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Manchin Introduces Bill to Improve Transportation Services for Rural Veterans

Joe Manchin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, has introduced bipartisan legislation to help rural veterans travel to and from their medical appointments more easily.

The Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2019 would expand successful initiatives that provide veterans living in rural areas with transportation services and reimbursement for their travel to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and Vet Centers. The bill also aims to streamline the certification process for volunteer drivers, so we can have more West Virginians helping out their Veteran neighbors.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill that will make it easier and more accessible for veterans to travel to VA facilities,” Manchin said. “I have heard more about travel and transportation from veterans in West Virginia than almost any other veterans issue due to the recent change in the state veterans van program back to the Disabled American Veterans transportation network.

“This legislation will help ensure our Veterans in rural areas have the access to services even if they are hard to get to. This is just common sense and I look forward to passing this bipartisan legislation into law.”

“DAV has long advocated for all veterans to have access to high-quality health care no matter where they live,” Disabled American Veterans Washington Executive Director Randy Reese said. “We applaud the introduction of this legislation as it would help expand the reach of DAV’s transportation network — which provided veterans with more than 625,000 rides to VA medical centers last year alone — to better serve those in rural areas. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Tester, Cramer, Murray, Hoeven, Manchin and Collins for their leadership in ensuring all veterans can attend their scheduled VA appointments no matter where they might be.”

Senators Jon Tester, D-Montana; Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota; Patty Murray, D-Washington; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota; and Susan Collins, R-Maine, also co-sponsored the bill.

The bill will 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 will:

* 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.

* Expedite the certification process for volunteer drivers serving Veterans through the Veterans Transportation Service program.

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