Gluesenkamp Perez, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Rural Veterans’ Access to Disability Exams

Jul 09, 2024

Last month, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Reps. Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06), Scott Franklin (FL-18), Don Davis (NC-01), and Jerry Carl (AL-01), introduced the bipartisan Rural Veterans’ Improved Access to Benefits Act to ensure veterans have permanent, cross-state access to certified health care providers for required disability claim exams.

The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 allowed certain exam providers to temporarily practice across state lines; however, the authority is currently only available to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, audiologists, and psychologists, and expires in January 2026.

The Rural Veterans’ Improved Access to Benefits Act would make the authority permanent and expand the categories of providers who can perform cross-state disability exams. The bill would also require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a mechanism for providers to submit evidence that a veteran brings with them to the examination to the VA, a process which is currently not in place.

The legislation builds on the VET MEDS Act, which Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez co-led to support veterans’ access to VA-certified specialists and examiners in rural and high-need communities – and was signed into law as part of a larger Senate package in October 2023.

“All veterans, especially those applying for disability benefits, deserve urgency and efficiency in processing their claims,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “By expanding the healthcare professionals who can administer exams for our nation’s heroes, we can make it easier for veterans to access the healthcare they deserve to lead full, healthy lives.”

“The VA’s temporary authority for license portability has proven to be successful in expediting our veterans’ disability claims, specifically for our rural veterans, which is why I am proud to introduce a bipartisan effort to solidify the provision,” said Rep. Ciscomani. “Red tape should not stop our veterans from accessing care when and where they need it, whether that means crossing state lines or crossing the street.”

“The VFW strongly supports this bill that would permanently authorize contracted medical professionals to perform VA disability examinations regardless of their state of licensure,” said Nancy Springer, Associate Director of the VFW. “The resulting increase in eligible providers would benefit all veterans by accelerating the initial stage of the disability claims process, but it would particularly assist rural and tribal veterans who often have few medical options near their homes.”

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez has recovered over $182,000 for constituents owed to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Congresswoman has also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand eligibility for rural veterans to get transportation to VA health facilities and to support veteran families’ access to mental health care and peer support.

Full text of the bill is available here.

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