Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act to create an intergovernmental task force to identify opportunities to expand access and usage of public lands for outdoor therapy and rehabilitation treatments. Representatives Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) have reintroduced its companion legislation in the House.
“For many veterans, getting outdoors with friends and family is a crucial part of their return to civilian life,” said Cortez Masto. “Studies have shown that outdoor recreation has a positive impact on overall physical health, mental wellbeing and recovery outcomes, especially for our veteran populations who often turn to the outdoors to heal from trauma. Nevada’s pristine public lands provide countless recreational and therapeutic opportunities for our veterans, and I’m proud to introduce legislation that will help our nation’s heroes better access the healing power of the outdoors.”
“In Big Sky Country, we know how important our outdoor heritage is to our Montana way of life,” Daines said. “This bill will help ensure our veterans are able to take full advantage of Montana’s outdoors as they recover from the trauma and injuries they experienced in combat. The therapeutic benefits the outdoors can have on our veterans will help aide in their recovery and showcase the beauty of the country they so valiantly served to defend.”
The Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act establishes an inter-agency task force, co-chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior. This task force would also include the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Defense, and Homeland Security, as well as the Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers. The task force would seek to better utilize public lands for the rehabilitation and therapy of veterans and to identify existing barriers that prevent veterans from more broadly utilizing outdoor recreation for medical treatment.
This legislation is supported by numerous outdoor recreation and veterans advocacy groups, including the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Minority Veterans of America, Blue Star Families, Vet Voice Foundation, PeopleForBikes, National Parks Conservation Association, Outdoor Industry Association, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Research, Adventure Not War, and the REI Co-op.