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Policy Update: Amputee Coalition Signs on as Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid Coalition (ITEM) on Letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

Apr 29, 2022 |

By Amanda Woodson – Government Relations Specialist

The Amputee Coalition Government Relations Team is beginning a series of blog posts dedicated to supplying policy updates. The Amputee Coalition not only provides support to the limb loss and limb difference community through our certified peer visitor program, grassroots advocacy team and operating the National Limb Loss Resource Center, but we also engage with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that the limb loss and limb difference communities have a voice in important matters.

The Amputee Coalition has the distinct honor of serving as a steering committee member of the Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM). ITEM is a coalition of consumer and clinician organizations that are collaborating to advocate for access and coverage of assistive technologies and devices for individuals with injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and chronic conditions.

As a steering committee member, we frequently comment on legislative or regulatory proposals. Through involving coalition support, organizations are provided the opportunity to increase support within the patient advocacy community.  This has proven an effective means to many organizations to advance various concerns that impact their constituencies.

The Amputee Coalition has endorsed a letter submitted to Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) regarding the “Department of Transportation Public Meeting on Air Travel by Persons Who Use Wheelchair (DOT-OST-2022-0014).” The letter outlines the coalition’s appreciation of the DoT’s actions to ensure improvement of air travel experience for individuals with disabilities especially those who use wheelchairs.

The DoT’s public meeting on air travel by individuals with disabilities raised critical issues that will require further action. The letter details a typical experience of individuals with mobility impairments during air travel which depicts those airlines and other transportation carriers’ typical treatment of mobility devices. Unfortunately, typical treatment of mobility devices has included the mishandling of the equipment resulting, in broken and or damaged devices. The letter also defines and educates the uses of wheelchairs and reasons for wheelchair usage. Moreover, it also defines and proves how wheelchairs fit the criteria of durable medical equipment. This classification starkly contrasts the opinions of airline representatives regarding their liability. Currently, the airline industry asserts they do not hold liability, as the equipment lacks the durability necessary for use outside of the home.

As the nation’s only non-profit advocating for the needs of 2.1 million Americans living with limb loss and limb difference, we find this assertion remarkable and strongly disagree with this laughable opinion. The airline industry incorrectly asserts that the equipment is not designed to be used outside of the home. Most wheelchairs are indeed designed for use outside of a home and meet the needs of a user, to include transportation outside of a residence.

You can read the entire letter here.

The Amputee Coalition will continue to monitor the Department of Transportation response and actions to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to partake in air travel with dignity and without fear of assistive technology needed for full community living and participation being damaged in transit.