(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) today announced that he has received confirmation from leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives that they will bring Vitter’s Steve Gleason Act up for a vote in June. The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to markup Vitter’s legislation on June 2, and will likely get a vote in the full house shortly after that.

“When I visit with patients living with ALS, one thing I hear frequently is their challenge to communicate with loved ones,” Vitter said. “We have a chance to help them have a voice, literally, by making certain medical devices more accessible and affordable. Cutting edge technology helps patients communicate with speech generating devices, but most can’t afford this technology on top of all other health care costs. We can fix that and make communication available to many more ALS patients.”

Vitter’s legislation will make speech generating devices (SGDs) more accessible, helping patients diagnosed with diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) live more independent lives. His legislation is named in honor of Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in January 2011. Vitter has been working with Steve and his foundation, Team Gleason, on this legislation since 2014.

The Steve Gleason Act of 2015 would make the following reforms:

· Give immediate relief for patients who have been denied access to SGDs since the Administration’s rule change in 2014
· Reverse the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) capped rental policy to allow patients to own their devices and continue using them in facilities such as nursing homes
· Ensure eye tracking technology and gaze interaction accessories are covered under Medicare for ALS patients with demonstrated medical needs. NOTE: this is how Gleason is able to verbally communicate.

Vitter’s bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives along with original co-sponsors Congressmen Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.). The legislation is endorsed by Steve Gleason’s advocacy organization, Team Gleason, the ALS Association, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, Center for Medicare Advocacy, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the United Spinal Association.

Vitter also worked with Team Gleason last year to pressure CMS to rescind a designation that limited access for certain medical equipment, including the speech generating device that Gleason uses.

In the 113th Congress, Vitter along with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act, which would create a separate benefit category for Complex Rehab Technology (CRT), such as a power chair or speech devices, within the Medicare program. Click here to read more.

Since being diagnosed with ALS, Gleason has since been confined to a wheel chair and lost his ability to speak. Gleason’s speech generating device has allowed him to regain his ability to communicate. Team Gleason has worked to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases with leading edge technology and create a global conversation about ALS to ultimately find effective treatment and a cure.

Gleason came to Washington D.C. as Vitter’s guest to the State of the Union in January 2015. Vitter and Team Gleason met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss ALS legislation. Click here to read more.