Federal agency to limit coverage for artificial limbs for veterans

Al Willis, a Montford Point Marine, salutes during a ceremony on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, at the The All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Philadelphia. Americans marked Veterans Day on Tuesday with parades, speeches and military discounts, while in Europe the holiday known as Armistice Day held special meaning in the centennial year of the start of World War I. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The federal government is planning to change the criteria for coverage for lower limb prostheses, an artificial leg, and they are doing it to save money.

It is estimated that 60,000 Americans every year need some sort of artificial limb, and in recent years many of those Americans are veterans, like 29-year-old Marine Corp Veteran Greg Caron of Ellington. He lost both legs below the knee from an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan four years ago. But modern prosthetics, therapy, and great personal ambition and determination have brought him to a good place.

“Water-sports, skiing, snow boarding, golfing, swimming, anything, running, I’m able to do it now because of the technology,” said Caron.

But the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS is proposing to drastically limit access to modern prosthetic care for veterans and non-veterans alike.

“Some of the proposed changes would mean that the patient would get a very basic foot, something that has essentially a sponge rubber in it, as opposed to something that has a flexible action to it, or a dynamic ability so that the patient can actually do what they want to do and start to lead an independent life,” said Matthew Parente the Clinical Director of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Hartford.

It’s the kind of device that has allowed Greg to resume the kinds of activities he did before he was injured.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to New England’s only program to train clinicians to become prosthetists at the University of Hartford Thursday, Urging the students and others to help convince CMS that this is a bad idea saying, “What can turn around this decision is advocates saying this move is wrong for the nation, wrong for our veterans, we owe the the best possible health care.”

Blumenthal and other members of the Congressional Committees on Veteran’s Affairs, have signed a letter to the head of CMS urging them to abandon this proposed new policy as it could adversely affect people for years to come.

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