Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) announced the introduction of H.R. 8398, the Driver Reimbursement Increase for Veteran Equity (DRIVE) Act. This bill would increase the Beneficiary Travel mileage reimbursement rate for eligible veterans for travel for health care appointments related to service-connected conditions. The stand-alone measure is identical to an amendment that Brownley and Welch offered to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, which passed the House on July 14, 2022.
“With increased costs at the pump, as well as rising costs of other vehicle-related expenses including automobile insurance and vehicle maintenance, America’s veterans are in need of financial relief,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “Veterans should not carry the financial burden of the travel costs they incur when traveling to and from VA health care appointments for service-connected conditions. This legislation will not only adjust the Beneficiary Travel mileage reimbursement rate, which has not been adjusted in over a decade, but it will also ensure VA’s mileage reimbursement rates keep up with prices going forward. This bill is long overdue, and it’s time veterans receive the proper compensation they deserve.”
“Our veterans have served our country honorably. In return, we must make sure each of them can access the care and support they need to live healthy and happy lives once their service ends,” said Congressman Welch. “This legislation will provide much-needed financial support for veterans seeking essential medical care at the VA, who often face long commutes and high costs at the pump.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the average price for a gallon of regular gas during the week of March 1, 2010 – when VA’s mileage rate was last increased – was $2.671 per gallon. During the week of July 11, the most recent DOE data available, the average was $4.646 per gallon, and on the West Coast, it was $4.947 per gallon.
The DRIVE Act would require the VA to ensure the Beneficiary Travel reimbursement rate is at least equal to the GSA reimbursement rate for federal employees. This will ensure VA’s reimbursement rates keep up with the cost of inflation and properly account for fluctuations in gas prices over time. The full text of the bill can be found here.
When the House considered the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (H.R. 7900), Brownley and Welch offered an identical amendment, which was adopted as part of an En Bloc amendment by a vote of 277 to 150. H.R. 7900 subsequently passed the House on July 14, 2022. The text of the amendment can be found here.