Today, Congressman Steve Pearce reintroduced H.R. 635, a bill to improve healthcare access for veterans across New Mexico and nationwide. This legislation, entitled the Help Establish Access to Local Timely Healthcare for Your (HEALTHY) Vets Act, will allow veterans to access local healthcare facilities, saving them time, money, and physical strain.
"I'm proud to introduce the HEALTHY Vets Act," said Pearce. "Veterans in rural areas often have to drive hundreds of miles to receive medical services they need. With only minor adjustments, we can allow Veterans to receive care in their hometowns, saving time, difficulty, and money for those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom."
New Mexico veteran Kevin Dasing said that in his own experience, the Act provides a simple, efficient solution to a problem faced by many veterans. "I am thankful for Rep. Pearce's willingness to work on behalf of veterans through the HEALTHY Vets Act," said Dasing. "This is a commonsense solution for a problem myself and many other veterans in New Mexico have faced. The HEALTHY Vets Act will not only save time and effort for America's veterans, but will result in significant savings for taxpayers. I am grateful that Congressman Pearce takes time to listen to the needs of veterans, and act on our behalf in Congress."
Currently, the federal government requires veterans to drive to VA hospitals for many treatments. This is a major roadblock to healthcare for veterans in New Mexico, who may have to drive hours to Albuquerque for medical attention. Congressman Pearce's legislation would allow veterans to use local health providers in their own hometowns. This allows veterans the convenience and comfort they deserve, and provides for quicker, less stressful treatment.
Under the legislation, the VA Secretary will contract with local hospitals and doctors on a case-by-case basis to provide medical services, including primary care, for those veterans who live far away from VA medical facilities. Often, treatment could be accomplished using only a portion of travel money provided to veterans under the current approach. For instance, local charges for medical care average only $66.27, compared to average travel expense to the VA of $163.25, meaning that the Act saves an estimated $96.98 per visit.
This is the fourth time Rep. Pearce has introduced this legislation. Pearce, himself a Vietnam veteran, has made veterans a priority throughout his time in Congress. Other initiatives for veterans include his Veterans Advisory Council, through which he communicates with veterans on a regular basis, and a series of VA town halls to give veterans in rural New Mexico the opportunity to voice their concerns and ideas with top VA officials.