Menu

News & Events

Event Calendar

Community Event TIF is attending

NASCAR All-Star Race

May 17, 2018, 12:12 p.m. – May 20, 2018, 12:12 p.m.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 Race

May 24, 2018, 12:13 p.m. – May 27, 2018, 12:13 p.m.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

HeroesCon

June 16, 2018, 12:15 p.m. – June 16, 2018, 12:15 p.m.

Charlotte, NC

Caregiver Program

Male Caregiver Retreat

June 6, 2018, 12:20 p.m. – June 10, 2018, 12:20 p.m.

Charlotte, NC

Adaptive Sports Program

Spartan Race

May 12, 2018, 12:11 p.m. – May 12, 2018, 12:11 p.m.

Fayetteville, NC

Valor Games Southeast

May 21, 2018, 12:16 p.m. – May 24, 2018, 12:17 p.m.

Chapel Hill, NC

Valor Games Far West

May 31, 2018, 12:18 p.m. – June 3, 2018, 12:18 p.m.

Alameda, CA

Warrior Games

June 2, 2018, 12:19 p.m. – June 9, 2018, 12:19 p.m.

Colorado Springs, CO

Mobility Program
Advocacy Program
TIF Fundraiser

The Heroes Classic Golf Tournament

April 29, 2018, 3 p.m. – April 29, 2018, 3 p.m.

The Ballantyne Hotel and Golf Club
10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy
Charlotte, NC 28277
1:30 PM

The Independence Fund presents the "Heroes Classic" Golf Tournament. Proceeds will benefit the missions of The Independence Fund, Susan M. Tillis Foundation, and Veterans Bridge Home.

Click here to register!

*Tickets include lunch, one (1) drink ticket, and one (1) raffle ticket.

For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jessica at (704)-493-9848 or via email at [email protected]

Hero at Home Book Reading

May 19, 2018, 12:15 p.m. – May 19, 2018, 12:15 p.m.

Kid Kashew Restaurant
Charlotte, NC

MEDIA FROM THE INDEPENDENCE FUND

For media representatives looking to book an interview or speak with The Independence Fund, please contact:

Nick Kaylor 
704-890-4009
[email protected]

Press Releases

  • 6-6-18: VA MISSION Act Bill Signing is a Strong First Step for America’s Disabled Veterans and their Caregivers

    VA MISSION Act Bill Signing is a Strong First Step for America’s Disabled Veterans and their Caregivers

    Contact: Paul McKellips   I   [email protected]   I   202.770.6466

    (Washington, DC)        Today, President Trump signs the VA MISSION Act into law giving wounded Veterans and their Caregivers a strong first step in streamlining access to the full spectrum of real VA health care choice, including community care.
     
    “We salute the President’s steadfast commitment to provide Veterans real VA health care choice, from his campaign promises to today’s bill signing,” says Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund and Caregiver to her husband, Michael, who was catastrophically wounded in Afghanistan. “We also salute this bill expanding the VA’s caregiver program to all eras of service where Veterans were disabled.”
     
    The MISSION Act sends Veteran health care in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go.
     
    “While this bill does not achieve the full VA health care choice on which the President boldly campaigned,” says Bob Carey, Chief Advocacy Officer at The Independence Fund and a retired U.S. Navy Captain, “given the strident opposition by traditional Veteran Service Organizations and federal labor unions to giving Veterans that right to choose their own health care provider, this is the best deal that could be crafted. Now The Independence Fund shifts its focus to the regulations VA will write to implement the VA MISSION Act, where we will fight to expand VA choice as fully as possible.”
     

    #          #          #


    MISSIONSigning

  • 5-30-18: The Independence Fund Applauds Appointment of Peter O’Rourke as Acting VA Secretary

    The Independence Fund Applauds Appointment of Peter O’Rourke as Acting VA Secretary

    Thanks Deputy Secretary Bowman for Lifetime of Service 

     

    Contact:
    Bob Carey
    [email protected]
    202-779-1598
     
    (Washington, DC) – The Independence Fund welcomes the announcement of Peter O’Rourke as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs. O’Rourke, currently serving as the VA’s Chief of Staff, will continue the tremendous progress made by this Administration, and by former Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie, in expanding health care choices and services for Veterans.
     
    Bob Carey, Chief of Advocacy at the Independence Fund, stated,“Peter O’Rourke did a tremendous job as the Chief of Staff, and will now continue the path begun by Secretary Wilkie to achieve fully the President’s campaign promise on expanded VA health care choice and an overhaul of an archaic and bureaucratic Veterans Affairs administration. Under O’Rourke’s leadership as Acting Secretary (until Robert Wilkie is confirmed as Secretary), we will be closer to achieving the President’s vision.”
     
    Carey continued, “Additionally, The Independence Fund gives a very heartfelt thanks to Thomas Bowman, as he announced his retirement from federal service. Deputy Secretary Bowman’s care for Veterans, during a long and illustrious career in the US Marine Corps, as Chief of Staff for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and with multiple tours at the VA, laid the groundwork for the successes we will celebrate soon, like the signing into law of the VA MISSION Act. We wish him the absolute best in his retirement.”
     
    Sarah Verardo, The Independence Fund’s Executive Director added, “O’Rourke’s extensive government service, and his service as both an enlisted Navy plane captain and commissioned Air Force officer, give him the unique and broad perspective The VA needs as the VA MISSION Act is implemented at the agency level.  We hope under Secretary Wilkie there will be further opportunities for Peter to continue to serve our country’s Veterans.”
     
    The Independence Fund congratulates the President on the announcement of this appointment and looks forward to fully supporting him and his new VA leadership to bring about the real VA reform, health care choice, and expanded Caregiver programs our Veterans deserve.

    ORourkeAppointmentStatement.png

    See the full statement here.

    -30-

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund empowers our Nation's severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We improve the lives of both our Veterans and their families through The Independence Fund's Mobility, Caregiver, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs. For more details regarding the Independence Fund’s programs, how to donate, as well as event information, please visit www.independencefund.orgor call 888-851-7996.  

  • 5-21-18: 40/40 All-Terrain Chair Matching Program

    40/40 All-Terrain Chair Matching Program

    40/40 New

    The Independence Fund has received a tremendously generous offer to match all funds for up to 40 all-terrain chairs. That means that for every chair that we receive funds for (up to 40), from now until July 4, a special donor will match the funds to provide another chair. That’s nearly $650,000!


    Every donation matters, so help us Be a Hero for a Hero. Help us give 80 of these life-changing chairs today!

  • 5-16-18: The Independence Fund Endorsement of the MISSION Act

    The Independence Fund Endorsement of the MISSION Act

    The Honorable Mitch McConnell

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader 

    S-231, The Capitol

    Washington, DC 20510


    The Honorable Charles E. Schumer         

    United States Senate 

    322 Hart Office Building 

    Washington, DC 20510 

     

    Dear Senators McConnell and Schumer, 

     

    Over 11 years, The Independence Fund has provided more than $50 million of mobility equipment and support services to our nation’s most catastrophically disabled Veterans and their Caregivers, families, and children. But despite those successes, we’ve discovered two unshakeable facts: first, the VA health care system repeatedly fails to provide optimum care to our nation’s Veterans, therefore, our Veterans need much greater choice in where they receive that care.  Second, it is fundamentally unfair to exclude pre-9/11 Veterans’ Caregivers from the full spectrum of benefits provided to post 9/11 Veterans.

