Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Julia Brownley (CA-26) announced the enactment of her bill, the Veterans Medical Access Act, which was approved by Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act (H.R. 5325). The law was signed yesterday by President Obama.
“Too often, blinded and catastrophically disabled veterans can’t afford the cost of travel to VA specialty rehabilitation centers, which means this important resource is out of reach for these veterans. I am thrilled Congress has passed this important legislation, and I thank Senator Tester for his leadership in the Senate, as well as the Blinded Veterans Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Disabled American Veterans. This new law will ensure that all blinded and catastrophically disabled veterans have access to specialty rehabilitation services that are so vital for their quality of life and independence,” said Representative Julia Brownley.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is required to cover the cost of transportation for veterans requiring medical care for service-connected injuries. However, the VA does not provide travel reimbursement for non-service connected medical care. With only 13 specialty rehabilitation centers across the country, many veterans with limited mobility cannot afford the cost of travel to access this critical care. In addition, blinded and catastrophically disabled veterans without access to specialty rehabilitation centers are more likely to develop adverse health conditions and face higher medical costs. The language included in H.R. 5325 will extend VA travel benefits to veterans with vision impairment, spinal cord injury or disorder, or double or multiple amputations in connection with care provided through a special disabilities rehabilitation program of the VA.
Rep. Brownley originally introduced the Veterans Medical Access Act in the 113th Congress and reintroduced it again in the 114th Congress. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing on Brownley’s bill on May 21st, 2013. Since that time, Brownley has continued to push for the bill to move forward.