Reps. Salazar, Smith, Capito Amendment to Establish Office of Rural Health
In a bipartisan effort, U.S. Reps. John Salazar (D-CO), Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) offered an amendment to H.R. 2642, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations bill. The amendment, which was added to the overall legislation by voice vote, sets aside funds for the specific purpose of establishing the office of Rural Health within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
At the end of the 109th Congress, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 was signed into law. This legislation created the Office of Rural Health within the VA and required the office to conduct, promote and disseminate research to improve access to healthcare services for rural veterans.
However, little action has been taken regarding the implementation of this important office since the legislation was signed into law.
More than six million of America's veterans live in rural communities where they face unique challenges in accessing health care. Due to the distances veterans in rural areas must travel to access care, many of these veterans put off preventative as well as necessary care.
Rep. Salazar said, "It is not unusual for veterans who live in Colorado's Western Slope to drive several hours on treacherous mountain terrain to receive health care services. The care our nation provides veterans in return for protecting our country should not suffer because some have chosen to live in rural America. We owe them no less for their sacrifice."
Rep. Smith said, "Some veterans in Nebraska's 3rd District must travel hundreds of miles and several hours to obtain basic care. The care our nation provides rural veterans in return for protecting our country should not suffer because some have chosen to live in rural America. All veterans deserve access to the quality and affordable health care they are promised."
Salazar and Smith are co-chairmen of the House Rural Veterans Caucus, which focuses on issues facing veterans in rural areas, and how best to improve needed services.