     

    Given those two conclusions, The Independence Fund is proud to endorse the HR 5674, the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, (VA MISSION Act), calls for its earliest consideration by the Senate as soon as it is transmitted by the House, and requests your individual and party caucus’ support for this crucial legislation.

     

    We are especially encouraged by the MISSION Act’s consolidation of VA’s Community Care Program and provisions for giving Veterans mandatory access to community care when VA facilities are unable to meet basic access and quality standards. 

    Further, we strongly support expanding the VA’s Caregiver program to all generations of catastrophically disabled veterans. Excluding pre-9/11 Veterans from the Caregiver program is patently unfair, and the MISSION Act will rectify this injustice.

     

    Finally, we urge you to see the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) provisions for what they are, but more importantly for what they are not.  This is not some version of VA BRAC, but an opportunity – repeatedly encouraged by multiple Republican and Democratic Administrations – to complete a top to bottom analysis of how VA facilities and infrastructure must be modernized.   The revised provisions provide significant Veteranstakeholder involvement and increase transparency during the review. 

    There is not a single Veteran Service Organization of which we know that is opposed to this legislation. This bill provides the last, best hope in this Congress for reforming and expanding VA health care, extending Caregiver benefits to all eras of military service, and optimizing VA’s infrastructure to best serve Veterans.  We urge you to pass this legislation at the earliest opportunity.

    Very Respectfully,

     

     

    Bob Carey

    CAPT, USN (Ret)

    Director, Policy & Advocacy


    You can see the official endorsement letter here.

  • 5-18-18: Independence Fund Supports Nomination of Robert Wilkie as VA Secretary

    Independence Fund Supports Nomination of Robert Wilkie as VA Secretary

    Verardo: “…exactly the nominee the VA needs, for exactly the right time…” 


    Contact: Bob Carey I   [email protected]   I   202-779-1598 

    (Washington, DC) – Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund, welcomed the announcement of Robert Wilkie, currently serving as Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to be nominated as the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs. 

    Verardo stated, The President laid out a very clear VA reform agenda during the Presidential campaign. The Independence Fund strongly supports that agenda, including the President’s call that his administration will ‘…ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.’ With House passage of The MISSION Act this week, and Senate consideration next week, we are on the cusp of achieving, at least in part, the President’s vision. As Acting Secretary, Robert Wilkie’s shown a clear commitment to expanding Veterans’ health care choices, and in achieving the President’s vision.” 

    “The most important thing,” continued Verardo, “is the proper and timely care of Veterans navigating the VA health care system and its fundamental reform. Robert Wilkie is exactly the nominee the VA needs, for exactly the right time as we work towards achieving these necessary reforms.” 

    Bob Carey, The Independence Fund’s Director, Policy & Advocacy, noted, “Much of the hard work necessary to achieve real VA health care choice, and real accountability in the Department, must be done by regulation, directives, and policies executed at individual VISNs and VA medical facilities. VA’s civil servant and political leadership demonstrated a true willingness to work with The Independence Fund on addressing many of the issues we raised. Further, as a veteran, Robert Wilkie intimately understands the challenges Veterans face. And as a long-time government executive, he knows Congress, the budgetary and regulatory processes, and the complexities of federal acquisition. He should be able to lead the VA very effectively.” 

    Sarah Verardo also noted, “Robert Wilkie brought decades of legislative and Executive Branch experience to his Acting Secretary responsibilities, acquitted himself expertly to date as Acting Secretary, and The Independence Fund was overjoyed to build on the relationship originally established while he served on the staff of Senator Tillis, our home State Senator. We believe that experience will serve the VA and the President exceptionally well when he is nominated and eventually confirmed.” 

    The Independence Fund congratulates the President on the announcement of this nomination and looks forward to fully supporting him and his new VA leadership to bring about the real VA reform and health care choice possibilities our Veterans deserve

    -30- 

    See the official release here.

  • 4-17-18: Testimony For House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health Legislative Hearing

    Testimony For House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Health Legislative Hearing


    Testimony of

    Bob Carey, Director, Policy & Advocacy, The Independence Fund

     

    The Independence Fund

    Dear Chairman Wenstrup, Representative Brownley, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you very much for inviting The Independence Fund to testify before your Subcommittee today. I am Bob Carey, Director of Policy & Advocacy of The Independence Fund, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, with additional offices in Washington, DC and San Antonio, TX.  

    Only 10 years old, we were founded in 2007 with the very specific purpose of assisting the most catastrophically wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan with adaptive mobility devices, and returning to them, at least in part, their independence. Since those humble beginnings, The Independence Fund’s grown to also provide assistance for the caregivers of the catastrophically wounded and disabled, assistance to adaptive athletes and teams, wellness programs to combat the scourge of veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, veteran service programs to navigate the overly complex VA health care and benefit systems, advocacy programs to change the laws and regulations that unnecessarily limit veterans access to their earned benefits, and our newest program, Heroes at Home, which will assist the children of the catastrophically wounded and disabled.

    To date, The Independence Fund’s provided more than $50 million in assistance to the catastrophically wounded and disabled and their Caregivers.  This includes more than 2,200 motorized cross-country wheelchairs, 1,500 adaptive bicycles, and more than 150 Caregiver support retreats.  

    Overall Issues and Compromise Legislation

    Mr. Chairman, we would be remiss if we did not discuss the failed opportunity to bring widespread reform to the VA system with the recently considered compromise VA Choice, Caregiver expansion, and capital asset review legislation that was proposed to include on the Comprehensive Appropriations Act for FY 2018, recently passed by Congress.  The Independence Fund supported this compromise legislation, as we believe most every other major veteran service organization did.  We do not believe a single veteran service organization opposed the compromise legislation.  That is why we joined our VSO colleagues in our disappointment it was not included in the final omnibus legislative package.

    That said, it is not too late to enact this groundbreaking legislation.  With the VA Choice program projected to run out of money by late May or early June, some type of legislative action will be needed very soon. The Independence Fund believes that original compromise legislation, without amendment, is our best chance to break ourselves from this endless cycle of budgetary brinksmanship with the VA Choice program, to bring meaningful and real choice to the VA health care system, to expand the caregiver program, and to analyze deliberatively and rigorously the real capital asset requirements of the VA.

    While we share the Chairman’s and the prior Secretary’s concerns expanding the VA Caregiver program without revising the eligibility criteria may swamp the program so completely that current caregivers are denied the support they need, the need for expanding choice in the VA health care system is so severe, we are willing to take that risk with the Caregiver program as part of a broad legislative compromise proposal.

    Therefore, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, The Independence Fund strongly recommends the proposed omnibus legislative compromise language, with all three pieces major reform – VA health care choice expansion and community care consolidation; VA Caregiver expansion, and the capital asset review – be pursued in their entirety, and without further amendment, before alternative texts are considered.  It is in this compromise language that our community finds its best hope for passage.  With the universal VSO support, if any part of the original omnibus language were reopened, we would demand, as we believe many other VSOs would demand, for additional reforms of other parts of that omnibus package.  In our case, it would be further expansion of access to non-VA care and refinement and national standardization of the Caregiver program. But such renegotiation of the language would likely delay consideration to after the deadline for funding VA Choice, and with that, the best legislative vehicle for enacting such laws.

    HR 2322

    Mr. Chairman, with The Independence Fund’s focus on reforming VA health care, especially for the catastrophically disabled, and for supporting the caregivers and families of those catastrophically disabled, we will only comment on HR 2322, HR 4334, and the Revised Draft to Make Certain Improvements in the Family Caregiver Support Program.

