Rep. TJ Cox Introduces Bipartisan Bill for Rural Veteran Medical Transportation

October 4, 2019
Press Release
Permanent reauthorization of grant program will provide certainty and get more rural veterans the medical care they need

Today, Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA) announced the introduction of H.R. 4589. This bill, co-introduced with Reps. Aumua Amata (R-AS), Susie Lee (D-NV), and Greg Steube (R-FL), would give permanent authorization for the VA Grant Program for the Transportation of Highly Rural Veterans. Currently every two-year Congress must reauthorize this vital program that appropriates $3 million dollars in grants each year to aid in transportation of highly rural veterans to medical care. This bill would permanently extend authority of this program.

“If we can’t get our most rural veterans to their medical appointments, we’ve failed the people who sacrificed to keep us safe,” said Rep. Cox. “I’m proud my colleagues and I are going to make this vital program permanent and predictable because our veterans earned this care and it’s our special duty to make sure the veterans in the most rural corners of our country get the same care as any others.”

“The debt we owe our veterans for their service cannot be overstated. The best medical care in the world is useless if the patient never makes it to a doctor in the first place. I want to thank Rep. Steube and Rep. Lee and a special thank you to Rep. Cox for taking the initiative on this legislation. I hope to continue working with them on behalf of our veterans.” said Rep. Aumua Amata.

“We have to protect and strengthen this grant program because for our veterans, access to health care is often just as important as the quality of the health care itself,” said Rep. Susie Lee. “If veterans in rural areas do not live near a VA health center, it is our duty to ensure they have the resources and proper transportation to get to their medical appointments. There should be nothing partisan about serving our veterans, which is why I’m pleased to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce this bill to permanently extend this vital transportation grant program.”

 “As a veteran and a representative of thousands of rural veterans across Florida, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges that face rural veterans when they seek care at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities,” said Rep. Greg Steube. “This bill will ensure that our rural veterans have the means necessary to travel to VA facilities and receive the care they deserve.”

 

Veterans and advocates in the Central Valley have shared strong support for this vital change:

“The Kings County Military and Veterans Coalition is highly supportive of H.R. 4589 and all other initiatives to make grant funds available to organizations, in support of veteran transportation for healthcare purposes. Disabled veterans residing in highly rural areas, who are unable to transport themselves and have no family/friends who are able or willing, face unique challenges in accessing the healthcare benefits they earned through their service to our great country,” said Scott Holwell, Veterans Service Officer of the Kings County Public Guardian. “This proposed legislation would make available funding, which could potentially resolve many of those transportation challenges and greatly enhance the quality of life for many rurally-based veterans.”

“The extension of this Bill authorizing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to continue providing grants for the Transportation of Veterans from rural areas to receive their medical care is critical to maintain and hopefully enhance the existing policy,” said JD Bennett, Chairman, Sanger Veterans Network

Ms. Patricia Lewis, Adjutant, Post 3 Hanford of The American Legion stated, “I would benefit from this if I lived alone and didn’t have someone to drive me to the VA hospital. If I was alone, I do not have family in the area that can help me with transportation.”

 

Background:

Funds granted through this program helps provide grantees greater flexibility to employ new approaches when serving veterans, resulting in improved service and health care access for veterans. Because Veteran Service Organizations, SVAs, and county governments already participate in transportation of veterans, additional grants will encourage them to employ innovative approaches to transportation services for veterans in highly rural areas. Both Congressman Cox and the VA wants to ensure that all veterans, including those living in remote areas, can receive the health care they need and have earned through service in the U.S. Armed Forces. This bipartisan legislation would greatly benefit the lives of many across the nation, including California’s Central Valley.

Almost a quarter of all Veterans in the United States, 4.7 million, return from active military careers to reside in rural communities. While Veterans may enjoy the benefits of rural living, they also experience rural health care challenges that are intensified by combat-related injuries and illnesses that make transportation to medical facilities necessary. In rural areas, basic levels of health care or preventative care may not be available to support residents’ long-term health and well-being. 58% of rural Veterans are enrolled in the VA healthcare system—significantly higher than the 37% enrollment rate of urban Veterans. This grant program is essential by ensuring that all those who have sacrificed for our country, have access to the care they need.