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Advocacy & Government Relations

NAVREF is an active participant in advocacy efforts to secure robust support for VA research and development.  This entails lobbying for an increase in the annual appropriation of VA medical and prosthetic research account, which is separate from VA health care appropriation.  Also, when warranted, NAVREF works with House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees to highlight pertinent research and education issues.  Finally, these committees also are critical to the statute that authorizes NPCs.

NAVREF coordinates its funding advocacy efforts with the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA), a coalition of more than 80 medical specialty, patient advocacy, scientific and academic organizations committed to high quality care for veterans. 

NAVREF Advocacy Agenda

NAVREF believes it is time to update our enabling legislation to clarify areas of confusion and/or misinterpretation.  We believe these changes will improve the ability of VA-affiliated nonprofit corporations (NPCs) to satisfy Congressional intent to support VA research and education activities and bring greater benefit to Veterans.

 Flexible Funding Mechanism – a key aspect of the original legislation is the opening sentence, “The Secretary may authorize the establishment at any Department medical center of a nonprofit corporation to provide a flexible funding mechanism for the conduct of approved research and education at the medical center.”  One significant component of this flexibility is the ability of NPCs to accept non-VA appropriated funding under authority of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).  The statute should be updated to specify that transferring funds from VA to NPC by MOA has the force of a contract in the eyes of the Economy Act for purposes of obligating funds.

 Independence – the statute states that a NPC is not “…owned or controlled by the United States” or “an agency or instrumentality of the United States.”  However, the VA and other entities frequently question the authority of NPCs to operate independently.  For example, the NIH Grants Policy Statement permits academic affiliates the authority to pay principal investigators up to a 60-hour work week, but specifically denies this authority to the NPCs because of a perception of “inter-dependence.”  Furthermore, the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish or disestablish a NPC is often cited by VA personnel when imposing controls that limit the flexibility of NPCs.  The statute should be updated to specify that while NPCs are clearly related to VA medical centers and designed to support research and education activities at VA medical centers, they remain independent and autonomous nonprofit corporations.

The VA Office of Research and Development contracted for a study of this issue that is scheduled for completion in September 2018.  While we hope the outcome of this study will be a more uniform approach to NPC administration of federal awards, we encourage Congress to closely monitor this issue.

FOVA activities including:

  • Developing recommendations for VA research funding
  • Monitoring the federal budget/appropriations process
  • Meeting with key House and Senate committee members and their staffs
  • Organizing congressional briefings
  •  Maintaining a roster of organizations that endorse FOVA’s funding recommendations
  • Recommending report language on topics of importance to VA research
  • Testifying before the appropriations subcommittees
  • Sending letters to members of Congress at key times during the budget/appropriations cycle

For up-to-date information on the funding needs of VA research and raising awareness of the VA research program, please go to the FOVA website:

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  • 25 May 2020 1:48 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research asked Congress on May 21st to support an additional $50 million towards Veterans Affairs COVID-19 research. As many know, the VA Office of Research and Development has been working tirelessly to quickly setup trials and studies aimed at finding solutions to fight COVID-19. This shift of effort has also required as shift of resources which is where FOVA has come in to play. Read more about this effort here in their letter to Congress.  

  • 30 Mar 2020 9:38 AM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    Please click here to read NAVREF's analysis of HR 748. 

  • 1 May 2019 2:48 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    As some of you may have seen, the House Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee this afternoon released text of its draft FY 2020 spending bill and an accompanying press release. The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its draft spending bill today, Wednesday, May 1 at 3 p.m. in HT-2 in the Capitol (the subcommittee also will be airing the markup live via webcast).

    Based on a preliminary review of the text, the draft bill appears to provide a total of $840 million for the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research program in FY 2020, in line with FOVA’s funding request for FY 2020. This total funding level would represent a $61 million or 7.8 percent increase over the comparable FY 2019 funding level.

    Additional details will be available in report language once the full House Appropriations Committee considers the spending bill, currently expected on Thursday, May 9.

