VA testifies on Tester bills to improve care for veterans

Senator’s bills improve vets’ access to vaccinations, transportation

(U.S. Senate) – During a Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Jon Tester quizzed VA officials about his bills to improve transportation services and vaccinations for veterans.

Tester’s committee heard testimony on numerous bills that aim to improve veterans access to health care, including several sponsored by Tester.

The Senator specifically questioned Dr. Thomas Lynch with the Veterans Health Administration about his bill to reauthorize the Veterans Transportation Services (VTS). This bill would allow the VA to hire drivers and purchase vehicles to transport veterans, many of whom live in rural areas or have difficulty traveling to VA health care facilities. Reauthorizing VTS, which complements the Disabled American Veterans’ volunteer-operated van program, is estimated to save taxpayers nearly $207 million over five years and help reduce the number of missed medical appointments. Without Tester’s bill, VTS will expire at the end of the year.

“Transportation is one of the biggest challenges that rural veterans face when trying to access the health care they earned,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Continuing this important initiative will make it easier for veterans to get the services they need, and it saves money. That’s truly a win-win.”

Lynch called VTS a ‘tremendous program’ and told Tester that the VA is expanding it, particularly for veterans suffering from spinal cord injuries.

The VA also praised Tester’s bill to promote more timely and appropriate vaccinations for veterans, placing a greater emphasis on preventive care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year tens of thousands of Americans die from vaccine-preventable diseases.