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Larsen and Thornberry Provision On Transportation For Veterans Passes Congress

Veterans who rely on transportation through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reach their health care appointments no longer have to fear losing their rides at the end of the year, Reps. Rick Larsen, WA-02, and Mac Thornberry, TX-13, said today. The House passed a bill that contained a provision championed by Larsen and Thornberry to extend the Veterans Transportation Service Program, which was set to expire at the end of 2015.

Earlier this year, Larsen and Thornberry introduced the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2015. The bill would permanently reauthorize the Veterans Transportation Service program and provide mileage reimbursement for combat veterans traveling to receive counseling and care from Veterans Centers. It would also reauthorize a grant program to provide transportation options to highly rural veterans seeking medical care.

While the House-passed bill today (S. 2082) is not as comprehensive as Larsen and Thornberry’s Act, they said it is an important step forward to make sure veterans can access the care they need.

“Ensuring veterans have access to health care does not just mean having enough doctors. It means making sure veterans can get to appointments with their doctors,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Now veterans throughout Northwest Washington and the country can continue to rely on the VA for help traveling to and from their appointments for another year. But veterans should not have to face uncertainty every 12 months about whether then can depend on a ride. I will keep working with Rep. Thornberry to push our bill across the finish line to better serve our veterans.”

“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.”

The Veterans Transportation Service program provides funding to local VA facilities to hire transportation coordinators and purchase vehicles that VA-trained staff can use to connect more veterans to the care they need. The cost-effective program helps save money on ambulance costs and mileage reimbursements.