Washington, D.C. – In response to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announcement that it will modify the calculation of the so-called 40-mile rule, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) and Congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01) released the following statement:
“I am pleased that the VA is making adjustments to the way that the 40-mile rule is calculated. However, I believe there is still more the VA can do to expand the Veterans Choice Program so more veterans can access care closer to home. That’s the goal, and that’s what I will continue to fight for,” said Brownley.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve convenient access to the quality medical care that they have earned. Yesterday’s VA announcement is a positive step in the right direction but it’s clear that more needs to be done,” said Visclosky.
Last summer, Congress passed and the President signed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-46). Among other provisions, the law established a Veterans Choice Program to expand access to non-VA healthcare for veterans residing more than 40 miles from a VA facility, for those who face long wait times for a VA medical appointment, and for those who face a significant barrier in accessing VA care.
In November 2014, the VA issued an Interim Final Rule for the implementation of the Veterans Choice Program. Brownley, Visclosky, and several House and Senate members have expressed concern that the VA’s strict interpretation of the 40 mile rule is limiting eligibility for the program. Under the Interim Final Rule, the 40 mile distance is measured from a veteran’s residence to the nearest VA medical facility, even if that facility cannot provide the care that the veteran needs. Furthermore, it ignores travel times, which vary widely across the country, and it measures the distance as a direct line, rather than the actual route a veteran would travel to access the VA facility. Yesterday’s VA announcement corrects the rule to account for the actual route of travel, but does not address the other issues.
Currently, many veterans have to travel distances that significantly exceed 40 miles in order to access certain specialty care or inpatient services, because the smaller Community-Based Outpatient Clinic or VA facility near their home offers only limited medical services. The Brownley-Visclosky letter urged VA Secretary Robert McDonald to use the authority provided under the Choice Act to take into account travel time and to ensure that the VA considers whether the facility being measured actually offers the health care service that the veteran needs.
The Brownley-Visclosky letter can be found here: LINK