    Which brings us to the specific issue of wheelchairs and prosthetics.  Our Executive Director, Sarah Verardo, is Caregiver to her husband SGT Michael Verardo, USA (Ret), catastrophically wounded in Southern Afghanistan in 2010.  Mike regularly talks about how his biggest battle was not on the battlefield, nor in the immediate recovery before his medical retirement from the military in 2013. Mike and Sarah’s biggest battle is with a VA health care system unresponsive to their unique health care needs, and apparently either unwilling or unable to make the changes necessary to optimize the care for the catastrophically disabled.  Their personal experience, and the experience of hundreds of our clients served through the years,  is that the VA cannot deliver wheelchair and prosthetic repairs and replacements in a timely manner.  

    For example, when Mike was retired from the military and we moved back to Rhode Island, his prosthetic leg was damaged, but we had to wait 57 days for a VA medical administrator to sign a form authorizing the repair of the prosthetic.  Eventually, the prosthetic vendor grew disgusted with the VA and provided a new prosthetic without authorization, risking non-payment. In the meantime, Sarah was forced to duct tape Mike’s leg to keep it even somewhat operational. More recently when Sarah requested a wheelchair repair or replacement from VA, sheI was told that the VA needed to evaluate if Mike still had injuries that required wheelchair use.  Apparently the VA did not realize limb loss is permanent. 

    The Independence Fund’s made eliminating the requirement to see a Primary Care Physician first when seeking prosthetics or wheelchair repairs one of its type priorities, meeting with the White House, the prior Secretary, Congress (including this Subcommittee), and the leadership of the Rehabilitation, Wheelchair, and Prosthetics departments at the VA.  And that is why we are so encouraged by VA’s announcement week before last eliminating that requirement, allowing the Veteran to go directly to the wheelchair and prosthetics offices to seek assistance.

    But that, Mr. Chairman, is not enough.  The VA Inspector General released a report last month detailing the myriad problems with wheelchair and prosthetic repairs in VISN 7, which we believe apply nationwide. The first remarkable item in this report is that the VA apparently has no standard for how long it should take to repair wheelchairs and scooters.  Second, the VA IG found the average wait time was 99 days.  Some of the Veterans researched in this study were bedridden for more than 100 days while their wheelchairs were being repaired. We believe such wait times are similar for prosthetics as well.

    Lastly, the VA IG detailed the repair administrative process.  That process seems incredibly complex and unnecessarily duplicative.  A simple process review would likely be able to trim substantial time and steps from this process.  The Independence Fund recently met with the Central Office Prosthetics and Wheelchairs Department, and we are hoping to enter some Memorandum of Understanding with the VA to help them improve those processes. We request your support with the VA to enter into such an agreement with us.

    But again, Mr. Chairman, we do not believe there are any circumstances where the VA will be able to adequately respond to Veterans’ prosthetic and wheelchair repair and replacement needs.  Having to wait until the point of failure for the VA to even initiate repair or replacement action and having no spares available for the Veteran to use in the interim, highlights a system unresponsive to the basic needs of disabled Veterans.  Even the 30-day repair standard the VA IG arbitrarily applied in their report (since the VA does not have its own repair/replacement standard), is unacceptably long.  Therefore, we recommend Veterans be allowed immediate access to non-VA care for the repair or replacement of prosthetics, wheelchairs, and scooters.  

     With regards to HR 2322, we believe additions and revisions to the bill will help address these problems, and we look forward to working with the sponsors of the legislation and the Subcommittee to revise it.  But spefically, we believe the following recommendations will help improve the legislation:

    -       Specifically add language for wheelchairs.  While many amputees are able to use their prosthetics for many hours throughout the day, many others are more limited in that use, relying on wheelchairs for the other times.  Further, administratively, the wheelchair programs and prosthetic programs are run by the same offices in the VA, and the procedures are developed by the same personnel.  

    -       Required the VA to develop realistic repair and replacement timelines.  As the VA IG report highlighted, the VA currently has not standards for how long it can take to repair or replace a wheelchair or prosthetic device.  The VA IG used 30 days as an arbitrary standard, but even then, we believe that is unreasonably long.  Further, the VA has no preventive maintenance programs, or backup/loaner programs, even for manual wheelchairs.  We believe the Bill of Rights must include timely access to repairs and replacements, loaners and backups provided by the VA within days of the Veteran contacting VA, and immediate direct access to the vendor by the Veteran, rather than having to go through the Byzantine VA bureaucracy.  

    HR 4334 

    Mr. Chairman, The Independence Fund salutes the Subcommittee’s commitment to serving our female Veterans and specifically addressing their unique needs. We also believe the bill’s focus on exploring non-VA care options is wise.  While female veterans make up an increasing portion of the VA health care population, they are still a significant minority.  We are concerned, at least in some regions, there will never be enough of a female patient density to justify unique female programs at local VA facilities, and that the unique needs of female Veterans are such that the VA will never be able to recruit enough specialists to provide adequate VA care to that population at the local level.  

    Further, we do not believe regional or national specialist clinics, to which female Veterans would travel, are a reasonable way to provide the care.  It forces sick Veterans to travel long distances, forces them inappropriately into inpatient care settings, and takes them away from their primary family and local support systems.  Therefore, Mr. Chairman, The Independence Fund recommends the language regarding female Veteran access to non-VA care by strengthened and expanded.  We look forward to working with the bill sponsors and the Subcommittee on those recommendations.

    Caregiver Support Programs

    Mr. Chairman, as The Independence Fund’s noted many times in the past, we share your concern expanding the Caregiver program without also refining it may so swamp the VA Caregiver infrastructure that current Caregivers are denied the support they need. And in another time and another place, we would be excited to help the Subcommittee with such refinements.  However, our fellow VSOs have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that only absolute expansion of the program, under current eligibility rules, to pre-9/11 Veterans, is acceptable to them as part of the broader omnibus appropriations compromise legislation.  Any change to that current language will trigger their opposition to the entire package.  Therefore, we are concerned consideration of this legislation at today’s hearing may endanger Congress’ ability to get not only VA Caregiver expansion enacted, but VA Choice expansion as well.  

    The Independence Fund’s attached it’s response to the February 2018 Federal Register request for comments on the current Caregiver program, as well as our testimony before the VA’s Caregiver and Military Family Advisory Committee, in order to provide the Subcommittee with the background on our overall concerns with the program.

     If Congress is unable to pass the omnibus appropriations compromise VA reform legislation, and the entire gamut of issues is reopened for legislative consideration, The Independence Fund looks forward to working with the Subcommittee then on the new Caregiver expansion and reform legislation.

    Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee today.  I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

  • 4-4-18: VA Moves in the Right Direction for Wheelchair & Prosthetic Services

    VA Moves in the Right Direction for Wheelchair & Prosthetic Services

    Verardo: “Finally, our pleas have been heard.”

    Contact: Bob Carey   I   202-779-1598   I   [email protected]

    (Charlotte, NC) – The Independence Fund (a charitable, non-profit Veteran service organization that has awarded more than $50 million of adaptive mobility equipment to seriously disabled veterans, including more than 2,200 cross-country tracked wheelchairs), applauds the Department of Veteran Affairs announcement today to allow Veterans needing prosthesis and wheelchair repairs and replacements to schedule directly with those clinics, without first having to see a primary care provider, and looks forward to continuing to work closely with the VA to improve further the wheelchair and prosthetic service processes.

