Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., have introduced legislation designed to improve access to health care for veterans living in rural areas.
They said more than 6 million veterans live in rural communities and as many as half might be going without VA care because quality care isn’t available locally.
The Rural Veterans Improvement Act is designed to let the VA work with non-VA mental health providers in rural communities, improve the VA’s transportation program so those veterans have a way to get to doctors’ appointments, and create incentives to attract and retain doctors in rural facilities.
It also would require the VA to do a full assessment of its community-based outpatient clinics and prioritize improvements.
Some New Mexico veterans say they have to drive four hours or more to get to a VA hospital, Udall said.
“Many rural veterans are also frustrated with the lack of healthcare options and the frequent turnover among staff at their local clinics,” he said.
“Our brave men and women have sacrificed a great deal to safeguard our freedoms and it is imperative that Congress meets their needs, no matter where they live,” Heller said.