Bill lets vets go local for care not offered by nearest VA facility

The Senate last week passed a bill that amends the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 to allow a veteran to use local health care when a Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility within 40 miles driving distance does not offer the care the vet requires.

The Access to Community Care for Veterans Act (S.1463), introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), now goes to the House.

While the VA in March altered the method for calculating the 40-mile distance required to access community-based care—changing it from a flat distance to driving distance—the department has not addressed the problem that arises when a needed treatment is not available at a VA facility inside the 40-mile driving distance.

“The VA continues to use a narrow interpretation of the 40-mile rule, choosing to take into account only the distance of a VA medical facility from a veteran’s home and not whether the VA facility can actually provide the services the veteran needs." Moran said. "The legislation passed unanimously by the Senate today aims to help thousands of veterans who are currently being forced to choose between traveling hours to a VA medical facility, paying out of pocket, or going without care altogether."

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America, Concerned Veterans of America and the National Guard Association of the United States have called for a fix to the problem. Health care and mental health care advocacy groups also have endorsed the bill.

Cosponsors of the bipartisan bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

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