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SELMA – Rep. TJ Cox has introduced legislation that would permanently fund transportation for rural veterans’ medical care appointments.

If we can’t get our most rural veterans to their medical appointments, we’ve failed the people who sacrificed to keep us safe,” Rep. Cox (D-CA) said

Cox co-introduced of H.R. 4589 with Reps. Aumua Amata (R-AS), Susie Lee (D-NV) and Greg Steube (R-FL). The bill would give permanent authorization for the VA Grant Program for the Transportation of Highly Rural Veterans. Currently, every two-year Congress must reauthorize this 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.

“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,” Cox said.

Veterans and advocates in the Central Valley have shared strong support for this effort.

Scott Holwell, Kings County’s Veterans service officer and public guardian, said their coalition is highly supportive of H.R. 4589.

“Disabled veterans residing in highly rural areas, who are unable to transport themselves and have no family or friends who are able or willing, face unique challenges in accessing the healthcare benefits they earned through their service to our great country,” he said. “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.”

Sanger Veterans Network Chairman JD Bennett added that the extension of this bill is critical.

“The extension of this Bill authorizing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to continue providing grants for the Transportation of Veterans [will] and hopefully enhance the existing policy,” Bennett said.

Hanford’s American Legion Post 3 Adjutant Patricia Lewis agreed.

“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.”

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 want 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 preventive care may not be available to support residents’ long-term health and well-being. Since 58 percent 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 in ensuring that all those who have sacrificed for our country have access to the care they need.

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