This morning, AMVETS joined the House Veterans Affairs Committee roundtable to discuss rural and remote veterans' issues. National Deputy Legislative Director Christina Roof spoke on behalf of AMVETS, explaining how the organization viewed the issue, why it was important to AMVETS members, and what AMVETS leadership believed would be the best courses of action to improve the situation.
Roof cited alarming mental health care shortages in rural and remote areas and alarming death rates among rural and remote veterans, including a 2006 study by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, which demonstrated that death rates among rural and remote veterans were 60 percent higher than their urban and suburban counterparts.
The informal discussion, led by Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) and VA Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), focused on utilization of current VA assets and identification of new areas on which the federal government should focus.
Participants concluded that Congress should focus on three areas when addressing the issue through legislation: Immediate, local access to care; quality of care; and comprehensive outreach.
Roof also explained that any solution must also focus on continuity of care for the long term, rather than stop-gap measures ensuring that rural and remote veterans would have access to occasional care.
Roof said that today's veterans, many of whom are still in their 20s, do not need care for just the next couple of years, but for the next half century.
The House Committee plans to hold additional hearings on the issue and begin work on legislation to improve the situation. AMVETS leaders will be watching closely and providing input where necessary. Check back with American Veteran Online regularly for updates.
(Photo: Roof discusses AMVETS' position on rural and remote veterans' care issues during this morning's roundtable. Photo by Ryan Gallucci.)