Submitted by Rep. Rick Larsen’s office.
Reps. Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help veterans who live in rural communities get to and from their medical appointments.
The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2021 makes permanent two successful initiatives providing veterans with transportation services and reimbursement for travel to and from VA medical facilities. Not only do these initiatives ease the burden for veterans traveling long distances for care, but they have proven to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the number of missed medical appointments at VA medical facilities.
The legislation also streamlines the certification process for volunteers who sign up to transport veterans to their appointments.
“Veterans should not have to worry about how to get to their health appointments. However, travel is often a real burden, especially for veterans who live in rural communities,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The bipartisan Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act makes it easier and safer for veterans to keep their appointments and access quality health care, regardless of where they live.”
“Traveling to and from VA medical centers is one of the most challenging obstacles for veterans to overcome in rural Eastern Washington, and it often results in missed appointments for health care services,” said McMorris Rodgers, Co-Chair of the Military Families Caucus. “Where our veterans live should not dictate their access to care, which is why this bill is so important. Providing transportation services and reimbursement for travel to VA medical facilities will ease this undue burden, improve access to care, and lead to more positive outcomes for veterans in Eastern Washington.”
“When it comes to accessing essential care and services, far too many veterans in rural states like Montana face a disproportionate number of barriers,” said Tester, Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bipartisan bill expands initiatives proven to streamline travel services and benefits for veterans in rural communities, ensuring more folks can get to their appointments no matter where they live.”
“Congress has made great strides in increasing access to care for rural veterans, and we can build on that success by providing assistance for rural veterans who have to travel long distances to make their medical appointments,” said Moran, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This legislation would make permanent successful VA transportation programs, authorize transportation pilot programs for low-income veterans and enhance other public transportation options.”
The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2021:
• Enables the VA to transport veterans and eligible beneficiaries to VA facilities for care, including vocational rehabilitation, mental health care and counseling through the Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) program
• Makes permanent the Highly Rural Transportation Grant, which gives local VA facilities the ability to partner with Veteran Service Organizations and state veteran service agencies to assist with transporting veterans to and from appointments
• Establishes a pilot program expanding the transportation reimbursement program by easing the burden on low-income veterans, making it possible for veterans to access reimbursements two days in advance of confirmed medical appointments
• Creates a pilot program to help veterans in rural, highly rural or Tribal areas travel to access resources provided by Vet Centers
• Requires the VA to establish a pilot program for state, county, Tribal and city governments to improve public transportation connections to enhance access to facilities serving veterans
For a summary of the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2021, visit larsen.house.gov/uploadedfiles/rural_veterans_travel_enhancement_act_of_2021_section_by_section.pdf.