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Ranking Member Walz, Rep. Nolan Host Roundtable To Assess Veteran Care In Rural Areas And Ways To Increase Access Through Community Care And VA Capacity Improvement

Aug 11, 2017
Press Release

DULUTH, MN – Today, House Committee on Veterans Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN.), alongside Representative Rick Nolan (D-MN), released the following statement after the two Representatives hosted a roundtable at the Duluth Law Enforcement Center in Duluth, Minnesota where they heard from rural veterans, veterans’ advocates, and regional healthcare providers about the unique challenges facing rural veterans when accessing medical care through Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical facilities as well as VHA’s various community care programs, including the Choice Program. The Representatives also considered actions to improve internal capacity at VA medical centers in rural communities across the country. 

“There are few issues as close to our hearts as ensuring each of our nation’s five million rural veterans have the access to quality healthcare they deserve in a timely and efficient manner” Reps. Walz and Nolan said in a joint statement. “What better way to do that than to hear directly from rural veterans, veterans advocates, and regional healthcare providers directly.” 

“The clinical decision of when and where to receive care should always be based on a conversation the veteran has with his or her doctor. That is why it is imperative that any permanent solution to improve community care empowers rural veterans and providers, increases access to quality and timely healthcare, and is not bound by arbitrary rules.”

“The feedback we heard from the community today will be invaluable as lawmakers and advocates work closely to identify meaningful solutions to rural veterans’ and caregivers’ concerns. It is no secret that rural veteran access to care needs to be improved, that is why it is incumbent upon us, as Members of Congress, to ensure all of VHA’s programs work for the brave men and women who have bravely served in uniform, no matter where they call home. Today’s roundtable brings us one step closer to realizing that goal.”

“We offer our sincere thanks to each person who took time out of their days to participate in today’s roundtable and we look forward to using their feedback as we work with our colleagues in Congress to improve healthcare for veterans in rural communities across the United States.”

The Representatives heard from:

Paul Force-Emery Mackie PhD, LISW
National Association for Rural Mental Health

Hugh Quinn
Chairman, Itasca County Veterans Council
Commander, VFW Post 1720

Jonathan P. Gervais Au.D   
Hearing Wellness Center   

Kameron Matthews MD, JD, FAAFP
Deputy Executive Director
Office of Community Care
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 

Accompanied by:

Thomas Klobucar PhD
Acting Director
Office of Rural Health 
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Patrick J. Kelly FACHE 
Minneapolis VA Health Care System
VA Midwest Health Care Network (VISN 23)
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Statements for the Record