WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright has introduced bipartisan legislation that would improve orthotics and prosthetics care for service members and veterans.
The Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act would support colleges and universities seeking to establish degree programs to train specialists in orthotics and prosthetics.
In the past decade, Cartwright said the skill set to provide this state-of-the-art care has become increasingly complex. Unfortunately, there are only around 7,100 prosthetists and orthotists nationwide, with one in five either past retirement already or eligible to retire in the next five years.
Current degree programs are not widespread enough to meet this demand for new practitioners and should these degree-granting programs continue at their current rate, they will only be able to replace around two-thirds of the clinicians who retire in the next 20 years.
The Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act authorizes a competitive grant program to help colleges and universities develop master’s degree programs focusing on orthotics and prosthetics. Each institution receiving one of these grants will require students to rotate through facilities run by the Departments of Veterans Affairs or Defense, or that hold VA contracts.
This bill also requires the VA to establish a Center of Excellence in Prosthetic and Orthotic Education to provide evidence-based research on the knowledge, skills, and training that clinical professionals need to care for veterans.