Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 28, 2012

Forum: Disabled vets support Proposal 4

Every day, men and women in uniform defend our nation and our democracy. At home and abroad, they stand in harm's way, putting their lives on the line to protect us.

We should do everything in our power to ensure paralyzed, disabled and aging veterans get the best care. We must ensure they get the treatment they choose — and that includes choosing to remain healthy and independent in their own homes.

That's why veterans across Michigan join with senior and disability rights advocates, law enforcement officials, faith leaders, and many more in supporting Proposal 4, the Keep Home Care a Safe Choice proposal.

Proposal 4 creates a registry and links injured and disabled veterans with pre-screened home care providers in their areas. These providers will be required to undergo criminal background checks and have access to training so they can better care for veterans.

When groups of World War II veterans with spinal cord disabilities were organizing in 1946 to form Paralyzed Veterans of America, the single biggest issue they faced was the lack of suitable housing. The choices — even for those who were married with children — were to reside at VA or military hospitals, or to live with their parents. After considerable effort, PVA finally managed in 1948 to persuade President Harry Truman to sign legislation that provided a grant toward the purchase of an accessible residence for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

This is precisely why — some 66 years after our founding — Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America has lent its support to Proposal 4, which would give Michiganders the choice of directing their own care in their own homes, instead of forcing them into nursing homes or institutions.

Today, Michigan is home to more than 723,000 military veterans, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 80,000 of them have disabilities — brave Michiganders who served in conflicts ranging from the ongoing operations in Afghanistan all the way back to World War II. They are our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents.

They wore their uniforms with pride and fought for our way of life valiantly. They deserve the dignity, freedom and independence of choosing their own care when they are disabled or elderly.

To truly honor our veterans, Michigan should support Proposal 4, for the health and safety of the brave men and women who served our nation.

To learn more about why Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, the Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan and many more support Proposal 4, visit www.keephomecaresafe.org.

About the author: Michael Harris is executive director of Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America. He is a Marine veteran who is paralyzed from the waist down. Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America is a state affiliate of Paralyzed Veterans of America; its mission is to enhance the lives of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease as well as all citizens with disabilities.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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