Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young today proudly supported House-passage of H.R. 5985, the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2015, which extends numerous Veterans Administration (VA) programs – including the Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Grant (HRTG) program – originally scheduled to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2017.
“I am committed to standing up for Alaska’s veterans—especially those who live in our many highly-rural areas.” said Congressman Don Young (R-AK). “The Highly Rural Veteran Transportation program enables all of Alaska’s veterans to receive the care they earned, regardless of the area in which they live. I’m glad we were able to extend this critical program for an additional year, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of this program in the future. We must ensure our nation’s veterans receive the benefits they earned in service to this nation; this legislation takes important steps in that direction by increasing access, improving services and extending critical programs to assist veteran and their families.”
Set to expire at the end of FY 2017, the Highly Rural Transportation Program enables State Veterans Service Agencies and Veteran Service Organizations to provide no-cost transportation services to VA or VA-authorized healthcare facilities to veterans in counties with fewer than seven people per square mile.
Congressman Young brought the importance of extending this program to the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s attention earlier this summer by introducing H.R. 5558, the VA Highly Rural Transportation Program Extension Act. Through numerous discussions with House Veterans Affairs Committee leadership, Congressman Young secured this one-year extension as part of H.R. 5985.
Currently, 14 organizations in 11 states administer grants under the HRTG. Grantees are eligible to receive up to $50,000 per highly-rural area in order to “provide innovative transportation options to Veterans in highly rural areas.”
According to the Alaska Office of Veteran Affairs, 8,200 veterans are currently eligible for the program in areas that include Southwest Fairbanks, the Matanuska-Susitna region, Kodiak Island, the Kenai Peninsula, and Prince of Wales Island and Hyder. In just the three months between January and March, 2016, the HRTG program in Alaska provided 3,010 hours of transportation on 3,129 trips, totaling 113,237 miles (and 5,760 nautical miles), for 3,116 veterans. Although FY 2016 HRTG grant funds have been exhausted in several Alaskan areas, Congressman Young remains committed to reauthorizing the program to provide future services to Alaskan veterans.
Click here for a list of programs and authorities extended within H.R. 5985.