Langevin Recognized with National Leadership Award from Major Disabilities Organization

Jun 27, 2012 Issues: Disabilities, Health Care

The United Spinal Association, a national nonprofit that has worked to improve the quality of life for Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders since 1946, has awarded Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) with one of its highest honors.

Langevin has received the organization’s first Junius A Kellogg Outstanding Congressional Leadership Award as part of the Association’s annual legislative advocacy event, called Roll on Capitol Hill, which addresses issues that directly impact the health, independence and quality of life of the individuals the group represents. The award distinguishes a Member of Congress who demonstrates courage, energy and dedication in promoting productive, independent lives for people with disabilities.

“We honor Congressman Langevin for blazing a trail for people with spinal cord injuries in the halls of Congress,” said Paul Tobin, President and CEO, United Spinal Association. “Like Junius Kellogg, Congressman Langevin has broken stereotypes and been unwilling to be restricted by his disability."

As a staunch advocate for programs to improve the lives of individuals living with spinal cord injuries and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and ALS, Langevin has fought for universal access to health care, increased funding for biomedical and stem cell research and a program for lifespan respite care to ease the significant physical, emotional and financial strain on caregivers.

He has introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act to reauthorize and extend a program he worked to initiate in 2006. The initiative provides services to help an individual or family take a break from the daily routine and stress of providing care to loved ones with chronic, disabling conditions. In 2011, Langevin received the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Representative of the Year award.

“By coming to Washington to share your stories and experiences, you enlighten and educate us as lawmakers and put a very important face on issues that affects millions,” said Langevin as he accepted the award from Tobin and Association members from Rhode Island at a ceremony Tuesday night.

“Your engagement and leadership has never been more important than it is right now.  We are facing a serious budget deficit and tremendous pressure to cut programs and services that are vital for individuals with chronic, disabling conditions. However, I truly believe that we can be fiscally responsible while still making stronger investments in programs that empower individuals with disabilities and create an inclusive environment that allows them to achieve their full potential. We can find savings in our health care system without slashing benefits or cutting program eligibility, and we can make investments into biomedical research that will not only lead to the cures of tomorrow, but create the jobs of today.”

Kellogg, who was well known for being the first African-American scholarship athlete at Manhattan College and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, was paralyzed when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 1954. Over the next 44 years until he passed away at age 71, he exemplified the attributes associated with the accolade that now bears his name. His obituary in the New York Times reported on his achievements coaching a four-time international champion wheelchair basketball team, counseling inner-city children and becoming New York City's first deputy commissioner and director of strategic planning for the Community Development Agency.

With 36,000 members nationwide, and a nationally organized grassroots network of 68 chapters and support groups, United Spinal Association is the largest disability-led advocacy organization representing the interests of more than 1 million Americans living with a spinal cord injury or disease. The Association hosts unique events every year that attract thousands of consumers, advocates, community leaders, and disability organizations. Its Roll on Capitol Hill event includes panel discussions and issue briefings with top policymakers. The Association’s conferences and expos help people discover new paths to independence and celebrate all individual abilities and talents.