    “Every time Mike’s wheelchair or prosthesis was damaged or needed replacing,” said an exasperated Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund, and Caregiver to her husband Michael Verardo, an amputee, who lost a leg and much of his dominant arm from his service in Afghanistan, “the VA would call me up and tell me that Mike and I had to make the
    three hour round trip to the local VA medical center so that they could confirm he still suffered from his wartime wounds. Spoiler alert folks; Mike’s leg didn’t grow back since the last time he was seen.”

    On December 8, 2017, The Independence Fund initiated its campaign to change these unnecessary and burdensome policies, when it brought seven catastrophically wounded Veterans and their Caregivers to meet with the White House and then Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shulkin and his senior staff. At these meetings, The Independence Fund staff, and these seven pairs of wounded veterans and Caregivers described the inane and burdensome steps they had to go through to get wheelchairs and prosthetics repaired or replaced.

    “When we first entered the VA system, Mike’s prosthetic leg was damaged. But we waited 57 days for those repairs to even start because that is how long it took someone in the VA to sign an authorization for the repairs,” continued Verardo. “In the meantime, I was duct-taping Mike’s leg back together so he could just get around the house.”

    Since those December meetings, The Independence Fund has held follow-up meetings with the VA’s Prosthetic and Sensory Aid Service, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation office, the Mid-Atlantic Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 6), the Patient Care Services Office for Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services, and the VA’s Veterans Experience Office. In each meeting, The Independence Fund staff detailed the problems with the wheelchair and prosthetic service processes, specifically those requiring patients to re-prove their disabilities and mandating primary care visits for repair approvals. The Independence Fund staff offered to assist in implementing reforms.

    “The wheelchair and prosthetic maintenance programs present, from the seriously disabled Veterans’ perspective, many opportunities for improvement,” noted Mary Ramos, Veterans Service Officer for The Independence Fund. “The VA Inspector General report on the VA’s wheelchair program detailed how the average veteran waits almost 100 days for wheelchair repair. The Veteran and his or her family is severely inconvenienced during these intervals, and many are in danger of injury as they ‘make do.’ We need preventive maintenance programs in place, and if repairs were not so inconvenient, small repairs would prevent catastrophic failures. Veterans need loaner equipment and more flexibility in seeking small repairs (including using community-based vendors directly), given the serious problems we see.” The Independence Fund is also in discussions with the VA to directly assist the VA in reforming these programs and processes, providing direct wheelchair and prosthetic backup, repair, and replacement services to VA patients; either through the VA Community Care programs, or directly outside the VA system.

    -30-

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund is committed to empowering our nation’s severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We are dedicated to improving the lives of both our Veterans and their families. Through four distinct pillars of support, the Mobility, Caregiver, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs, The Independence Fund bridges the gap of unmet needs for Veterans and their caregivers.

    For more details regarding the Independence Fund’s mission, how to get involved, or to make a donation, please visit www.independencefund.org or call (888)-851-7996.

  • 3-28-18: The VA is About How Best to Serve and Treat Veterans, Not Who is Secretary

    The VA is About How Best to Serve and Treat Veterans, Not Who is Secretary

    The VA is About How Best to Serve and Treat Veterans, Not Who is Secretary 
    The Independence Fund Welcomes Robert Wilkie and Admiral Jackson to VA Leadership 


    Contact: 
    Bob Carey 
    [email protected] 
    202-779-1598 


    (Washington, DC) – Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund, welcomed the nomination of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, MC, USN to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “The President laid out a very clear VA reform agenda during the Presidential campaign. The Independence Fund strongly supports that agenda, including the President’s call that his administration will ‘…ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.’ Congress and this Administration are on the cusp of achieving, at least in part, the President’s vision. Obviously, as the White House physician, Admiral Jackson has the President’s trust, which will be vital in bridging the final barriers to getting real VA health care choice enacted into law.” 

    “The most important thing,” continued Verardo, “is the proper and timely care of Veterans navigating the VA health care system and its fundamental reform. Who is or is not the Secretary is not important when this President has laid out such a clear and compelling vision for the VA. What matters is the President has a Secretary with whom he can work effectively to achieve that vision.” 

    The Independence Fund was proud of the relationship it developed with Secretary Shulkin and grateful for the wide and significant access he gave The Independence Fund to the senior staff of the Department, both civil servant and political appointees. 

    Bob Carey, The Independence Fund’s Director, Policy & Advocacy, noted, “Much of the hard work necessary to achieve real VA health care choice, and real accountability in the Department, must be done by regulation, directives, and policies executed at individual VISNs and VA medical facilities. VA’s civil servant and political leadership demonstrated a true willingness to work with The Independence Fund on addressing many of the issues we raised with Secretary Shulkin, which we believe must continue apace under the new leadership, especially as it will better execute the President’s vision for a better VA.” 

    Sarah Verardo also noted, “Robert Wilkie brings decades of legislative and Executive Branch experience to his Acting Secretary responsibilities, and The Independence Fund was happy to work closely with him on Veterans and national security issues while he served on the staff of Senator Tillis, our home State Senator. We believe that experience will serve the VA and the President exceptionally well while Admiral Jackson is confirmed.” 

    The Independence Fund congratulates the President on this nomination and appointment and look forward to fully supporting him and his new VA leadership to bring about the real VA reform and health care choice possibilities our Veterans deserve

    -30- 

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund empowers our Nation's severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We improve the lives of both our Veterans and their families through The Independence Fund's Mobility, Caregiver, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs. 

    For more details regarding the Independence Fund’s programs, how to donate, as well as event information, please visit www.independencefund.org or call 888-851-7996. 

  • 3-23-18: Sarah Verardo's Statement to House Committee on Veterans Affairs

    Sarah Verardo's Statement to House Committee on Veterans Affairs

    March 23, 2018

    Statement of Sarah Verardo
    Executive Director, The Independence Fund, and Caregiver


    The Independence Fund

    Dear Chairman Roe, Representative Walz, and Members of the Committee, thank you very much for inviting me, as Executive Director of The Independence Fund, to testify before your Committee here today.  I am Sarah Verardo, Executive Director of The Independence Fund, headquartered here in North Carolina, in Charlotte.  I also wish to give special thanks to Representative Hudson of North Carolina for recommending The Independence Fund testify today in this field hearing.  Representative Hudson has been an amazing friend to The Independence Fund, and the strongest of champions for Veterans here in North Carolina.

    Only 10 years old, we were founded in 2007 with the very specific purpose of assisting the most catastrophically wounded veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan with adaptive mobility devices, and returning to them, at least in part, their independence.  Since those humble beginnings, The Independence Fund’s grown to also provide assistance for the caregivers of the catastrophically wounded and disabled, assistance to adaptive athletes and teams, wellness programs to combat the scourge of veteran suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, veteran service programs to navigate the overly complex VA health care and benefit systems, advocacy programs to change the laws and regulations that unnecessarily limit veterans access to their earned benefits, and our newest program, Heroes at Home, which will assist the children of the catastrophically wounded and disabled.

    To date, The Independence Fund’s provided more than $50 million in assistance to the catastrophically wounded and disabled and their Caregivers.  This includes more than 2,200 motorized cross-country wheelchairs, 1,500 adaptive bicycles, and more than 150 Caregiver support retreats. 


    The Problem: An Unresponsive VA Health Care System

    But throughout those last 10 years, we’ve repeatedly found our best efforts hamstrung by a VA health care system that systematically and repeatedly fails to serve the very Veterans it was established to assist.  While the medical care given by the individual medical providers is usually superb, that care is far too difficult to access and we find the medical care providers repeatedly thwarted by a medical administration bureaucracy seemingly more intent on preventing fraud and cutting costs than in optimizing care delivery for Veterans.


