VA researcher Rory A. Cooper, Ph.D, founder and director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

The awards — known as the Sammies — are given by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service to recognize the accomplishments of federal civil servants. Cooper is the recipient of the 2017 Science and Environment Medal.

IMAGE: Rory Cooper and SecVA at the 2017 Sammies.“I’ve been helped by so many Veterans over the years and by the VA, and to see the VA’s research work recognized is tremendous,” Cooper said of winning the award. “But I also hope it’s a platform to get people to understand the needs of Veterans and the technology needs, what technology can do. And hopefully to motivate Veterans to achieve everything that they can; maximize their abilities and continue to serve and contribute to society.”

“Rory’s research on wheelchair technology has helped transform the lives of millions of disabled Veterans,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “I’m thrilled that the Partnership for Public Service is recognizing him for a career filled with incredible passion and ingenuity.”

Cooper was honored for his work designing innovative wheelchairs and other assistive technologies, which have markedly improved the mobility and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of Veterans and other people with disabilities. He led innovations that include a wheelchair with robotic arms and hands that can grasp, personal vehicles enabling people to access terrain that could not be handled by normal wheelchairs, and manual wheelchairs with more comfortable and adjustable seats.

An Army Veteran who was paralyzed in an accident while serving, Cooper has dedicated his career to improving the mobility and quality of life for people with disabilities. Cooper and his team are credited with 25 patents that have advanced wheelchair technology.

A selection committee that included leaders from government, business, the nonprofit community, academia, and the entertainment and news media selected Cooper and six other winners, from 26 finalists and more than 440 nominees.

IMAGE: Rory Cooper with 2017 Sammie winners.

The recipients of the 2017 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, including VA’s Dr. Rory Cooper (center). Photo by Aaron Clamage

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Published on Sep. 28, 2017

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  1. Sharon turner September 29, 2017 at 10:50 am

    My husband of 54 years a combat 100 percent disabled from Vietnam. Also along with him are victims of four years exposure to the contaminated water at camp LeJeune, NC. My husband was diagnosed with a terminal cancer in 2007. We have very real medical and financial needs, that were because of service to our country. We can not work, can not earn any money for the nessary basics, and my husband can not get the care he needs for his PTSD, yet the can spend money for awards. God help the defenders of this great country, because that country will not.

  2. william edward HAUSE September 29, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I participated in early research for the cure for help. Only to be retreated several. years letter with interfuron 2b .after being treated with interfuron 2a.i now have cancer.what kind a way is that to thank your veterans.there we’re many better choices to be treated with.but the only possible outcome from the Tampa v.a.choise was death.

  3. Brenda S. Simmons September 29, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Congratulations on this Prestigious award.

  4. Sharon Lee September 29, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Hard to understand why I have seen and spoken to Vets in Phoenix who have no legs who have put in multiple requests for a new wheelchair. One particular Vet was at a town hall meeting my husband spoke at with Senator McCain. The man in a wheelchair from the stone age had made multiple attempts unsuccessfully, to receive a new wheelchair. Fortunately Senator McCain called on him and made sure that the man would receive a new chair. But my point is it shouldn’t have to be that way. Don’t make them beg for what they have earned.
    We still need work in Phoenix.

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