VA Relaxes Eligibility Rule for Vets To Receive Private Medical Care
On Tuesday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald announced VA's decision to relax a rule that makes it difficult for some veterans to demonstrate that they live more than 40 miles away from a VA health site and are therefore eligible to receive care from a local private provider, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Daly, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/24).
VA's Choice Card program was established under a VA reform bill signed into law in August 2014 that aims to increase veterans' access to care by providing them with federally subsidized care at non-VA facilities. Veterans are eligible to use the cards if they have been waiting more than 30 days for a VA health care appointment or if they live 40 miles or farther from a VA facility (California Healthline, 2/17).
According to the AP/Bee, lawmakers and advocates expressed concern that VA interpreted the 40-mile rule too strictly by measuring it "as the crow flies," rather than through driving miles. They said such an interpretation prevented several thousand veterans from accessing local care.
VA Relaxes Rule
Before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday, McDonald will announce that the department will now measure the 40-mile distance in driving miles as calculated by Google Maps or other commercial mapping websites, rather than in a straight line. According to the AP/Bee, the change will roughly double the number of veterans eligible for the program.
McDonald said, "We've determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more veterans have access to care when and where they want it" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.