Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week joined with senators from both parties to ask the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs for a $20 million budget increase to the VA’s Office of Rural Health.
“Congress must ensure the VA has the resources necessary to reach all of our veterans, no matter where they live,” Wyden, Merkley and the other senators wrote. “Our rural veterans have earned the right to quality, timely, and accessible care.”
The senators’ goal is to help more veterans access telehealth services and transportation programs to ensure veterans get the care they need when they might live hours away from the nearest VA clinic.
The requested funding increase from $307 million to $327 million would go toward multiple programs: the Veterans Transportation Service, which provides several transportation options to improve veteran access to health services, often in partnership with veteran service organizations and local entities; the Highly Rural Transportation Grants (HRTG) program, which aids veterans in areas with fewer than seven people per square mile; and the Beneficiary Travel program, which provides essential reimbursement for mileage and travel expenses; and other innovative pilot programs to assist veterans with transportation to VA facilities.
The letter was led by U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D. Alongside Wyden and Merkley, the letter was joined by U.S. Senators Jon Tester, D-Mont., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Angus King, I-Maine, Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., Reverend Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Catherine Cortez Masto D-Nev., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
The letter comes in the middle of Wyden’s string of town halls in Eastern Oregon focused on rural veteran healthcare in the region.
The text of the letter is here.
A web version of this release is here.