sport programming and additional
community support, including funding and resources, to injured
servicemembers and Veterans across the country.

"Americans have a covenant to care for those who have served our nation
with honor," said Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of
Veterans Affairs. "VA is proud to fulfill that covenant through this
partnership with U.S. Paralympics, which gives injured Veterans an
opportunity to rediscover their potential and redefine their
capabilities. Too often, the world sees only their limitations - we know
their potential. Disabled Veterans show us how to live life. Life for
them is not just about winning or losing at sports events. It's about
the joy that comes from triumphing over adversity, and their triumph is
the fight each and every day."

Under the terms of the agreement signed today, the U.S. Olympic
Committee and its Paralympic Division, along with USOC member
organizations, including Veteran and military organizations, will expand
rehabilitative support at the community level in collaboration with the
VA, to injured Veterans. Support includes training, equipment, access to
Paralympic mentors and ongoing sports programming in communities across
the country.

"Research shows that sports and physical activity provide incredible
healing power and contribute significantly to successful rehabilitation
and re-engagement in life for people and soldiers who become physically
disabled," said Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, USOC. "A
significant need is ensuring access to programs for injured Veterans at
the community level. By collaborating with VA, we can ensure that
Olympic and Paralympic community-based and Veteran sport organizations
connect injured service members to local programs immediately, and
resources are provided to those programs to meet the need through VA
funded USOC grants."

The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 authorizes VA to award $8
million in annual grant support to the U.S. Paralympics to plan,
develop, manage, and implement an integrated adaptive sports program for
disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

Calling the partnership an important step in ensuring that USOC
Paralympic Military Program is capable of supporting Veteran athletes,
Chairman Filner said, "For many service members and Veterans who have
been severely-injured, their rehabilitation can be a disheartening
experience. The partnership between USOC and VA will provide injured
service members and veterans more opportunities to heal and grow, while
in an environment of athletic competition and sport. For so many
wounded warriors, this program provides a valuable chance to explore new
limits, dream new dreams, and continue their active lifestyle."

In addition, $2 million in direct Veteran support will be provided for
injured servicemembers who are seeking competitive sport opportunities.

"When I had the pleasure of visiting the U.S. Olympic Committee training
site in Chula Vista, California, I saw first-hand how sports strengthen
these heroes physically, mentally and emotionally," said Congressman
Buyer. "These qualities of the heart and mind translated into other
areas of life often lead to great success and accomplishments, and I am
excited about this milestone in Veterans' rehabilitation."

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S. Paralympics is a division
of the USOC and was formed in May 2001 with the goal of enhancing
programs, obtaining funding and providing competitive opportunities for
athletes with physical disabilities to participate in Paralympic sports.

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