Sinema asks top federal watchdog to examine whether the VA is delivering for Arizona’s rural veterans
WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema requested the Government Accountability Office to examine whether VA’s Office of Rural Health is delivering for Arizona’s rural veterans.
“Arizona veterans should receive the health care they’ve earned no matter where they live in our state, and we’re holding the VA accountable to that standard,” said Sinema, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Sinema’s request seeks to assess how the Office of Rural Health is meeting its mission and how it coordinates across other VA offices that share some responsibility supporting rural Arizona veterans. The Office of Rural Health—established in 2006, under the VA’s Veteran’s Health Administration—operates with a $500 million annual budget and is tasked to support rural veterans through research and administering innovative programs.
In Arizona, nearly 15% of veterans live in rural communities, where they face additional challenges in accessing health care and other support services because of longer travel times, limited transportation options, lack of broadband access, and other infrastructure challenges.
Veteran rural health care is a top priority for Sinema. In March, Sinema secured a first-of-its-kind telehealth care program—Project ATLAS—for veterans in rural Arizona. The telehealth site provides comfortable, private spaces equipped with internet access and technology needed to meet with VA providers via secure video connection. This innovative program helps ensure veterans in rural Arizona receive the care and benefits they’ve earned, no matter where they live or their access to connectivity.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Sinema has continued to champion Arizona veterans’ access to care. In a recent Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Sinema discussed how efforts like Project ATLAS can help VA continue expanding telehealth services for Arizona veterans. In August, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved Sinema’s bipartisan VA Mission Telehealth Clarification Act, which allows VA health trainees to train on and utilize the VA telehealth system to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.
Read Sinema’s letter HERE.