    Also of note, both House and Senate “Dear Colleague” letters for the VA research program are now posted on the FOVA website. Again, the House letter was led by Reps. Hastings (D-Fla.) and González-Colón (R-P.R.), and closed with 84 signatories, an increase from 67 in FY 2019. The Senate letter was led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and closed with 23 signatories, an increase from 19 in FY 2019. Please be sure to thank your delegation for their support of VA research!

  • 5 Apr 2019 11:50 AM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    We need you to act! Advocacy plays a major role in how we ultimately operate and NAVREF needs everyone in our extended to community to reach out to your legislators and their staff to voice your opinion and educate them on the following topics: 

    1. The Senate needs to support more robust VA research funding for Fiscal Year 2020. If you haven't already, please reach out to you Senator's office and tell them that you support the "Dear Colleague" letter in circulation that calls for $834 million for VA research appropriations. This number is supported by the Independent Budget and by the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research. Contact the NAVREF office for more information. 
    2. H.R. 1947 was introduced on March 28, 2019, by Rep Roe (R-TN-1) and co-sponsored by Rep Brindisi (D-NY-22), and has already been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (of which Rep Roe is the Ranking Member).  We’re encouraging you to please reach out to your House Representative to encourage them to support passage of this bill (especially if they sit on the House VA Committee). This bill will enable NPCs to handle Interagency Agreement funding transferred to them by VA without regard to fiscal year limitations (the funds will have no expiration date).  It allows NPCs to continue serving as the “flexible funding mechanisms” originally authorized by Congress in 1988 and codifies how we have been operating for the past 30+ years. A draft email is available is being circulated among NPC executive directors. Please let us know if you haven't seen it yet!

  • 25 Feb 2019 9:53 AM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    The Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition is thankful for Congress’s recent investment in the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research Program, allowing the program to make up lost ground after nearly a decade of underfunding. FOVA’s FY 2020 recommendation of $840 million for VA research would allow for meaningful growth above inflation and continued investment in groundbreaking programs like the Million Veteran Program (MVP), while also supporting VA research on chronic and emerging needs of our nation’s veterans. Sustained and steady VA research funding growth is important to help ensure the best return on investment in improving the health of veterans and all Americans.

    Read the full recommendation here.

  • 19 Apr 2018 12:21 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    Although the FY18 budget still remains to be settled, FOVA will move ahead and continue to advocate for the FY18 request of $722 million for VA research, and $823 million for FY19. The FY19 calculation is based on the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index adjusted for inflation, a second back-up repository for MVP, VA Secretary Priorities, and for the VA-Department of Energy Partnership to process MVP data. NAVREF is committed to advocating for these requests across FY18 and FY19, and will continue meeting with members in both chambers of Congress.

    UPDATE: With FY18 budget approval, FOVA has published an updated and final FY19 budget recommendation. You can download the one pager here.


  • 24 Aug 2017 1:39 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    The following text was taken from our FOVA letter expressing concerns around the implementation of a provision to reduce the unnecessary use of animals in research and its impact on medical research:

    On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Friends of VA Health Care and Medical Research coalition – better known as FOVA – we want to express our strong concerns with a provision in the Defense, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Legislative Branch, and Energy and Water Development National Security Appropriations Act, 2018 that bars the VA Medical and Prosthetics Research program from conducting research using dogs.  We believe implementation of this provision impedes progress on medical research.

    Animal models play an essential role in advancing our understanding of human health and disease.  Animal models are used to reveal and describe basic cell and tissue function, discover disease processes, understand disease progression and test interventions to treat disease.  Specifically, dog studies have advance our understanding of immunodeficiency, narcolepsy, metabolic disease, cancer, autoimmune function, vision and epilepsy.  In short, animal models, including dogs, help advance science which has helped save human and animal lives.

    FOVA strongly supports efforts to reduce unnecessary use of animals in all scientific research. We further support ethical treatment of all animals, including dogs, where use of animals in research is appropriate.  Currently, over 99% of all VA sponsored animal studies are conducted on mice or rats.  The percentage is consistent with lab animal use patterns across U.S. research institutions.  VA researchers only use dogs in research when the dog model is clearly the most suitable for the scientific study.  There are only 85 dogs used in VA sponsored studies – approximately 0.05% of VA lab animal use.

