Wounded Veterans Recreation Act
STATEMENT OF P. DANIEL SMITH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, EXERCISING THE AUTHORITY OF THE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 327, A BILL TO AMEND THE FEDERAL LANDS RECREATION ENHANCEMENT ACT TO PROVIDE FOR A LIFETIME NATIONAL RECREATIONAL PASS FOR ANY VETERAN WITH A SERVICE-CONNECTED DISABILITY.
JUNE 19, 2019
Chairman Daines, Ranking Member King, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 327, a bill to amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act to provide for a lifetime National Recreational Pass for any veteran with a service-connected disability.
The Department supports S. 327. We believe that the brave men and women who are disabled as a result of their service to our nation in the armed forces should be assured of their eligibility for free entrance to our national parks and other federal public lands. This legislation would provide that assurance.
S. 327 would amend the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to make the lifetime National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass available, without cost, to any veteran with a compensable or noncompensable service-connected disability.
Although veterans with service-connected disabilities are not specifically mentioned in FLREA, our nation’s veterans who are disabled may already be eligible for a free pass called the Access Pass. This pass provides free admission for permanently disabled U.S. citizens, regardless of past military service, to parks and public lands that charge entrance fees. To be eligible for the free lifetime Access Pass, FLREA requires proof of disability as defined by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The Department is sensitive to concerns that there may be some confusion among veterans about whether the Rehabilitation Act’s definition of disabled individuals includes veterans with any percentage of service-connected disability. By specifying compensable or noncompensable service-connected disabilities in the law, the intent of S. 327 is to affirm that any service-connected disabled veteran is eligible for the same pass as any other individual with a permanent disability.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.