Tester improves veterans transportation service
Senator’s measure increases veterans’ access to care, saves VA money
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is making it easier for Montana’s veterans to access the health care they earned by improving the transportation service many of them rely on.
Tester introduced a measure to the defense authorization bill that allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire drivers to transport veterans, such as those from rural areas, to VA health care facilities. The VA currently relies on volunteer drivers, but there are not enough volunteers to provide the needed services in rural states like Montana.
Tester pushed the VA to launch the transportation service in 2010 and fought to bring the initiative to Montana, but the VA later decided that it could only use volunteer drivers. Tester’s measure gives the VA the authority it needs to hire full-time drivers and provide better care for veterans.
“Rural veterans earned the same level of care as veterans from urban areas,” said Tester, who noted that the initiative will complement the transportation services provided by the Disabled American Veterans. “Providing them with reliable and efficient transportation ensures that they get the care they earned and that we live up to the promises this nation made to them.”
According to the VA, Tester’s measure could save up to $11 million per year because it is less expensive for the VA to hire drivers than to contract with ambulance services or provide mileage reimbursements for veterans traveling to and from medical appointments.
Tester last year secured a dozen VA vans to transport Montana veterans in rural and frontier areas, including Indian reservations, to health care facilities. Between October 2011 and May 2012, the VA’s Veterans Transportation Service transported more than 43,000 veterans, totaling more than 2.1 million miles.
Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has also helped put more veterans back to work and expanded the Billings VA Clinic.
Tester’s measure is now part of the National Defense Authorization Act.