Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NIH Act (S 800, 114th Congress)

The Policy

What it does

Improves, coordinates, and enhances rehabilitation research at the National Institutes of Health.


S 800 amends Section 452 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 285g–4) to revise requirements for medical rehabilitation research. It modifies the structure and responsibilities of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) with the additional tasks of:

  • Revising and updating a medical rehabilitation “Research Plan,” [formerly developed by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development].
  • Annual reporting on progress in achieving the objectives, benchmarks, and guiding principles of the Research Plan.
  • Developing guidelines governing the funding for medical rehabilitation research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Joint review and coordination of research in the area to avoid duplicative action, achieved in part through the use of Interagency Agreements.

In addition, the Medical Rehabilitation Coordinating Committee (MRCC) must periodically, and no less than once every 5 years, host a scientific conference or workshop on medical rehabilitation research. Also, the Department of Health and Human Services must enter into interagency agreements to coordinate medical rehabilitation research.


<p>Senator Kirk introduced the legislation in response to a <a href="https://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/advisory/nachhd/Documents/Blue_Ribbon_Pa... by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Rehabilitation Research at the NIH, which highlighted NCMRR’s responsibilities and investigated how well NCMRR is upholding those responsibilities. The Panel was made up of a number of doctors, physical therapists, researchers in the field, and advocates. S 800 seeks to correct the shortcomings of the NCMRR as reported by the Panel in order to improve rehabilitation research in the U.S.</p>

The Science

Science Synopsis

The bill’s definition of “rehabilitation research,” previously undefined in the law, is “the  science of mechanisms and interventions that prevent, improve, restore, or replace lost, underdeveloped, or deteriorating function (defined at the level of impairment, activity, and participation, according to the World Health Organization in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (2001)).’’

The Debate

Endorsements & Opposition


  • The American Physical Therapy Association: "If passed into law, these changes would represent a real move forward for rehabilitation research and its ability to transform lives." The APTA was in support of the NIH Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations, which are reflected in the legislation.
  • American Occupational Therapy Association: "Advancing rehabilitation research is critical to ensuring that all Americans living with illness, disability, or injury will receive the most innovative and effective therapy available.”
  • Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago: "Coordination at the NIH is long overdue, and this legislation is a milestone for rehabilitation research."
  • American Heart Association: “Research into medical rehabilitation can help find new ways to improve recovery from stroke – a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.”
  • The Disability and Rehabilitation Research Coalition, a coalition of national non-profit organizations committed to improving the state of rehabilitation and disability, also endorses the legislation.
  • The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine supports the legislation and worked with members of Congress to develop it.
  • Over 500 expert members of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation signed a letter in support of S 800.


  • As of February 15, 2016 there have not been any public statements opposing the bill.