April 15, 2009, Washington, DC: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA, attended a meeting and briefing with senior White House officials related to disability matters at the White House. Kareem Dale, the special assistant to the President for Disability Policy, a newly-created position, brought together over 50 cross-disability representatives for a briefing and exchange of ideas with officials from the Executive Office of the President. Among them: Office of Personnel; Office of the First Lady; Domestic Policy Council; Office of the Staff Secretary; Technology Innovation and Government Reform; Office of Management and Budget; National Economic Council; Office of Public Liaison.
Kareem Dale opened the session saying “This is truly a new day for America and a new day for people with disabilities.” Senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, welcomed everyone to the session. Disability advocates were asked for their input and raised key issues such as education, employment, health care and civil rights. One of the First Lady’s priorities is supporting military families. HLAA requested that the First Lady give attention to hearing loss – both more protection in the field and support for returning veterans and their families who are trying to cope with hearing loss sustained in war. HLAA has heard from veterans with multiple injuries that of all of their disabling conditions, hearing loss causes them the most difficulty in readjusting. The latest number of veterans returning with hearing loss is 70,000.