The Senate has approved legislation that will allow veterans with service-connected disabilities free lifetime entry to all 419 national parks in the United States. 

The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act was authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and passed by the Senate. It now needs approval from the House of Representatives before taking effect. The new bill would amend the current eligibility standards and allow millions of more veterans free access to parks and national land attractions. 

“The brave men and women who have served in our military and have been wounded defending our nation should have free access to our national parks and recreational areas — the American land they fought to protect,” said Senator Collins.

Senator Jon Tester ( D-MT), the top-ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, who for years has been pushing the agenda for freer access to national parks for veterans, was thrilled with the news.

“This bill makes our most treasured, beautiful places in Montana and across the country freely available to our country’s disabled veterans,” he said. 

Under the current law that was enacted in 2004, veterans who have been deemed 100 percent disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs are granted a free, lifetime National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

About 25 percent of the nations 4.7 million veterans have a service-connected disability according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, as of 2019, at least 2.7 million of those veterans had a disability rating of at least 60 percent.

Proponents of the legislation, as well as therapists, state that veterans suffering from the effects of PTSD have greatly benefitted from spending time in nature.