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AOTA Gets Profession Addressed on House Floor in Federal Loan Repayment Bill

Legislation Goes to Conference Committee Next Before Final Version is Voted On

BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- A loan repayment program for professions of "national need" will include occupational therapists if an agreement made on the House floor is agreed to by the Senate. AOTA staff worked fast and furiously to have the issue addressed on the House floor late last week. AOTA was able to have Representative Tom Price of Georgia ask on the floor of the House that occupational therapists be included as the bill moves to conference with the Senate.

"This victory underscores the importance of political action," said Christina A. Metzler, AOTA Chief Public Affairs Officer. "AOTA members have done a great job of communicating with their members of Congress. When it came time to quickly lobby for the inclusion of our profession in this bill, many Members were already aware of the value of occupational therapy services."

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act, H.R. 4137, which reauthorizes the Higher Education Act, was passed on the House floor on February 7. S. 1642 was passed by the Senate in July 2007.

Representative Price of Georgia spoke to an amendment by Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, which added to the list of occupations required to address "national need." Such occupations are appropriate for federal loan repayment support. The program allows for up to $2,000 per year for 5 years in repayment if professionals work in particular areas. For therapists, the bill cites working with "children, adolescents, or veterans" as the criteria for loan repayment.

Representative Price, an orthopedic surgeon, said that he views occupational therapists as "integral to the healing process" and noted that AOTA had contacted him. Representative Sestak also pointed out that the evidence for need referenced occupational therapists. He agreed to work to ensure that occupational therapists are included in the final bill.

AOTA is currently working with Committee staff and key members of the House Education and Labor Committee including Chairman George Miller of California and Ranking Member Buck McKeon, also of California, to iron out the language and details.

AOTA is also approaching the Senate members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to assure their support when the bill goes to conference. In conference, differences between the House and Senate versions will be ironed out.

The American Occupational Therapy Association, established in 1917, represents more than 35,000 members. AOTA is an active advocate for the profession, and for individuals who can benefit from occupational therapy services.

CONTACT: Rob Black

(301) 641-4815

SOURCE American Occupational Therapy Association
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