H.R. 5996, a bill aimed at helping veterans with COPD, would increase the ability of the U.S. Department of Affairs Veterans Administration (VA) to diagnose, treat and manage COPD. The bipartisan bill was introduced by co-founders of the COPD Congressional Caucus, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).
Early detection and treatment is important to slow or arrest the progression of the disease, Stearns said in a hearing on Capitol Hill on September 29th. Because there is no cure, early treatment is vital. Because the COPD rate is three times higher in the veteran population than the civilian population, how can the VA not be providing this type of specialized care?
H.R. 5996 will allow the VA to take a comprehensive approach to reducing the burden of COPD through innovative prevention, education and treatment strategies. It also provides for critically needed research into best practices that will help to simultaneously reduce costs and improve quality of life.
While there are many ways that someone can develop COPD, the most common is from smoking. However, it should also be noted that COPD has underlying genetic risk factors and healthy non-smokers can develop COPD, Stearns said.
During the September 29th hearing, Dr. Robert L. Jesse, Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health in the Veterans Health Administration for the VA, said H.R. 5996 has the authority to develop the treatment protocols and to improve the research programs on this disease.
VA supports the bills focus on the special needs of COPD patients who struggle with their smoking addictions. The knowledge gained would benefit the population at large, Jesse said. VA believes this focus would particularly improve care and outcomes for veterans with COPD, improve rates of smoking cessation among patients with COPD, and reduce the risk and incidence of other smoking- related illnesses.
The COPD Foundation, along with the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), the Alpha-1 Association (A1A), the Alpha-1 Foundation (A1F) and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the U.S. COPD Coalition (USCC), have come together in support of H.R. 5996.
Our organization and the COPD community care deeply about the need to address COPD in Americas veteran population. The VA system has been a leader in health systems research and H.R. 5996 will build on a record of using innovative methods to improve the health of the veterans it serves, John W. Walsh, president and founder of the COPD Foundation said. Congress actions will mark a great step towards addressing the burden that COPD places on veterans, their families and the health care delivery system.
COPD is the fourth most common diagnosis amongst hospitalized veterans aged 65-74.
This bill will also have the VA develop treatment protocols and related tools for the diagnosis, treatment and management of COPD. It would have the VA establish a pilot smoking cessation program targeted towards COPDers.
Adrian M. Atizado, Assistant National Legislative Director for Disable American Veterans (DAV), said the bill would require the VA to develop improved techniques and best practices in coordination with the Director of the CDC for assisting COPDers in smoking cessation.
H.R. 5996 will allow the VA to take a comprehensive approach to reducing the burden of COPD through innovative prevention, education and treatment strategies.