    The Promises of Health Care Choice

    Mr. Chairman, The Independence Fund was heartened by the President’s campaign promises to finally allow Veterans to be the masters of their own health care choices.  Many of our clients are medically retired from the military due to their catastrophic wounds, and as such receive Tricare health care benefits.  They can choose their health care providers, both at military treatment facilities and outside the Department of Defense.  Similarly, many of these catastrophically wounded are eligible for Medicare, where they can choose pretty much any health care provider they want that participates in the Medicare program.  Finally, the Caregivers under CHAMPVA are given wide latitude to choose their health care providers within the CHAMPVA system.  In all these systems, the federal government finds the individual patient fully competent to make their own health care choices.

    But for veteran within the VA health care system alone, none of those choices are available. The veteran is considered incompetent to make any of their own health care choices and must rely on the beneficence of the VA bureaucracy to make proper medical choices for them.  This, despite the stacks of Inspector General reports that finds that same bureaucracy engaged in deception to hide unqualified doctors committing malpractice; that details how that same bureaucracy is unable to deliver mandated health care on anything approaching a medically indicated schedule; and reveals a repeated unwillingness of that bureaucracy to critically examine its own practices or procedures, nor to explore the root causes of its multiple failures.

    This year, this Session of Congress, is the time to deliver on the President’s campaign promise and deliver true real VA health care choice.  All parties involved in this debate understand the current VA Choice program is a stop gap measure until a consolidated, robust, system wide network of community care is provided to Veterans.  While we supported the compromise proposal to the recent Omnibus appropriations Act, that combined a version of consolidated, expanded access to non-VA community care, and expansion of the Caregiver program, and a review process for the VA’s capital assets, as of the writing of this testimony, we joined many other Veteran Service Organizations in our disappointment that the final deal was not agreed to for lack of universal agreement amongst all Congressional leaders. 


    Limiting Non-VA Care to Only That Prescribed by VA Doctors Will Not Work

    Mr. Chairman, we cannot give up on passing real VA choice legislation.  Veterans cannot wait any longer.  While we appreciate the work the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees accomplished with their respective Committee passed bills, we are concerned both bills continue to rely on the VA to determine when and where Veterans can access non-VA care.  Again, while the health care providers will usually seek optimal care for the Veteran, our experience is they are usually thwarted by the medical administration bureaucracy seemingly more intent on stopping perceived fraud by the very Veterans who defended this country, or to save money on the backs of the Veterans whose doctors believe they need this non-VA care.

    Let me give you an example.  My husband, Mike Verardo, lost his left leg and much of his left arm in an IED explosion in Southern Afghanistan.  His residual left leg suffers numerous skin infections that make the prolonged use of prosthetic sleeves dangerous and expose him to potential reinfection.  Unfortunately, until recently the VA medical administrators refused to issue Mike more than two prosthetic sleeves every six months. VA has repeatedly cited this as policy to me and other amputee Caregivers, and our workaround included numerous direct appeal from Mike’s own VA doctor to others within the same VA system and Congressional intervention.  Mike’s VA surgeon has prescribed a specialized prosthetic sleeves nine times, and each of those nine times, the VA’s medical administrators denied those prescriptions. His surgeon was never consulted or notified that her prescription was rejected, it simply was never sent to us.

    This, Mr. Chairman, is why we cannot continue to rely on limiting access to non-VA care to that which is prescribed by a VA health care provider.  Experience has shown the VA health care providers are powerless to prescribe non-VA care when VA medical administration bureaucrats have every incentive to deny that care and have every power to do so.  Only when individual veterans have the authority to choose their own health care provider, whether that be within the VA or be non-VA care, will Veterans be able to access optimal care in a timely fashion. 


    Wheelchairs and Prosthetics

    This brings me to the specific issue of wheelchairs and prosthetics.  Mike’s and my personal experience, and the experience of our clients, is that the VA cannot deliver wheelchair and prosthetic repairs and replacements in a timely manner. 

    For example, when Mike was retired from the military and we moved back to Rhode Island, his prosthetic leg was damaged, but we had to wait 57 days for a VA medical administrator to sign a form authorizing the repair of the prosthetic.  Eventually, the prosthetic vendor grew disgusted with the VA and provided a new prosthetic without authorization, risking non-payment.  In the meantime, I was forced to duct tape Mike’s leg to keep it even somewhat operational. More recently when I requested a wheelchair repair or replacement from VA, I was told that they’d need to evaluate if Mike still had injuries that required wheelchair use. Please keep in mind that limb loss is permanent.

    The VA Inspector General released a report last week detailing similar problems with wheelchair and prosthetic repairs in VISN 7.  The first remarkable item in this report is that the VA apparently has no standard for how long it should take to repair wheelchairs and scooters.  Second, the VA IG found the average wait time was 99 days.  Some of the Veterans researched in this study were bedridden for more than 100 days while their wheelchairs were being repaired. 

    Lastly, the VA IG detailed the repair administrative process.  That process seems incredibly complex and unnecessarily duplicative.  A simple process review would likely be able to trim substantial time and steps from this process.  The Independence Fund recently met with the Central Office Prosthetics and Wheelchairs Department, and we are hoping to enter some Memorandum of Understanding with the VA to help them improve those processes. We request your support with the VA to enter into such an agreement with us.

    But again, Mr. Chairman, we do not believe there are any circumstances where the VA will be able to adequately respond to Veterans’ prosthetic and wheelchair repair and replacement needs.  Having to wait until the point of failure for the VA to even initiate repair or replacement action and having no spares available for the Veteran to use in the interim, highlights a system unresponsive to the basic needs of disabled Veterans.  Even the 30-day repair standard the VA IG arbitrarily applied in their report (since the VA does not have its own repair/replacement standard), is unacceptably long.  Therefore, we recommend Veterans be allowed immediate access to non-VA care for the repair or replacement of prosthetics, wheelchairs, and scooters


    Standards of Care and Formularies for the Catastrophically Disabled

    There is, unfortunately, a broader issue at hand which we see with many of our catastrophically disabled clients, Mr. Chairman.  For the catastrophically disabled, even minor delays in accessing medical care can quickly devolve into life threatening emergencies.  What would be a minor inconvenience for a Veteran suffering from one or two isolated disabilities, can be a matter of life or death for a catastrophically disabled Veteran. 

    Like the example with the prosthetic sleeves, most formularies and standards of care appear to be designed in isolation for that one specific malady and fail to consider the interaction of multiple traumatic wounds and injuries sustained by the catastrophically wounded and disabled.  In such situations, the catastrophically disabled Veteran finds themselves unable to receive the care they need in time to prevent additional maladies from occurring which exacerbate the Veterans illnesses and disabilities.

    The VA community care expansion legislation you recently negotiated, Mr. Chairman, to provide automatic access to non-VA care where VA facilities fail to meet established access standards, and to provide access at the discretion of the Secretary where VA facilities fail to meet VA established quality standards, may also be insufficient to protect the health of the catastrophically disabled.  The medical needs of the catastrophically wounded and disabled are far different than those with non-catastrophic disabilities.  Hence the special VA classification for the catastrophically disabled.  But access and quality standards must also consider the special requirements of the catastrophically disabled. 

    Therefore, Mr. Chairman, we recommend any future legislation to define when and where Veterans are eligible for non-VA care should establish separate, specific access and quality standards for the catastrophically disabled which will be applied, and under which catastrophically disabled Veterans can qualify for non-VA care, even if the standard access and quality standards are otherwise met.  Similarly, we believe the VA should be directed to establish separate formularies specifically for the catastrophically disabled that consider the unique and complex nature of their disabilities.

    Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before this Committee today.  I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

  • 3-19-18: Letter To Democratic Leader of the House Pelosi

    Letter To Democratic Leader of the House Pelosi


    The Honorable Nancy Pelosi 
    Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives 
    H-204, The Capitol 
    Washington, DC 20515

    Dear Leader Pelosi: 
    On March 2nd, members of the National Military and Veterans Alliance, of which The Independence is also a member, wrote in support of Title 1 of S. 2184, the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017, per the attached letter. 

    Specifically, NMVA was in support of the provisions to establish access standards for a newly created Veterans Community Care Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), because it establishes defined standards and metrics regarding a veteran’s access to community providers. 

    We understand you have been presented with a legislative proposal, agreed to by the White House, Department of Veterans, Affairs, Majority and Minority Members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Majority Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, which will attach VA reform legislation to the Omnibus Appropriations Act, and which:

    - Incorporates the medical facility access standard language that NMVA previously supported; 

    - Provides for a straight expansion of the Caregiver giver program to pre-9/11 veterans’ caregivers, as provided in S. 2193, and 

    - Implements a review of VA’s capital assets and capacity. 

    We strongly support inclusion of such legislation in the Omnibus Appropriations Act being considered scheduled to be published today in anticipation of the March 23, 2018 deadline. We ask you similarly support inclusion of this legislation, and request you encourage the House Democratic Caucus to support you in that. 


    Very Respectfully, 
    Bob Carey 
    CAPT, USN (Ret) 
    Director, Policy & Advocacy 


    Copy to: 
    The Honorable Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House 
    Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader 
    The Honorable Steve Scalise, Majority Whip 
    The Honorable Phil Roe, Chair, House Veterans Affairs Committee 
    The Honorable Tim Walz, Ranking Member, House Veterans Affairs Committee 

    Pelosi Letter

    NMVA 1

    NMVA 2

  • 2-7-18: New Senate Budget Deal Leaves Out VA Choice?

    New Senate Budget Deal Leaves Out VA Choice?

    The Independence Fund calls on Senate to consider real VA choice before CR expires

    Media Contact: Nick Kaylor I C: 704-890-4009 I [email protected]

     (Washington, DC) – On Wednesday, Senate Leaders McConnell and Schumer announced the Senate reached a budget deal that apparently adds $4 billion to build more Veterans Health Administration hospitals and clinics. A topic not broached in this deal is allowing Veterans additional choices outside of VA care; a major campaign promise by President Trump in 2016.

    A recent bill proposed by Senators McCain and Moran was deemed too costly regarding choice, but the apparent $4 billion budget increase for VA care proves that the resources are there to provide true reform in Veteran care.

    “The VA is broken,” said Bob Carey, Director of Policy and Advocacy for The Independence Fund. “Veterans do not get the care they need.  And it has nothing to do with how many hospitals or clinics the VA builds.”

    Over the last 10 years, the VA budget’s increased nearly 114%, while the number of patients only increased by 33%. During the same time, the number of Veterans Health Administration employees increased 59%.

    “The VA’s failures have nothing to do with lack of funding or lack of facilities,” said Carey. “In fact, the Secretary wants to shut down more than 1,000 buildings and facilities. This failure is because of how the Veterans Health Administration has been set up to run over decades of bureaucratic mismanagement. The best shot for Veterans to get the care they need is to give them more choices outside the VA if they want it.”

    Last year, when the VA asked for additional funding, VA health care was plussed up by the same amount as VA Choice. Why is this not being applied now, and the apparent $4 billion plus up is not being split between VA hospitals/clinics and VA Choice?

    For more information on The Independence Fund’s stance on the matter, please visit www.realVAChoice.org.

    -30-

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund empowers our nation’s severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We improve the lives of both our Veterans and their families through The Independence Fund’s Mobility, Caregiver and Advocacy programs, while also bridging the gap of unmet needs of Veterans and their caregivers. The Independence Fund works to give Veterans the best mobility device options available, and promote their mental and physical health through a variety of ways. 

     For more details regarding the Independence Fund’s programs, how to donate, as well as event information, please visit www.independencefund.org or call 888-851-7996    

  • 2-9-18: Veteran Nonprofit Assisting Veterans in a New Way

    Veteran Nonprofit Assisting Veterans in a New Way

    The Independence Fund hires Veterans Service Officer to help Veterans with VA concerns

    Media Contact: Nick Kaylor I C: 704-890-4009 I [email protected]

    (Charlotte, NC) - The Independence Fund, a national nonprofit that assists severely wounded Veterans and their Caregivers, began a new chapter.  This year, the organization hired Mary Ramos, Ph.D., RN-BC, as its Veterans Service Officer (VSO).

    In this role, Ramos assists Veterans and Caregivers in accessing the benefits they earned through their service. Whether it's issues with Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare or benefits, it falls under Ramos' scope in her new role.

    "As is the case with any health care system, the VA has its barriers and complications to navigate", said Ramos. "My knowledge and experience from my previous career allows me to assist our Veterans in many ways; either by helping them directly or by contacting someone in the network that can help them."

    In Ramos' previous position as a Federal Recovery Coordinator within the VA Central Office, she worked directly with Veterans and their families to resolve barriers in care and benefits. In addition she facilitated transition management for the most seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members.

    "I'm thrilled that Mary has joined the team to assist Veterans and Caregivers in accessing what they were promised; what they are entitled to," said Carrie Stead, Director of Programs at The Independence Fund. "She brings tremendous experience and knowledge to this role. Between this and her positive demeanor, she is an immediate asset to the team."

    Ramos brings extensive experience in case management and quality within civilian, military, and Veterans Affairs (VA) systems of care. Additionally, her clinical experience in adult intensive care, adult acute care, psychiatric nursing, pediatrics, and pediatric hematology/oncology gives her the edge in understanding quality care for our Veterans.

    "I'm not a Veteran, but I've done the civilian side of helping-so I'm kind of a different type of VSO," said Ramos. "A VSO is normally someone who knows everything about (Veterans Health Administration) and (Veterans Benefits Administration). In addition to my vast life experience and extensive clinical background, I know the VA and can provide our Veterans with the assistance they require."

    For more information on The Independence Fund's VSO program, or to reach out for assistance, please email Ramos at [email protected] 

    -30-

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund empowers our nation's severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We improve the lives of both our Veterans and their families through The Independence Fund's Mobility, Caregiver and Advocacy programs, while also bridging the gap of unmet needs of Veterans and their caregivers. The Independence Fund works to give Veterans the best mobility device options available, and promote their mental and physical health through a variety of ways.

    For more details regarding the Independence Fund's programs, how to donate, as well as event information, please visit www.independencefund.org or call 888-851-7996.

  • 1-16-18: Congress Failing President's VA Reform Promise

    Congress Failing President's VA Reform Promise

    Op Ed By Sarah Verardo, Executive Director, The Independence Fund

    Media Contact: Nick Kaylor   I   C: 704-890-4009   I   [email protected]

    (Charlotte, NC) – Last summer my husband and I met with President Trump to discuss the numerous challenges faced by wounded Veterans with VA health care. We live a unique and challenging lifestyle because of the wounds my husband, Michael, suffered while deployed to Afghanistan. Because of the unnecessary and burdensome challenges faced with VA health care, we’ve dedicated our lives to ensure other Veterans are afforded quality care, and no Veteran is forced to fight the same battles we have on our road home.

