Senators Stevens and Murkowski Champion Rural Veterans Amendment

Senator Inouye Cosponsors Provision in VA Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. Senator Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) cosponsored the amendment which requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to produce a report on the need to improve access to locally-provided care in areas far away from VA facilities. The Senate passed the FY08 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act today by a vote of 92-1. “This is a modest but important step in remedying the longstanding access-to-care problem facing many Alaskan veterans. Alaska has more veterans per-capita than any other state and many do not have adequate access to VA healthcare,” said Senator Stevens. “I am pleased the Senate recognized the need to take a hard look at this issue, and hope the report required by our amendment will serve as a launching pad for our efforts to eliminate cases where veterans must travel extreme distances for medical services.” “The concern that I hear most frequently from Alaska veterans is just how upsetting it is to fly to Anchorage or Seattle to receive VA medical care that is available in their home communities,” said Senator Murkowski. “It is unconscionable that Alaska veterans would have to fly up to 2,000 miles for the care they have earned. This report will examine whether it is feasible to utilize existing facilities, like community health resources or the Alaska Native health system, to provide care at home.” “I am very pleased to work with my colleagues on this issue,” said Senator Inouye. “Ensuring access to healthcare for our veterans – who have done so much for our country – is very important, especially for noncontiguous states such as Hawaii and Alaska.” The provision directs the VA to study the unique challenges and costs many veterans in rural areas face in obtaining VA medical services. This measure also calls for an assessment of the potential to increase local access to medical services for veterans in remote rural areas through partnerships with other government and local private health care providers. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, as approved today, provides $87.5 billon for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is a $7.95 billion increase from 2007 funding. This funding would constitute a $39.5 billion increase in VA spending since FY01.