The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) have signed a memorandum of understanding to provide Paralympic sport programming and additional community support, including funding and resources, to injured service members and veterans across the country.
“Americans have a covenant to care for those who have served our nation with honor,” said Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of the VA. “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 to fight each and every day.”
Under the terms of the agreement, which was signed October 23, the USOC 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 at the 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.”
Calling the partnership an important step in ensuring that the USOC Paralympic Military Program is capable of supporting veteran athletes, Committee on Veterans Chair Rep. Bob Filner, PhD, (D-CA) 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 service members 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 Steve Buyer (R-IN). “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.”