Bipartisan bill would permanently expand travel assistance programs & clarify requirements for volunteer drivers to connect more veterans to care
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) joined Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) in introducing the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill would expand successful initiatives that provide veterans living in rural areas transportation services and reimbursement for their travel to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and Vet Centers.
“As a Senator for a large, rural state with the second-highest number of veterans per capita, it is one of my top priorities to ensure our veterans have convenient access to medical care and other services,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill that will improve transportation programs for rural veterans to reach medical appointments and receive support at veterans centers in their communities.”
The bill would also develop a national protocol for administering medical exams for volunteer drivers, clarifying requirements and streamlining the certification process. 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.
The Rural Veterans Transportation Enhancement Act would:
- Expand a pilot program that reimburses veterans and eligible beneficiaries for travel to Vet Centers for mental health care and counseling;
- Make permanent the Veterans Transportation Service program, which allows local VA facilities to hire drivers and purchase vehicles to transport veterans to their appointments;
- Extend a grant that allows Veterans Service Organizations and State Veterans Service Agencies to explore new approaches to provide transportation or travel assistance; and
- Expedite the certification process for volunteer drivers serving veterans through the Veterans Transportation Service program.