Tester, Murray, Larsen, Thornberry Introduce Bill to Improve Transportation Services for Rural Veterans

(U.S. Congress) – U.S Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help rural veterans get to and from their medical appointments more easily.

The Rural Veterans Transportation Enhancement Act will make permanent three successful initiatives that provide veterans living in rural areas with transportation services and reimbursement for their travel to VA medical facilities.  Not only do these initiatives ease the burden for veterans traveling lengthy distances for care, but they have proven to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the number of missed medical appointments at VA. 

This legislation will also streamline the certification process for volunteers who step forward to help transport veterans to their appointments.

“All veterans deserve the same access to quality health care, whether they live in Big Sandy or the Big Apple,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bill expands successful and creative initiatives that are helping rural veterans get to their doctor appointments on time. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate to make sure every veteran has the access to care that they have earned.”

“Our country has an obligation to make sure veterans who sacrificed so much on our behalf always have access to high-quality care, and this legislation is a strong step forward in making good on that promise,” said Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I’m especially proud to support initiatives that break down barriers to care and aim to make things a bit easier for our military families.”

“Veterans should not have to worry about how to get to their health care appointments, but too often travel is a real burden, especially for veterans in rural communities,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “The bipartisan Rural Veterans Transportation Enhancement Act will give veterans peace of mind that they will be able to access the health care they need, regardless of where they live.”

“One of the first responsibilities of the federal government is to protect the men and women who fight for our country,” said Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “These men and women have put their lives on the line for our everyday freedoms.  We will never truly repay them for their sacrifices, but programs and legislation like this are important in our work to better serve our veterans’ needs.”

The Rural Veterans Transportation Enhancement Act will:

  • Expand a pilot program that reimburses veterans and eligible beneficiaries for travelling to Vet Centers for mental health care and counseling.
  • Make the Veterans Transportation Service program, which allows local VA facilities to hire drivers and purchase vehicles to transport veterans to their appointments, permanent.
  • Extend a grant that allows Veterans Service Organizations and State Veterans Service Agencies to explore new approaches to provide transportation or travel assistance.
  • Expedite the certification process for volunteer drivers serving veterans through the Veterans Transportation Service program.

This legislation is endorsed by the Disabled American Veterans.