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Recently passed bills would improve services to veterans in rural areas
Recently passed bills would improve services to veterans in rural areas

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 25, 2010) — As I have often said, our veterans and service men and women are national treasures. They put everything at risk to protect us and the freedoms we hold most dear. Although we owe these men and women, the veterans of wars past and present, a debt that can never fully be repaid, Congress must continue to improve and expand veterans’ health services. That is why I supported important veterans measures last week in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The first bill, S. 1963, or the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, includes a cluster of bills to expand the scope of several health programs currently available to veterans. The legislation would expand the Veterans Administration’s capabilities to serve female patients, provide funding for many expansions of veterans health services in rural areas, and support — both financially and with additional training — the caregivers of disabled and recovering veterans.

Due to the rural nature of Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District, many veterans that I know have to travel long distances to receive the care they need and deserve. By setting aside funding specifically for rural health clinics and increasing the mileage reimbursement for those that have to travel, S. 1963 makes health care that much more accessible to those living in Missouri’s small towns and farm communities.

I am also pleased with the provisions of the legislation that impact the caregivers of our veterans. Oftentimes, the day-to-day care of a seriously injured or ill veteran is provided by a spouse, child, or parent. These individuals give of themselves gladly, but many are forced to take time off of work or school, leave their jobs, or stop pursuing higher education altogether. Also, many caregivers do not have the experience or training to provide the most effective care for their loved one.

The bill I helped pass expands training and education for caregivers, provides access to them for counseling and mental health services, and, for those caring for veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, provides a monthly stipend and health care through the CHAMPVA program. These caregivers provide a vital service for our veterans, and S. 1963 gives proper consideration for their needs. Last week, the House and Senate unanimously approved this legislation and the President is expected to sign it into law.

The second bill, H. Res. 855, would designate May 1 as “Silver Star Service Banner Day.” This resolution, which I cosponsored and was written by fellow Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), brings further recognition to those who have been wounded or become ill while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The resolution passed by voice vote.

These measures illustrate my continued commitment to care for the men and women in uniform — both during and after their military service. They have sacrificed so much for every American and deserve no less.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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