GRASSLEY: VETERANS HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION CLEARS HURDLE
Two Bills Supporting Veterans Health Care Pass Out of Committee
Sen. Chuck Grassley today said that two pieces of legislation he has supported passed out of the Veterans Affairs Committee. The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill, of which he was the lead Republican, and the Rural Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act will now be considered by the full Senate.
Grassley, along with Senator Tom Harkin, earlier this year introduced legislation to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately begin implementing a comprehensive program to prevent suicide among veterans. It would require the Department to implement key measures consistent with the VA's recently developed Comprehensive Mental Health Strategic Plan that could help identify potential suicide risks and encourage veterans to seek treatment. The legislation is named for Joshua Omvig, an Iowa soldier who committed suicide upon returning from serving in.
"We are reaching out to our brave soldiers who are readjusting to civilian life. Some of these soldiers have found unbearable mental anguish upon returning and they deserve medical treatment just like any other veteran," Grassley said.
The other piece of legislation that came out of the VA Committee today would give the Office of Rural Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs support, direction and resources to help coordinate care to veterans living in rural areas. Three elements of the original bill that Grassley co-sponsored were agreed to in an omnibus bill coming out of the VA Committee.
"Veterans in rural areas often have to travel many miles to get their healthcare," Grassley said. "We need to ensure that our veterans can have easy access to the best possible care no matter where they live."
The bill would improve reimbursement rates for veterans for their travel expenses related to VA medical care. It would reimburse veterans at the same rate paid to federal employees.
VetsRide Grant Program
The bill would establish a grant program to reimburse veterans service organizations and state veterans service officers who provide innovative transportation options to veterans in remote rural areas.
Demonstration Projects within the Office of Rural Health
The bill tasks the Office of Rural Health with developing demonstration projects that would expand care in rural areas through partnerships between the VA, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Health and Human Services at critical access hospitals and community health centers. The bill also instructs the Director of the Office of Rural Health to carry out demonstration projects in partnership with the Indian Health Service to improve healthcare for Native American veterans.