Late Breaking News
VA Grant Program Expands Transportation Options To VA Medical Facilities
WASHINGTON—The VA is planning to expand transportation options to its medical facilities for veterans in highly rural areas.
The agency announced that it began accepting applications this month for grants to help state Veterans Service Agencies and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) operate or contract transportation services for veterans to VA medical centers and other facilities that provide VA care.
According to VA, a new regulation establishes the program that will administer these grants.
“VA wants to be sure that all veterans, including those who live in rural and remote areas, can receive the health care they have earned through service to our country,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in a written statement. “State Veterans Agencies and VSOs will now be able to employ innovative approaches to transportation services for veterans in our highly rural areas. The end results will include better service and better health care for veterans.”
According to a VA written statement a highly rural area is defined as “a county or counties with a population of fewer than seven persons per square mile.” Transportation will be provided for free to veterans through this program.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) said in a written statement that he hopes the program will help veterans living in these areas.
"All over New Mexico, I have been hearing about the challenges facing rural veterans in receiving timely, quality VA health services," said Udall. “The Highly Rural Transportation Grants Program supports new ways to improve access to veteran care that will hopefully enhance transportation options, reduce wait times to receive treatment and cut down on unnecessary expenses, and I encourage eligible New Mexico organizations to apply.”
Meanwhile, the issue of transportation to medical facilities for veterans is one that lawmakers examined this week as they considered a bill that would permanently authorize VA to operate a program called the Veterans Transportation Service (VTS). This VA program provides funding to local VA facilities for transportation for individuals to and from VA medical facilities in connection with vocational rehabilitation, counseling, examination, treatment, or care.
“I did want to emphasize the critical need for this legislation in helping to increase access to care for those who would otherwise face challenges in getting to and from their appointments at VA,” Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), said during a House subcommittee hearing on the bill.
VHA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health Robert L. Jesse, MD, PhD, said in written testimony before the committee that VA supported the bill, which would permanently extend the Secretary’s authority to hire qualified drivers to transport any person to or from a VA facility or other place in connection with vocational rehabilitation, counseling or for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care.
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