Congressman’s proposal would allow disabled veterans to use HOV lanes
STATEN ISLAND, NY — September 27, 2020 — Congressman Max Rose, a Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced new legislation today that he will be introducing next week to improve transportation options for disabled veterans by allowing them to use high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on highways without states or localities being at risk of losing federal funding. Rose was joined by local veterans from Staten Island and South Brooklyn at a press conference at the SSG Michael Ollis VFW Post.
“One issue that has come up, and that has been pushed by our veterans for nearly a decade is expanding HOV lane access for veterans for nearly a decade is expanding HOV lane access for our disabled vets,” said Rose, an Army combat veteran. “And they are absolutely right, and now more than ever, it is time for us to act. That is why I am introducing the HOV Lanes for Heroes Act, a key step to make sure that service-connected disabled veterans, regardless of who is in their car, can get to their appointments safely and quickly using HOV lanes.”
Disabled veterans across the country, and particularly in New York City, face long drives to their VA Medical Center or community care appointments to seek care for the injuries they sustained while putting their lives on the line for this country. Federal law requires state and local governments with jurisdiction over the operation of a HOV facility to establish the occupancy requirements of vehicles operating on the facility. The law currently allows for exceptions for motorcycles, mass transit vehicles, and low emission vehicles, but there is nothing provided to allow for further exemptions for disabled veterans.
Rose’s legislation, the HOV Lanes for Heroes Act, would revise state agency authority with respect to operation of high occupancy vehicle (HOV) facilities, and adds an exception to ensure that a state or local authority shall allow disabled veterans to use HOV facilities. The language also makes clear that state and local laws allowing disabled veteran single-occupants access to HOV facilities shall not put the state or locality out of compliance with federal law.
“I’m a Vietnam vet, I’m also a Gold Star parent, and I’m disabled,” said Bob Ollie at today’s press conference. “This law would really help me tremendously when I have to go into Manhattan. If you’ve got a 9:00 a.m. appointment on 23rd Street in Manhattan coming from Staten Island it could take you two hours or more. But thanks to Max Rose and Vito Giobbie and Jimmy Haynes—I’m looking forward to getting bills like this to take care of our veterans. That’s pretty much what Max is about.”
Rose continued, “For too long, local elected officials have wanted to pass bills to do exactly this. But without an exception in federal law, we risk losing federal funding to our roads and highways. It is absurd to think that we have exemptions for alternative fuel vehicles, for motorcycles, and even for bicycles in federal law, but none for those who bled for this country. That’s exactly why this legislation is necessary—it gives states and local governments the leeway to improve transportation for our veterans, without getting punished by the federal government.”
Rose has made fighting for veterans and expanding access to health care and transportation services a top priority. Rose helped secure an amendment the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 to require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide presumptive benefits to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange who are currently left out of a program designed to assist them. The VA doesn’t currently recognize bladder cancer, parkinsonism or hypothyroidism as being linked to exposure to Agent Orange despite a comprehensive study indicating a link by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
Rose secured major victories for Staten Island veteran students and servicemembers by passing through the House of Representatives provisions that would bring Staten Island into the same Military Housing Area (MHA) as the rest of New York City, saving Staten Island veterans and servicemembers thousands of dollars per year. Additionally, with the support of the VA, the House of Representatives passed Rose’s FIGHT Veterans Suicide Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at stemming the public health crisis of veteran suicides on VA campuses.
Throughout the pandemic, Rose is continuing to assist Staten Island and South Brooklyn Veterans and their families with their benefits claims and provide information about the VA’s benefits and services through his Virtual Veterans Service Days.
SOURCE: Jonas Edwards-Jenks | Communications Director | Congressman Max Rose (CD-11)