Larsen and Thornberry Bill Would Improve Transportation for Veterans to Access Health Care

May 13, 2015 Issues: Veterans

WASHINGTON—Veterans in Northwest Washington and across the country would be able to more easily get to the health care they need if Congress passes a bill that Reps. Rick Larsen, WA-02, and Mac Thornberry, TX-13, introduced today. The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2015 (H.R. 2291) would permanently reauthorize the Veterans Transportation Service program and provide mileage reimbursement for combat veterans traveling to receive counseling and care from Veterans Centers.

 “Access to health care does not just mean having enough doctors. It means making sure veterans can get to appointments with their doctors. My bill will help break down travel barriers so veterans do not have to wonder how they will get to their next health care appointment,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“We have a responsibility to the men and women who sacrificed so much for our nation with their selfless service,” said Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We will never know the full extent of their sacrifice, but we would not know freedom without it. That is why programs and legislation like this are so important in our work to better serve them.”

Local groups are supporting the bill, including Snohomish Volunteers of America, Community Action of Skagit County, and the Snohomish County Veterans Homeless Committee.

“The Veterans Transportation Service program ensures veterans in Snohomish County can get to and from the VA, removing the stress of figuring out how they’ll make it to their appointments. We thank Congressman Larsen for his continued work to create more opportunity for veterans,” said members of the Snohomish County Veterans Homeless Committee.

The Veterans Transportation Service program provides funding to local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities to hire transportation coordinators and purchase vehicles that VA-trained staff can use to connect more veterans to the care they need. Between October 2014 and March 2015, the VA Puget Sound Health Care System provided nearly 200 trips for veterans to VA facilities. These trips sometimes transported multiple veterans to VA appointments. The cost-effective program helps save money on ambulance costs and mileage reimbursements.

The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act will:

  • Permanently reauthorize the Veterans Transportation Service program;
  • Provide mileage reimbursement for combat veterans traveling to receive counseling and care from Veterans Centers like those in Everett and Bellingham in Northwest Washington; and
  • Reauthorize a grant program to provide transportation options to highly rural veterans seeking medical care.

A companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Patty Murray (WA).

Larsen is a staunch advocate for ensuring veterans can access the resources and services they need to succeed in civilian life. He held a series of roundtables with veterans in the Second Congressional District last fall to hear from them about concerns and ideas for improved services. This feedback continues to inform Larsen’s work in Congress on behalf of veterans.

Larsen’s office is available to assist veterans who need help accessing resources. Call his Everett office at (425) 252-3188.

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