Bipartisan bill would help expand transportation options for veterans living in rural areas to get to Veterans Affairs (VA) health facilities
Bipartisan bill is backed by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, & Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is introducing a bipartisan bill to help veterans in rural Georgia get to the VA.
Today, Sens. Ossoff, Susan Collins (R-ME), and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the Rural Veterans Transportation to Care Act to help more veterans in rural areas get transportation to VA health facilities and access the health care benefits they’ve earned.
Sens. Ossoff, Collins, and Thune’s bipartisan bill would expand eligibility to the VA’s Highly Rural Transportation Grant Program (HRTG), which provides grant funding for Veteran Service Organizations and State Veterans Service Agencies to provide veterans transportation in eligible counties.
The VA’s Highly Rural Transportation Grant Program is currently only available to counties with fewer than 7 people per square mile. The bipartisan bill would expand the VA’s definition to ensure more counties are eligible for the grant program, helping more veterans living in rural areas get transportation to the VA or VA-authorized health care facilities.
The bill would also increase the maximum amount of funding grant recipients are eligible for from $50,000 to $60,000, or up to $80,000 for grantees to purchase an ADA compliant vehicle.
“As I’ve sat down with veterans in rural areas across Georgia, one of their key concerns is lack of transportation,” Sen. Ossoff said. “That’s why I’m introducing this bipartisan bill to ensure veterans have more access to transportation services that can bring them to VA clinics and medical centers to get the care they need.”
“In Maine – a large, rural state with one of the highest number of veterans per capita – only veterans living in Piscataquis County are eligible for this important grant program that provides transportation to VA and VA-authorized healthcare facilities,” said Senator Collins. “By expanding program eligibility to include more highly rural areas, this bipartisan bill would allow veterans in additional Maine counties to gain access to these transportation services.”
“Traveling to and from VA facilities is oftentimes an overlooked obstacle that veterans in rural communities, like those in South Dakota, face,” said Thune. “This legislation would provide South Dakota veterans with much-needed transportation services that would allow them to safely and efficiently utilize services at VA facilities.”
The bipartisan bill is backed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
“Our nation’s 2.4-million veterans living in rural areas face difficulties accessing VA health care that those living in urban and suburban areas do not. Chief among them is transportation to the department’s nationwide medical facilities,” said Nancy Espinosa, DAV National Commander. “The nearly 300,000 veterans living in areas considered highly rural face even greater obstacles and deserve increased attention to assistance in accessing VA’s high-quality health care. DAV is proud to support the Rural Veterans Transportation to Care Act as it would help the VA provide all rural veterans better access to treatment. We applaud Sen. Ossoff’s leadership in introducing this important legislation that will help ensure our nation keeps its promises to America’s veterans.”
According to the VA, roughly 3 in 10 veterans in Georgia live in rural areas, and there are roughly 2.8 million veterans in rural areas across the country who are enrolled in and rely on the VA’s health care system.
Sen. Ossoff continues working to improve the health of Georgia veterans.
Two weeks ago, thanks to Sen Ossoff’s bipartisan Access for Veterans to Records Act, the National Archives cleared a backlog of more than 400,000 records requests, enabling Georgia veterans to more quickly access their records and claim their benefits.
Last month, Sens. Ossoff and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan SCHEDULES Act which would require the VA to establish a time standard between medical referrals and appointment times at VA hospitals and community care centers.
In October, Sen. Ossoff also launched an inquiry with the VA into excessive delays with the VA Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), which decides whether or not veterans are entitled to claimed veterans’ benefits and services.
Click here to read the bipartisan Rural Veterans Transportation to Care Act.
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