GRASSLEY SPONSORS BIPARTISAN BILL TO GET HEALTH CARE AND OTHER BENEFITS TO VETERANS IN RURAL AREAS
Sen. Chuck Grassley is the lead republican sponsor of legislation introduced today that would literally mobilize resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to offer support services directly to veterans who live in rural communities.
"It can be pretty difficult for a lot of veterans living in rural areas to get to VA facilities in order to access their benefits, from health care services to education, pension and job-placement services. As a result, they're not getting what has been promised to them. This bill would help remedy the situation by actually taking the health care and other services to the veterans where they live in rural areas," Grassley said.
The bipartisan legislation, which Grassley sponsored with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota , would establish a pilot program to test the concept of a mobile system that would travel to rural communities for at least 48 hours at a time bringing VA resources directly to veterans. The VA will have the flexibility to design the mobile system so that it could either be self-contained or transport equipment and personnel and set up in local non-VA clinics that they partner with. It would offer services such as:
* Counseling and education on accessing VA health care, educational, pension, or other benefits for which veterans might be eligible;
* Assistance in completing paperwork necessary for enrollment in VA health care system, if not already completed;
* Ability to prescribe necessary medication to veterans suffering from acute or chronic injuries or illnesses, and ability to fill prescriptions and deliver medication;
* Regular mental health screenings, particularly for recently-returned veterans, to identify potential mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or substance-abuse;
* Job-placement assistance and information on employment or training opportunities;
* Substance-abuse counseling; and
* Bereavement counseling to families of service members killed in action.
Earlier this year Sen. Grassley cosponsored a separate bill to 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. The bill would increase the mileage reimbursement rate for veterans who must travel to receive medical care to the same rate paid to federal employees and would establish a grant program to assist veterans groups to provide transportation for veterans needing medical care. It would also task the Director of 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. This legislation has been approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. It hasn't yet been considered by the full senate.