"Today, the U.S. Senate put veterans first and voted to make certain veterans are not dismissed or forgotten just because of where they live."
May 22 2015
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the Access to Community Care for Veterans Act (S.1463), legislation authored by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – that amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to give veterans access to community health care when the nearest VA medical facility within 40 miles driving distance from a veteran’s home is incapable of offering care the veteran needs. S.1463 now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.
Sen. Moran’s legislation is cosponsored by 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.). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)'s preliminary estimate of the mandatory effects of S.1463 gave a net zero effect over the 5-year and 10-year projection period.
"Today, the U.S. Senate put veterans first and voted to make certain veterans are not dismissed or forgotten just because of where they live,” Sen. Moran said. “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. 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."
“I wholeheartedly endorse everything the Senator from Kansas said,” Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said on the Senate Floor.
This effort to fix the 40-mile criteria in the Choice Act has previously been supported by endorsed by numerous organizations including 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. It is also supported by health care organizations including the National Rural Health Association, the National Association of Rural Mental Health, the National Council for Behavioral Health Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, and the National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors.
On Feb. 25, 2015, 42 senators joined together in calling on VA Secretary Bob McDonald to ease the burden of travel and access to care for millions of veterans who deserve such access through the Choice Act. The group of senators pointed to two concerns with the way the Choice Program was being implemented. First, the VA is not considering whether the VA facility available within 40 miles of where a veteran lives offers the care a veteran needs. Secondly, VA was calculating the 40-mile distance “as the crow flies” and not by driving distance.
Although the VA made the decision on March 24, 2015, to change the calculation used to determine 40-mile distance to driving distance through regulatory action, they have not taken action on the issue of a VA facility being incapable of offering the care sought by the veteran. Sen. Moran’s legislation provides a solution and would allow veterans to utilize their Choice Cards to access non-VA care if the VA facility within 40 miles driving distance to their home does not offer the medical service they need.
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.