Congressman Pete Gallego (TX-23) today filed legislation to assist veterans residing in rural areas to access health care. The Rural Veterans Healthcare Accessibility Improvement Act - the Congressman's first legislation - would assist veterans in rural areas with transportation to medical centers and improve health care for other veterans by incentivizing the transition to electronic health records.
"Men and women who served our country must have access to health care when they come home," said Congressman Gallego. "My father was a veteran of World War II. I pledged that veterans, soldiers, and military families would be a priority. Our debt to our soldiers does not end when they come home. Ensuring that they have accessible health care is the very least we can do."
For many veterans, the distance between where they live and the nearest medical center, along with access to viable transportation, limits their access to health care. This legislation creates a grant program to address transportation needs for veterans in rural areas to trying to get to a medical facility. Outreach efforts would be made so that veterans would know of the transportation options available to them.
Each year more than 150,000 service members separate from military service and transition to veteran status. The transition for military member health care information from one large health care system at the Department of Defense to the other at Veterans Affairs involves coordination of data and information between the two agencies. This is not always a seamless transition.
Electronic health records will assist in that transition. The electronic records can be accessed throughout a patient's active military or veteran status to ensure service members and veterans get continuity in their health care. The legislation creates a pilot program to address the needs of veterans in rural areas and provide adequate information to the physicians and veterans clinics when addressing a veteran's health needs.
"Some areas in rural Texas don't have the resources to transition into an electronic health system," added Congressman Gallego. "This system would greatly benefit veterans in receiving more timely information and care. This helps our nation keep its commitments to those, rural and urban, young and old, who have already served our nation."
Nearly 30 percent of our nation's more than 22 million Veterans live in rural areas. Veterans living in rural areas account for 41 percent of the total population receiving health care through the Veteran Affairs.