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What it does 

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.

Relevant Science 

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)).’’


Senator Kirk introduced the legislation in response to a report 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.

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.

S 800 was introduced on March 19, 2015, after which it was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The Committee ordered the bill to “be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably,” which means the bill has been largely rewritten and that the form which will be reported to the rest of the Senate for a vote is a substitute for the original legislation initially offered for Committee review. Note, however, that a substitute does not necessarily mean that there have been substantial changes made to the bill.


The original sponsor of the bill is Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who introduced the bill with three original cosponsors: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Primary Author 
Emma Vail
Thomas Williams, JD, MBE & Aubrey Incorvaia, MPP
Recommended Citation 

Duke SciPol, “Enhancing the Stature and Visibility of Medical Rehabilitation Research at the NIH Act (S 800, 114th Congress)” available at (03/31/2016).