    The battles we fight are not the specifically the wounds Michael suffered, nor even the challenges I face as his wife. Rather, the battles we fight are often within our own government, and the bureaucracy and red tape thrown up by the VA healthcare. For example, here are some of those battles, major and minor, that we fight every day: 

    My husband lost his leg from an IED blast in Afghanistan, and much of his arm, but the VA still demands we drive 90 minutes each way to "check to see if he still has his serious combat injuries” – keep in mind he had two limbs blown off.

    Michael has had more than 100 surgeries, and despite his doctor indefinitely ordering his home nursing we must jump through hoops in order to receive the doctor’s orders. This is not the only time she has ordered items that were lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. One time it took an item being ordered nine times before it finally came through. 

    Don’t get me wrong – since President Trump’s inauguration, we’ve seen the VA health care system improve dramatically: access to care already became easier for my husband; we started to receive better access to prosthetics and repairs; and basic accessibility improvements to our house, which were authorized under law, were completed in two weeks. Under the previous Administration, these improvements sat uncompleted for more than three years. We also see a marked change in the attitudes and approach of VA health care providers, who appear to realize the President is serious about his promises to Veterans.

    Most of the issues with VA health care are written into law. The President cannot change them by Executive Order or regulation. Current law limits Veterans’ access to see only health care providers the VA approves. If that same Veteran’s healthcare was paid by Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare, that Veteran could choose their own health care provider. Those systems find the Veteran fully competent to make that choice, but that same Veteran enters the VA health care system, and is suddenly incapable of making that choice. That is condescending and paternalistic to say the least, and limits a Veterans ability to get the best health care. USA Today recently reported a series of stories where the VA hired doctors with revoked licenses, and covered up medical malpractice. Even in these egregious cases, the Veteran has no choice but to suffer with whomever the VA chooses to deliver their healthcare.

    The President understood that inequity with his clear campaign promise: "We are going to ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.” The President already delivered on many of the campaign promises laid out in his 10 Point Plan to Reform the VA. But on this last issue of VA healthcare choice, only Congress can make the necessary changes.

    Unfortunately, to date, Congress has not delivered on that promise. While both VA healthcare reform bills passed out of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees are an improvement on the status quo, they simply nibble at the edges of the fundamental issues, and both fail to provide the real healthcare provider choice promised by the President. Neither one of these bills will provide the real choice provided in the President’s promise.

    Because of that promise, and because Veterans issues were such a central item in the last campaign, almost three million more Veterans voted in 2016 than in 2012; voting at a rate almost 35% greater than the general population. Veterans understood exactly what the President meant in his campaign promise to provide them a real and comprehensive health care choice, and they understand the legislation currently under consideration in Congress does not come close to meeting that promise.

    Because of that, The Independence Fund recently called on the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House to move forward on VA healthcare reform legislation only if it has exactly that type of broad healthcare choice Veterans were promised and deserve. Further, we called on President Trump to deliver on his campaign promise. He has so far, and we implore the President to tell Congress he cannot accept either the House or Senate Veterans Affairs Committee passed bills, and that Congress must provide full choice to Veterans before he will sign that legislation.

    This President is the one who can bring about the fundamental reform to the VA healthcare system that is so desperately needed. Now is the time to get that done. Unfortunately, what Congress is considering now will fail to deliver that reform, and will condemn Veterans to suffer under a needlessly limited and bureaucratic system that’s consistently failed them. Our elected leaders must do better for our Veterans.

    -30-

    ABOUT THE INDEPENDENCE FUND - Founded in 2007, The Independence Fund empowers our Nation's severely wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty. We improve the lives of both our Veterans and their families through The Independence Fund's Mobility, Caregiver, Adaptive Sports, and Advocacy programs.

    For more details regarding the Independence Fund’s programs, how to donate, as well as event information, please visit www.independencefund.org or call 888-851-7996

  • 1-16-18: Letter to POTUS on VA Health Care Reform

    Letter to POTUS on VA Health Care Reform

    The Independence Fund recently sent a letter to President Trump, urging him not to accept any proposals from the House or Senate that do not include clear provisions giving the Veteran primary decision-making authority for their healthcare provider, and more. Th contents of the letter are below:

    The President
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20500


    Dear Mr. President:


    Because of your laser like focus during the campaign on VA and national security issues, almost three million more Veterans voted in 2016 than in 2012. Those Veterans believed in what you promised, and look for you to ensure their interests are protected.


    A key element of your campaign that resonated especially with Veterans was your promise to choose their health care provider, as you detailed in the 10th point of your 10-Point Plan for VA Reform: "We are going to ensure everyVeteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.”


    The Independence Fund fully supports the complete execution of that promise – the Veteran should be able to choose his or her healthcare provider while under the VA’s care, whether that be a provider within the VA, or from outside the VA in the community.


    Unfortunately, neither bill reported by either the House or Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, H.R. 4242 or S. 2193 respectively, deliver on your campaign promise. In fact, they both perpetuates Veterans dependence on VA chosen health care providers, and will limit the Veteran to only those health care providers the VA chooses. Both bills explicitly state the VA must approve community care outside the VA and further limit care to specific criteria established by the VA, further limiting the VA health care provider from choosing community care for the Veteran.


    When you compare what you demanded in your campaign alongside the provisions of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee bills, the contrast could not be starker, nor the shortcomings of those bills clearer. Your campaign promise put health care decision-making authority with the Veteran; just like they have under Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare. The bills passed out of Committee leave health care decision making with nameless bureaucrats who have consistently and repeatedly failed Veterans.


    Therefore, Mr. President, we implore your Administration make it clear to the House of Representatives and the Senate that neither Committee passed bill comes close to your requirements, and that you cannot accept them. In the alternative, we believe S. 2184, The Veterans Community Care and Access Act, and H.R. 4457, The Veterans Empowerment Act, come closest to meeting your campaign promise, and believe Senators McCain and Moran, as well as Representative Lamborn must be parties to any agreed VA healthcare reform legislation considered by Congress.


    Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and feel free to call upon us if you have any questions. We look forward to working with you on this vitally important issue.


    Very Respectfully,

    Bob Carey
    CAPT, USN (Ret) Director, Policy & Advocacy 


    POTUS Letter

  • 1-16-18: Letter to Speaker of the House on VA Health Care Reform

    Letter to Speaker of the House on VA Health Care Reform

    The Independence Fund recently sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, urging him not to proceed with consideration of H.R. 4242 unless it is revised to incorporate clear provisions giving the Veteran primary decision-making authority for their healthcare provider, and more. The contents of the letter are below:

    The Honorable Paul Ryan
    Speaker of the House of Representatives H-232, The Capitol
    Washington, DC 20515


    Dear Speaker Ryan:


    Almost three million more veterans voted in 2016 than in 2012.


    Those veterans voted in such huge numbers because Veterans issues, especially VA health care reform, were central in the Presidential election debate. A key aspect of that debate was then candidate Trump’s 10th point in his 10-Point Plan for VA Reform: "We are going to ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care atthe VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.”


    Veterans were motivated by that promise in 2016, and turned out in record numbers to vote on that exact issue. And The Independence Fund fully supports the complete execution of that promise – the Veteran should be ableto choose his or her healthcare provider while under the VA’s care, whether that be a provider within the VA, or from outside the VA in the community.