    While we understand and appreciate the efforts to reduce use of dogs in animal research, we believe the policy included in the appropriations bill will impede scientific research and unnecessarily delay research advances for our nation’s veterans.  

    The original letter can be viewed here.

  • 21 Jul 2017 3:40 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    House and Senate Appropriations Committees Recommend Increase for VA Research

    On July 13, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2018 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies spending bill. Thanks to an amendment offered by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and supported by FOVA, the bill includes $722 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research, a $49 million (7.3 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. In May, Durbin authored a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting a five percent increase for the VA research program. The Senate Mil-Con/VA Subcommittee’s initial recommendation was $705 million but the Durbin amendment achieved the goal of a 5 percent increase.

     Last month, the House Appropriations Committee passed a separate Mil-Con/VA spending bill that provides $691 million for VA Research, a $16 million (2.4 percent) increase over FY 2017. 

     The president’s budget for FY 2018 proposed $640 million for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, a $35 million (5.2 percent) cut from the FY 2017 comparable level.

     Please encourage the House of Representatives, and members of the House Appropriations Committee in particular, to support the Senate’s approved level for VA Research ($722 million).  Attached is the FY 2018 FOVA Brochure, which you can use to advocate for this important program to improve Veterans’ health.  

    FOVA Briefing Highlights VA Research Program

    FOVA hosted a May 16 congressional briefing in partnership with the VA Office of Research and Development, titled “Veterans Health Research: A Showcase and Advancements.” The event introduced the new VA Chief Research and Development Officer, Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD. Patricia A. Dorn, PhD, director of VA rehabilitation research and development service, also provided opening remarks. The briefing featured live demonstrations of VA rehabilitation research including brain-computer interface, peripheral nerve interfaces for natural sensation and control in amputees, the standing wheelchair, and exoskeleton-assisted walking in persons with spinal cord injury. [summary provided courtesy of AAMC]

    FOVA Executive Committee Members Testify Before House Appropriations Committee

    Two members of the FOVA Executive Committee testified at a March 29 House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies public witness hearing regarding FY 2018 funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The FOVA witnesses included Carl Blake, Paralyzed Veterans of America Associate Executive Director of Government Relations, as well as Heather O’Beirne Kelly, PhD, American Psychological Association Director of Veterans and Military Health Policy. Dr. Kelly and Mr. Blake both advocated for increased FY 2018 funding for VA Medical and Prosthetic Research, in line with FOVA and the VSO’s Independent Budget.

     Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) mentioned VA research facilities, and noted that, in 2012, the VA Office of Research and Development “did an in-depth study and an analysis of the physical condition of the V.A.’s aging research infrastructure, and they reported that the average VA building that houses research laboratories is over 50 years old.” Bishop continued, citing Dr. Kelly’s testimony and FOVA’s position, “VA lacks the state-of-the-art research facilities and that modern research can't be conducted in facilities that closely resemble a high school science lab. As a result, they are recommending $50 million for five major research facility construction projects and $175 million for minor construction maintenance projects.” [summary provided courtesy of AAMC]

    The information above originally appears in a July 21, 2017 newsletter communication from the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition where NAVREF is an executive committee member.

  • 13 Jul 2017 5:00 PM | Hawk Tran (Administrator)

    Senator Durbin successfully offered an amendment during the markup of the MilCon/VA Appropriations bill to boost VA Medical and Prosthetic Research funding to $722 million. Senator Durbin led a letter on this issue in May of this year, and their office hopes to make it an annual sign on letter. The increase marks five percent real growth over the FY17 figure which is also in line with the Senator’s American Cures Act.

    NAVREF is pleased to have signed-on in support of this letter back in May and we appreciate Senator Durbin's office for all the work they have put into this amendment. We truly are proud to have Senator Durbin as a champion for VA research. 

    The May letter on the amendment can be found here

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