ARVO Advocates Urge NIH/NEI Funding Increases Within Hours of Congress Passing a Budget Deal
The early February date of the annual Advocacy Day associated with ARVO's Annual Meeting Planning Committee (AMPC) meeting usually ensures that vision advocates are among the first on the Hill in the annual appropriations process. At this year's February 9 event, the ARVO advocates were on the Hill just hours after Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that eliminates sequester cuts and raises the defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps in both Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 and 2019, potentially paving the way for Congress to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI) at the Senate Appropriations Committee-proposed funding levels of $36.1 billion and $759 million, respectively, as it finalizes FY2018 appropriations by the March 23 deadline.
In the 40-plus visits, the domestic and international advocates, including AMPC members, ARVO Advocacy and Outreach Committee members, and ARVO Science Communication Training Fellows thanked offices for the two-year budget deal, the $2 billion NIH increases in each FY2016 and FY2017, and for consideration of the Senate-proposed FY2018 NIH/NEI funding increases. They also requested another $2 billion NIH increase in FY2019, as well as NEI funding at $800 million, acknowledging that 2018 reflects the 50th anniversary of the creation of the NEI by Congress and that the nation's efforts to save sight and restore vision require adequate funding. In that regard, they informed offices that NAEVR will coordinate a bipartisan House and Senate letter in support of FY2019 NEI funding.
The visits were also timely in that President Trump's FY2019 budget request was scheduled to issue on February 12.
ARVO's advocates shared how the NIH and NEI are more than just a line in the federal budgetthey represent personal research projects, careers, and the successes stemming from the worldwide vision community over these past five decadesall enabled by government funding. In emphasizing the value of the NIH/NEI investment, the advocates cited a recent ARVO paper published in December 2017 in the American Journal of Ophthalmology highlighting $11,2 billion in government and patient savings stemming from the invention of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).
Reflecting on the day, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky stated, We had an amazing group of diverse and articulate advocates who did an outstanding job of educating about the value of federally funded vision research. They were fortunate to meet with the personal and Committee staff of so many MembersRepublican and Democratwho have expressed support for a pattern of robust, sustained, and predictable NIH funding increases. NAEVR appreciates that so many domestic and international AMPC members traveled a day earlier to participate, and that we had representation from both the current and incoming chairs of the Advocacy and Outreach Committee. The international advocates added greatly to the discussions, describing the important global role that NEI serves with respect to training and research collaborations, and the Science Communication Training Fellows emphasized the importance of funding to vision scientists in training and early-stage investigators.
NAEVR's James Jorkasky and David Epstein were pleased to join ARVO's Marisa Lavine and Matt Windsor, PhD in hosting the visits.
Before beginning their Congressional visits, the Advocates posed for group photos
Thomas Raasch, OD, PhD (Ohio State University) with Drew Hatter, office of Cong. Steve Stivers (R-OH), co-Chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus
From left: Michelle Sun, MD (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), Craig Pearson (NIH), Tasneem Khatib (University of Cambridge) and Joshua Izaak, office of Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Tim Corson, PhD (Indiana University School of Medicine), Catherine Knowles, office of Cong. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Shahar Frenkel, MD, PhD (Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center)
Anjali Chhatre, office of Cong. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) with Peter Koulen, PhD (University of Missouri Kansas City)