- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) - Steps are being taken to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, but some members of Congress said Wednesday that more needs to be done when it comes to providing mental health care for rural veterans.

Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida visited Roswell to lead a field hearing for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The panel included U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Doug Lamborn of Colorado as well as veterans from southeastern New Mexico.

Miller said after the hearing that veterans are clear in their testimony that they are not being provided with the services they need and that the VA is still not being transparent.

“Everybody wants to know the truth. The veterans deserve it,” he said.

Legislation expected to be signed Thursday by the president will help hold VA officials accountable, Miller said. The $16.3 billion measure also tackles the long delays in treatment and the backlog of medical appointments at VA hospitals and clinics around the country.

In an effort to address access to care for veterans in southeastern New Mexico, Pearce and VA administrators have started a pilot program in Roswell that will allow veterans to see local providers for medical appointments rather than traveling hours to Albuquerque.

Years in the making, Pearce’s office said the program will serve around 90 veterans who are seeking appointments for primary care, specialty care and mental health services. Five veterans had their first appointments with local providers on Wednesday.