PVA's Advocacy Becomes a Reality: VA Unveils Plans for Two National Multiple Sclerosis Centers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- An idea long championed by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)-Centers of Excellence in research, education and clinical treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS)-was announced today by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The two MS Centers will be created at the Baltimore VA Medical Center and jointly at the Portland and Seattle medical centers. Both facilities will coordinate current MS programs at other VA locations.

"PVA has, over the span of several years, tenaciously pursued a coordinated system of care within the VHA," stated PVA National President Joseph L. Fox, Sr. "Our goal has been to assure veterans with MS the highest quality of health care, the most advanced therapies and rehabilitation services possible."

PVA's determination to make the MS Centers a reality required an ongoing advocacy effort with the VA, where agency officials were persuaded about the need for coordinated MS care. Because funding was required to implement the Centers of Excellence concept, PVA staff worked with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure the funding for the centers when she inserted language in the FY '01 VA appropriations bill.

Currently, multiple sclerosis afflicts more than 22,000 veterans, and of these, about 7,000 receive care in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities each year. Nationally, MS affects 350,000 people.

The VA announced that each MS center would conduct research covering biomedicine, rehabilitation, health services delivery and clinical trials. Taking advantage of the advances in telemedicine, the centers will offer their expertise to VHA staff and patients around the country.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America, a veterans service organization chartered by Congress, has for more than 55 years served the needs of its members, all of whom have catastrophic paralysis caused by spinal cord injury or disease. To learn more about PVA, visit its Web site at http://www.pva.org.