Bennet Urges the VA to Implement Pilot Program in San Luis Valley to Increase Access to Care For Veterans

Program would Improve Access to Critical Care and Services for Long Underserved Area

Alamosa, CO - This week, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urging it to consider starting a pilot project in the San Luis Valley to improve the delivery of health care and behavioral health care to rural veterans.

The San Luis Valley is home to almost 5,000 veterans, however both VA and non-VA providers have experienced immense difficulties recruiting and retaining medical professionals. Just last week the Alamosa Community Based Outpatient Care facility announced that their primary care physician will be leaving after only three months. In addition, San Luis Valley veterans who are ineligible to receive care at non-VA facilities must travel between 242 and 466 miles roundtrip to the nearest VA medical facility.

In the letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, Bennet wrote:

"The San Luis Valley's rural location and its strong community commitment to veterans make it the ideal place to try new approaches to providing improved access to care.

"...The San Luis Valley community has repeatedly committed to working with the VA to find a solution for area veterans. It is past time to come to a long term solution for San Luis Valley veterans that enables them to meet the majority of their health and behavioral health care needs without having to make a lengthy and expensive trip to another part of the state."

Bennet has long worked to help improve access to health care and behavioral health care for San Luis Valley veterans. In 2013, Bennet encouraged the VA to consider working with non-VA health care facilities in certain rural areas of Colorado to provide veterans with more local options for care. He also successfully advocated for changes to the VA's implementation of the Choice Card program, including the VA's calculation for the 40 mile rule to account for the actual distance traveled, rather than the straight-line distance between the veteran and the VA medical center. Bennet has also pushed to allow veterans to access non-VA care through the Choice Card program if they live within 40 miles from a VA facility but the services they require are not offered at that VA facility. Most recently, Bennet urged the VA to consider the unique needs of rural veterans when developing its consolidated plan for delivery of non-VA care to veterans.

Click here to see the full text of the letter.