Sen. Moran Statement on VA Decision to Change 40-Mile Calculation in Choice Act Eligibility
"The VA deliberately 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."
Mar 24 2015
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today reacted to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) decision to change the calculation used to determine distance between a veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility from a straight-line distance to driving distance. Sen. Moran is the lead sponsor of the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), broadly supported bipartisan legislation requiring the VA to utilize its current authorities, including the Choice Act, to provide veterans access to non-VA care when they face a driving distance of more than 40-miles to the nearest VA medical facility and when that facility is incapable of offering the care sought by the veteran.
“While today’s announcement by the VA is good news for veterans across the country, and I am very pleased the VA heeded our calls to make this 40-mile calculation change to driving distance, unfortunately it is not enough,” Sen. Moran said. “Thousands of veterans will continue to struggle to access the care they were promised through the Choice Act because of the VA’s flawed implementation of the law. The VA deliberately 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. The VA is denying access the law was intended to offer and forcing veterans to choose between traveling hours to a VA medical facility, paying out of pocket, or going without care altogether. Veterans are not being put first when the VA unfairly limits their eligibility, hindering their access to care.”
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Moran has questioned VA Secretary Bob McDonald and other VA officials for months in hearings, personal meetings, phone calls and correspondence about the VA’s flawed interpretation of the 40-mile rule and what can be done to fix the problem. In the absence of VA action, Sen. Moran authored legislation that would make certain veterans are not dismissed or forgotten just because of where they live. The Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 18 Senators, would require the VA to utilize its authorities, including the Choice Act, to offer community care to veterans who are currently unable to receive the healthcare services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live. This legislation enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress and has been endorsed by numerous veterans’ organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America, and the National Guard Association of the United States.
The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA). The 40-mile driving distance policy change will be made through regulatory action in the coming weeks.
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