Reimbursement of travel costs for veterinarians seeking care is insufficient, warns senator

Top Democratic senator urges Veterans Affairs officials to speed up departmental reforms travel reimbursement programclaiming that loopholes in the system are hurting the finances of rural veterans.

“Veterans and caregivers are reaching out to my office more than ever asking for help with the beneficiary self-service travel system, and expressing deep frustration and belief that VA is preventing veterans from accessing benefits. they won,” said Jon, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Tester, D-Mont., wrote in a letter to VA management Wednesday.

“Despite a number of VA improvements and commitments to address veterans’ concerns, veterans in Montana and those nationwide are not reaping the impact of these efforts.”

Veterans traveling for care at a VA healthcare facility (or for approved care at a non-VA healthcare facility) may be reimbursed for travel expenses if they have a disability rating of at least 30% or meet other financial or medical requirements. Caregivers may also be eligible for reimbursement under certain circumstances.

The department currently pays 41.4 cents per mile for approved travel, plus other expenses such as parking and tolls. For veterans with long trips to the nearest VA medical facilities, travel expenses may total a full tank of gas or more.

VA launched electronic filing of travel claims in late 2020, but Tester said the expansion hasn’t helped people in rural areas and families already facing significant financial challenges.

“Many veterans, especially those most in need of financial assistance to get to and from medical appointments, don’t have computers or smart phones,” he said. writing.

“VA also didn’t take into account inconsistent internet access – especially in areas like rural Montana where it can be a luxury to have access to reliable, fast internet and public computers.”

In correspondence with Tester last year, VA officials promised to increase access to internet-connected tablets and computers in departments to facilitate access to online filing systems.

But Tester said public awareness of these options remains low, and training for veterans who need these services is sporadic.

The president noted that travel claims from veterans decreased by about 23% between fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2021. He said he doubts the decline in travel during the pandemic explains all this difference, as in-person medical appointments were only down 14% from that. same period.

“For many rural veterans who have to travel great distances for treatment or for veterans who stretch at every grocery store and gas tank, [missing out on travel reimbursements] will mean skipping necessary medical attention, Tester wrote.

More information on the Travel Reimbursement Program is available at the VA website.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.

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