Collins unveils healthcare transportation bill for U.S. military veterans

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Dec. 3 cosponsored a bipartisan bill to permanently expand travel assistance programs and clarify requirements for volunteer drivers to connect more U.S. military veterans to healthcare services.

“As a senator for a large, rural state with the second-highest number of veterans per capita, it is one of my top priorities to ensure our veterans have convenient access to medical care and other services,” Sen. Collins said.

The lawmaker introduced the Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2019, S. 2966, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and cosponsors including U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND). The bill seeks to make permanent the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs’ authority to transport individuals to and from facilities of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to receive rehabilitation, counseling, examinations, treatments, and other healthcare, according to the congressional record bill summary.

If enacted, the bill specifically would expand a pilot program that reimburses veterans and eligible beneficiaries for travel to VA veteran centers for mental health care and counseling and would make permanent the Veterans Transportation Service program, which allows local VA facilities to hire drivers and purchase vehicles to transport veterans to their appointments, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Collins’ office.

Additionally, S. 2966 would extend a federal grant that allows Veterans Service Organizations and State Veterans Service Agencies to explore new transportation or travel assistance options, and would hasten the certification process for volunteer drivers, the summary says.

“I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan bill that will improve transportation programs for rural veterans to reach medical appointments and receive support at veterans centers in their communities,” said Sen. Collins.