On Jan. 27, The American Legion took part in a veterans service organization roundtable to discuss the quality of health care for veterans living in rural areas. The forum was organized by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Steve Robertson, the Legion's Legislative Division director, attended the forum and said in prepared remarks that each veteran who is enrolled in the VA health-care system, "should have timely access to quality health care, but we also recognize the challenges faced in meeting that obligation with veterans in rural areas.
"When young men and women report for military service, they come from both rural and urban communities. Through that very service, they earn the same benefits from a grateful nation. The American Legion believes timely access to those benefits should not be driven or restricted by where veterans choose to reside."
In 2008, VA established an Office of Rural Health (ORH) to help improve the delivery of VA health care to veterans living in rural and other remote areas. Robertson said The American Legion is monitoring the progress of ORH's programs, and will review veterans' cases to gauge the effectiveness of those programs.
For example, ORH is operating a $250 million program to improve VA rural health care by increasing the number of mobile clinics, establishing new outpatient clinics, accelerating the use of telemedicine, and exploring collaborations with other federal and community health-care providers.
"America has a national obligation to provide services to veterans in rural areas, just as services are provided to veterans in urban areas," Robertson said. "After all, VA is the nation's premiere integrated health delivery system. The American Legion remains optimistic in VA's ability to aggressively meet these challenges."