I am writing to let you know about an exciting new initiative that we are announcing today with our Federal partners to help America's veterans, military service members and their families successfully connect with jobs, education, health care, daycare for their children, and other vital community services.
Our nation is tremendously grateful for the sacrifices that America's war heroes and their families are making abroad and at home. As President Obama has noted, they have done their duty, and now we must do ours.
The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative we are announcing today will help ensure that the brave men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces—including veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, student veterans, active-duty personnel, wounded veterans, military retirees, and others—have convenient and ready access to the full range of affordable transportation services available in their communities.
All too often, our veterans face serious transportation challenges at home. For instance, rising gas prices have hit military families' budgets hard. And roughly 4 in 10 veterans including younger Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, live in rural areas where affordable transportation options are often limited—and where it's necessary to travel great distances to receive medical care, reach employment centers, and access other services to which they are entitled.
Through this initiative, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will make $30 million in Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities funding available to local governmental agencies to finance the capital costs of implementing, expanding, or increasing access to local One-Call/One-Click Transportation Resource Centers—a proven approach to improve access and coordination of local transportation resources. These resources will be complemented by training, technical assistance, outreach and social media technology investments provided by FTA and other participating agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense are also lending critical support.
The initiative operates under the auspices of the federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM), a permanent Federal partnership chaired by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. All initiative partners are CCAM members, with the exception of the Department of Defense, whose participation speaks volumes of the importance of this initiative and the critical need of our military families and service members.
For the FTA, this initiative is allowing us to develop non-traditional partnerships, including with many of our nation's Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) who have provided input throughout the development of the initiative. I am very appreciative of their constructive feedback and support.
By laying the foundation for expansion of local One-Call/One-Click Transportation Resource Centers, we are moving in a direction that benefits all populations, military and non-military alike. The initiative aligns with the Administration's implementation of the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision, which addresses the rights of people with disabilities to live independently, rather than in long-term care facilities. It also reflects the President's commitment to assist economically disadvantaged workers and people who need access to health care.
I look forward to working with you to help address the critical transportation challenges facing our veterans, military personnel and their families, and people with disabilities.
Additional information about the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative and how to apply for funds is available here.