Casey Pushes for Veteran Hand Transplant Center in Pittsburgh

Casey: Center Needed to Provide Most Advanced Care Possible to Veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is urging President Obama to support in his upcoming budget a program in Pittsburgh specializing in hand transplants for veterans. Veterans are not currently guaranteed consideration for any of the existing transplant programs, and with the number of veterans needing care expected to grow it is imperative to ensure they have access to the newest advances in medical treatment. 

“After sacrificing dearly for our country, veterans deserve the most advanced care possible to help them recover from their injuries and restore their quality of life,” said Senator Casey. “By providing funding to establish this center, we can ensure our veterans have access to the newest advances in science and medical treatment.”

In a letter, Senator Casey urged the President to establish a pilot national Veterans Administration Center for Excellence (VACOE) at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to perform hand transplants for veterans who have suffered amputations from combat.

Recent peer reviewed articles indicate that upper extremity transplantation can improve quality of life for those suffering from a disabling amputation. However, at the present time the only option is to refer veterans to a limited number of community facilities offering this treatment.  Establishing a transplant program at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System would allow veterans better access to this option as well as continued care and follow up. 

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:

As your Administration continues its work on the budget for Fiscal Year 2013, I strongly urge you to include $4.7 million to establish a pilot national Veterans Administration Center for Excellence (VACOE) at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System to perform upper extremity transplantation.

With this funding, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 4 will develop an upper extremity transplantation program as a VA Transplant Program for veterans with traumatic upper extremity amputations who meet accepted requirements for transplantation.  It is estimated that there are more than 200 veterans receiving care within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) who have sustained traumatic upper extremity amputation.  It is anticipated that this number will grow with increased emphasis on enrollment of OEF/OIF veterans.  Recent peer reviewed articles indicate that upper extremity transplantation can improve quality of life for selected individuals with grievous disabilities resultant from amputation.  At present, combat veteran amputees within the Department of Defense are referred to one of a few community facilities nationally who offer upper extremity transplantation.  VHA currently has no mechanism to option this care utilizing VHA funding. More importantly, under current referral methods, veteran patients are not guaranteed consideration for any of the existing community upper extremity transplant programs nor long term care of their transplants.

By providing funding to establish this center, we can ensure our veterans have access to the newest advances in science and medical treatment.  I look forward to working with you on this proposal. 

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Cc:       The Honorable Eric Shinseki, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs

            The Honorable Jacob Lew, Director, Office of Management and Budget