Heard on the Hill

Spinal Cord Injury Advocates Roll on Capitol Hill

Senators honored at fifth annual Roll on Capitol Hill hosted by the United Spinal Association

Sen. Mazie Hirono urged the association to start a chapter in Hawaii. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Dozens of wheelchair users came to the Capitol on Tuesday to celebrate their supporters in the Senate and lobby for more like them.  

At the fifth annual Roll on Capitol Hill, hosted by the United Spinal Association, those with spinal cord injuries and clinicians who care for them raised awareness for their community.  

At a reception in the Kennedy Caucus Room, the association recognized a bipartisan group of senators — Charles E. Schumer of New York , Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii , Mark S. Kirk of Illinois and Johnny Isakson of Georgia — for their leadership.  

“I’m very proud to be a part of your ohana, and that means 'extended family' in Hawaiian,” Hirono said while accepting her VetsFirst Congressional Bronze Star Award.  

The senator mentioned that colleagues John McCain, R-Ariz., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., have also received awards from the association.  

Schumer received the association's highest award, the 2016 James J. Peters Disability Rights Champion Award, in large part for introducing legislation to help support those with spinal cord injuries: the Disability Integration Act.  

John Boozman of Arkansas also greeted the advocates, who came from 33 states as well as Puerto Rico and D.C.  

“Come on over and create a chapter,” Hirono added, because the association does not currently have one in Hawaii.  

The association pushed lawmakers to address issues that impact the quality of life of those living with spinal cord injuries and disorders, including ensuring access to rehab technology, prescription drugs, medical supplies and safeguarding services and support.  

They also asked for adaptive equipment for the Department of Veterans Affairs, funding for disabled veterans and funding for veteran homebuyers.  

Hirono said she's focused on "making sure the transition from active duty to veteran status is as smooth as possible."  

The association is a bipartisan non-profit made up of 50 chapters. On Tuesday, members made 200 visits to both House office buildings, where they met with staffers while congresspeople were on recess, and Senate offices.

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