McMorris Rodgers, Larsen Lead Bipartisan Bill to Improve Rural Veterans’ Access to Health Care

Washington, D.C. (August 16, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) last week introduced the bipartisan Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act to help veterans who live in rural communities get to and from their medical appointments.

“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 Rodgers. “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.”

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 help 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. “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.”

Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

 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, click here.

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