Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rural veterans and their allies call for better service from Department for Veterans Affairs

Rural veterans' lack of access to Department of Veterans Affairs facilities was one of several concerns voiced by witnesses at House Committee on Veterans' Affairs subcommittee hearing in Bedford County, Virginia. Among the witnesses was Lynn Tucker, whose son, Army PFC Benjamin Tucker, suffered a traumatic brain injury after a non-service-related accident, Janelle Rucker of The Roanoke Times reports. "Ben's story reveals what should be our concerns for all veterans, particularly those representing rural areas," Tucker testified. "The concerns are access to primary and specialty care, effective and efficient communication with the VA and approval and remittance of payments from the VA for medically related items and services. Problems in these areas affect rural veterans ... by limiting medical choices, causing travel hardships and contributing in an overall breakdown in the quality of care and life."

Virginia Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, facing a tough fight for re-election, said the testimony puts the VA "on notice that Congress is watching," Rucker writes. Perriello and the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, took the VA to task for its hesitance to implement a pilot program that would contract out health services for veterans, giving them more options closer to home. Under the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, the VA was supposed to implement the pilot program within 120 days of the law's enactment, but now says the program will begin in late 2010 or early 2011. (Read more)

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