    Unfortunately, the bill reported to the House from the House Veterans Affairs Committee, H.R. 4242, does notdeliver on the President’s promise, and perpetuates Veterans dependence on VA chosen health care providers. The bill explicitly states the VA will only provide community care outside the VA if such an health care "provider at a Department [of Veterans Affairs] facility is not available”. In fact, the bill specifically directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to "give priority to medical facilities and health care providers of the Department [of VeteransAffairs]”. That does not empower the Veteran in their healthcare choices.


    When you place the President’s campaign promise alongside the text of the HVAC passed bill, it is clear the gap between the two is huge. The President’s campaign promise put health care decision-making authority with the Veteran; just like they have under Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare. The HVAC bill pushes health care decision making back to, and prioritizes the decisions with, the same nameless bureaucrats who have consistently and repeatedly failed Veterans.


    Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we implore you not to proceed to consideration of H.R. 4242 unless it is substantially revised to incorporate (or move to any other VA healthcare reform legislation unless it contains), clear provisions giving the Veteran primary decision-making authority for their health care provider. We believe H.R. 4457, The Veteran Empowerment Act, comes the closest to meeting the President’s campaign promise and believe Representative Lamborn must be party to any agreed VA healthcare reform legislation considered by the House.


    Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and feel free to call upon us if you have any questions. We look forward to working with you on this vitally important issue.


    Very Respectfully,

    Bob Carey
    CAPT, USN (Ret) Director, Policy & Advocacy 


    Ryan Letter

  • 1-16-18: Letter to Senate Majority Leader on VA Health Care Reform

    Letter to Senate Majority Leader on VA Health Care Reform

    The Independence Fund recently sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging him not to proceed with consideration of S. 2193 unless it is revised to incorporate clear provisions giving the Veteran primary decision-making authority for their healthcare provider, and more. The contents of the letter are below:


    The Honorable Mitch McConnell U.S. Senate Majority Leader S-231, The Capitol, Washington, DC 20510

    Dear Leader McConnell:

    Almost three million more veterans voted in 2016 than in 2012.

    Those veterans voted in such huge numbers because Veterans issues, especially VA health care reform, were central in the Presidential election debate. A key aspect of that debate was then candidate Trump’s 10th point in his 10-Point Plan for VA Reform: "We are going to ensure every Veteran in America has the choice to seek care atthe VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.”

    Veterans were motivated by that promise in 2016, and turned out in record numbers to vote on that exact issue. And The Independence Fund fully supports the complete execution of that promise – the Veteran should be ableto choose his or her healthcare provider while under the VA’s care, whether that be a provider within the VA, or from outside the VA in the community.

    Unfortunately, the bill reported to the Senate from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, S. 2193, does notdeliver on the President’s promise, and perpetuates the Veterans dependence on only those health care providers the VA chooses. The bill explicitly states the Veteran’s VA health care provider must determine care outside the VA is in best medical interest of the covered veteran...” and then even further limits that community care access by limiting the doctor’s decision to, "...criteria developed by the Secretary”, even continuing the arbitrary 30 day/40 mile standard from the current VA Choice system. This does not empower the Veteran in their healthcare choices.

    When you place the President’s campaign promise alongside the text of the SVAC passed bill, it is clear the gap between the two is huge. The President’s campaign promise put health care decision-making authority with the Veteran; just like they have under Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare. The SVAC bill leaves health care decision making with nameless bureaucrats who have consistently and repeatedly failed Veterans.

    Therefore, Mr. Leader, we implore you not to proceed to consideration of S. 2193 unless it is substantially revised to incorporate (or move to any other VA healthcare reform legislation unless it contains), clear provisions giving the Veteran primary decision-making authority for their health care provider. We believe S. 2184, The Veterans Community Care and Access Act, comes the closest to meeting the President’s campaignpromise and believe Senators McCain and Moran must be parties to any agreed VA healthcare reform legislation considered by the Senate.

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and feel free to call upon us if you have any questions. We look forward to working with you on this vitally important issue.

    Very Respectfully,

    Bob Carey
    CAPT, USN (Ret) Director, Policy & Advocacy 


    McConnell Letter

  • 10-30-17: Wounded Veteran gets special chair at Chiefs’ Salute to Service game

    Wounded Veteran gets special chair at Chiefs’ Salute to Service game

    Chiefs Game


    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Before the Chiefs take the field Monday night against the Broncos, Chiefs Kingdom will be cheering for another team: the men and women of the military.


    Monday's game marks the Chiefs' annual Salute to Service game, honoring the men and women in uniform.

    There was a time that it was hard for Michael Liscomb, an Army veteran, to think he’d be able to walk again. But he is about to walk onto an NFL field for the very first time and for a very good reason.

    "This is my very first NFL game ever. I`m looking forward to it and for it to be of this magnitude,  it`s kind of surreal. It's still sinking in,” Michael said.

    Michael is a guest of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Independence Fund and will be receiving a very special wheelchair to help him with daily and physical activities. Michael opted to have his left leg amputated after enduring more than a dozen limb-saving operations over four years due to an injury he sustained while in Iraq in 2012.

    "It was taking time away from my kids. It was taking time away from the things I like to do and so finally it was right on the spot, don`t give it a couple days, I asked the doctor if amputation is in the cards. I felt like I would lead a much better life with this then with a year, two years, three years process just to see if we could kill the infection,” he said.

    It was a decision that Desiree, Michael’s wife, signed off on and one she is happy they made.

    "I saw before the surgery where he'd want to play with the kids but couldn't necessarily keep up with them because his leg would start hurting but now he can play around with them a lot more and he does a lot more with them,” she said.

    The wheelchair is one that will allow him to fish, hunt, and play with his two children. The Independence Fund, an organization based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, has helped Michael and more than 1,900 veterans across the country.

    "We are so thrilled to continue to honor so many of our nation`s heroes that have returned having incurred these wounds in the line of duty and being able to get them back out and doing the things they love and having more options to go on vacations with their families and not having to worry about how we are going to navigate the beach and things like that,” Jessica Marinaccio, of Independence Fund, said.

    It’s a gift that the Liscomb’s are excited to receive and one they are grateful is being presented in this fashion.

    "I`m really shocked, I didn`t think we would be here but I think it`ll hit more tonight when you see all the people sitting there in the stands and he walks out there,” Desiree said.

    "I just want to enjoy every minute, I`m taking in every minute while I`m here and who knows if this will ever happen again so I`m trying to take in every minute and every seconds and cherish it so. I feel blessed just to even be considered for this,” Michael said.

    The wheelchair runs upwards of $16,000 and it will not cost Michael and his family a single dollar.

    The Salute to Service game is part of the Chiefs' ongoing effort to support the military, along with scholarships for Gold Star families, the annual Pros vs. GI Joes event, and participating in efforts for the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots collection -- the longest continuous relationship between Toys for Tots and any NFL team.

    One special touch for this year's Salute to Service game, the Chiefs are wearing pregame warm-ups that feature the patches of various military units. Those warm-ups will later be delivered to those respective troops over the next few weeks.

    The ceremonial "First Pass" was thrown by Olathe native Keara Torkelson, who was wounded in the Fort Hood, Texas shooting in 2009 and received a Purple Heart.

    The game also included a number of other gestures, such as featuring military members deployed in Kuwait on the stadium's ArrowVision. Monday night's 50/50 Raffle with benefit Warrior's Ascent.

    It's a time-honored tradition of which the Chiefs, and the fans, can be very proud.

    http://fox4kc.com/2017/10/30/wounded-veteran-gets-special-chair-at-chiefs-salute-to-service-game/

Search The Independence Fund