Chairman Bost Delivers Opening Remarks at Oversight Hearing to Address Rural Healthcare Access
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the Committee’s first oversight hearing of the second session of the 118th Congress:
The Committee will come to order.
I want to welcome all the witnesses to today’s hearing.
We are here today to discuss rural veterans and how V.A. is ensuring that they have access to the health care and benefits they have earned.
It’s easy to forget that many Americans – and many veterans – live in flyover country.
That includes me.
I am a rural veteran as are many members of this committee.
We understand the needs, the challenges – and quite frankly – the frustrations of our fellow rural veterans face because we have lived them too.
My home is 30 miles from the nearest V.A. facility.
My constituents in the eastern part of Illinois drive 60 miles or more.
Veterans in other parts of the United States travel much farther.
One of the witnesses we will hear from today – the Navajo Nation – spans three states.
Over 14,000 Native American veterans live on 27,000 square miles.
The challenges these men and women in rural America face cannot be overstated.
Which is why others and I fought so hard in 2018 to get the MISSION Act enacted.
The MISSION Act and the community care provider network have transformed V.A.’s delivery of healthcare and services – especially in rural and remote parts of the country.
But now five years after that bill was signed into law by President Trump, I go home and my veterans are still saying the same thing: I can’t get healthcare and I can’t get my benefits.
Whether it’s a limited access to highspeed internet so a veteran can’t make their telehealth appointment, or driving over an hour for routine physical therapy, or an inability to find housing near employment opportunities, or having to travel long distances to attend a disability compensation and pension examination, rural veterans face daunting challenges.
V.A. must meet these men and women where they live.
And while V.A. has an entire office dedicated to serving rural and remote veterans, I am concerned that this office has not kept pace with the changing veteran population.
We must ensure that $311 million we are spending on this office and other rural veteran programs are providing real value and not just lip service.I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how we can pave the way for solutions that bridge the gaps and ensure the best quality of life for rural veterans.