Rural veterans act gets push

The Colorado Senate unanimously offered support last week for a resolution that would help rural veterans gain convenient access to health care.

"The Healthy Vets Act of 2004" was first introduced by Congressman Scott McInnis of Grand Junction. It aims to ease the travel burden of rural veterans by allowing the Veterans Administration to enter into contracts with local health care providers.

State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, helped garner Senate support by proposing the bill in a joint resolution. Taylor is a Navy veteran.

The measure would be available to veterans living in sparsely populated areas who are more than 75 miles away from the nearest Veterans Affairs hospital.

Local veteran Jim Meineke said the progress on the bill seemed promising.

"I think this will go," he said. "It has a good chance because attitudes towards veterans are better than they were 10 to 15 years ago."

Many veterans in Moffat County travel more than 300 miles roundtrip to receive health care benefits from VA facilities in Denver and Grand Junction.

Meineke has been traveling to Grand Junction at least a few times a year since 1997 to seek the reduced costs of health care he was promised upon entering the military.

"Even for the small stuff like getting prescription this will a lot easier," he said.

McInnis spokesman Blair Jones said seeing the bill come to fruition is a main goal for McInnis.

Funding for the bill will take an act of Congress.

"He's going to be pushing to get this taken up by the committee," Jones said. "He wants to see some action on this."

Nearly 1,700 veterans live in Moffat County, said Veteran Services Officer Bill Harding.


Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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