I wanted to post an update on the bipartisan legislation, The Rural Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, I reintroduced with Senator Al Franken.

Right now, delivering quality health care to rural areas remains a challenge for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our veterans need access to quality health care no matter where they live. Congress is investing in outreach to rural areas through community based clinics, but we still have room for improvement.

I believe this legislation is a step in the right direction to improving access for our veterans in Arkansas and across the country.

Over 40 percent of all veterans enrolled in the VA system live in rural areas, yet these areas have a shortage of medical providers and facilities. Often, rural veterans live hundreds of miles from the nearest VA Medical Center. VA has created smaller community-based outpatient clinics, but they are still often too far away or too small to fully meet the needs of our veterans.

My proposed legislation will fix this problem by requiring VA to develop a five-year strategic plan for rural delivery of care that includes goals and objectives for:

- Recruiting and retaining healthcare personnel in rural areas.

- Ensuring quality of care by VA in rural areas through contract and fee-basis providers.

- Implementing, expanding, and enhancing use of telemedicine in rural areas.

- Encouraging full use of VA’s mobile outpatient clinics.

- Modifying funding mechanisms so that the money we appropriate actually go to initiatives and projects that improve access to and quality of care for rural veterans.

It is my hope that this legislation will receive a full vote in the Senate. You can help me ensure that it does by circulating this email among friends and family. Ask them to call their Senator and demand a vote. Thanks for your continued support.