Travel grants proposed to help isolated veterans access healthcare

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The regulations, which will become final next month, allow only one grant per fiscal year for each sparsely populated area — defined as having a population less than seven people per square mile.

The VA said that it received several comments from the public about the rule’s narrow provisions, but the agency argued it was tightly bound by the language set by Congress.

The grants will be given to state-level veterans affairs agencies and nonprofit organizations to provide free rides to veterans in need of medical care.

The department says young people in the rural areas are 22 percent more likely to join the military and are also likely to have a greater need for healthcare than their urban counterparts.

“Rural veterans with psychiatric disorders are sicker as measured by lower health-related quality-of-life compared with urban veterans,” the VA said.

“These differences in health-related quality-of-life scores, which equate to lower self-rated health status, among rural dwelling Veterans, are substantial, clinically meaningful and associated with increased demand for healthcare services.”

The program’s total budget is unclear. But the VA says it is not “economically significant,” meaning the program will not have an impact of $100 million or more on the economy.