RURAL VETERANS ACCESS TO CARE ACT -- (House of Representatives - September 09, 2008)
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Mr. REHBERG. Thank you, Mr. Moran, for your leadership. I want to add my kudos. Whenever we talk about rural issues, it's the same people that usually stand up: Somebody from Colorado, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska. We have certain issues confronting us that other places do not.
Let me real briefly describe my district to you. My district spans the distance of 147,000 square miles. The distance of my district is Washington, D.C. to Chicago, and I have 104,000 veterans living in that area. It's very difficult for them to access and, kid no one, we ration health care in the veterans' system. This is a perfect bill for showing what can be done if we would just use a little initiative within the United States Congress.
Mr. Filner, thank you for bringing this forward. Everyone knows that nothing moves without the chairman's blessing, and we thank you for bringing this forward so we would have the opportunity to explain it a little bit.
Montana is surrounded by some wonderful States, like Idaho and Wyoming and South Dakota, but when we have major medical, there are no facilities within those States, so we have to travel to Denver, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Seattle. The distances are great, and usually the illnesses are so great, it's very difficult for our veterans to travel that distance.
I want to take issue with one of the comments from CBO. They suggest that local health care providers would hesitate to invest in expanded facilities to accommodate veterans. Clearly, the CBO does not understand the plight of rural health care because my rural health care providers are doing everything they can to keep their doors open in the first place because of a diminishing population; not a population of seniors or veterans, but a population of youth. And so the veterans and the seniors are staying in the community and it's going to be harder for my facilities to stay open.
If these veterans are having to ride on buses for many, many miles to get to Fort Harrison, and I want to say I am not suggesting that we don't have tremendous veterans' health care in Montana. We do. We have Fort Harrison in Helena. But it's not adequate when it comes to the distances they are having to travel.
Please support this bill. Thank you, Mr. Moran.
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