Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Bill would help rural veterans access VA services

Jun. 21, 2013 - 10:44AM   |  
  • Filed Under

A key Senate committee is concerned that veterans living in rural areas may not be getting the full benefit of improvements in veterans programs.

At the urging of Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee is ordering an assessment of Veterans Affairs Department-operated outpatient clinics in rural areas to determine, among other things, if they fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for access by the disabled.

The committee also adopted a Udall-sponsored amendment to the 2014 veterans’ funding bill warning that veterans in rural areas may not be able to file the fully electronic benefits claims VA wants because of limited Internet access.

The two Udall amendments are part of the report accompanying the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act passed by the committee Thursday. The bill includes $147.8 billion for VA in 2014 plus $55.6 billion in advance appropriations for medical care for 2015.

In addition to Udall’s amendments, the committee asks VA to “more aggressively” focus on providing health care in rural areas by contracting with private providers and making agreements with public hospitals and clinics.

It also prods VA to provide grants to state veterans agencies and veterans service organizations to provide transportation for veterans in highly rural areas. A grant program was created three years ago, but rules were never adopted and no payments have been made, the committee says.

Udall’s amendments, passed by voice vote and with no debate, are aimed at making sure veterans in rural areas receive the same assistance as other veterans.

Community-based outpatient clinics, known as CBOCs, are the means VA uses to provide health care to veterans who don’t live close to a veterans’ hospital — a widely praised addition to departmental services.

But the amendment says many of the clinics need updating, including expansions to accommodate increases in the patient population, and improvements aimed at providing more privacy and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The committee asks for a full assessment of CBOCs located in rural areas to come up with a list of improvements needed to comply with medical and health-related legal requirements.

Electronic claims filing is VA’s answer to its slow claims process. Under an expanding program, VA encourages veterans to file claims with full supporting documents online in order to reduce processing times.

But electronic filing, especially if it includes sending copies of documents, requires high-speed Internet access, which Udall says some veterans do not have. His amendment urges VA to work with state, local and tribal governments “to find ways to accommodate veterans in rural areas who want to submit fully developed claims but do not have adequate access to the Internet.”

One idea, the committee suggests, is working with local libraries, often the only provider of free Internet access in rural areas.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Army Times

This Week's Army Times

'Too many overweight soldies'
Raters are fudging facts for senior NCOs, promotion bard says

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook