Veterans’ benefits expanded

RBC — Many veterans living on the Western Slope, to include the Utah counties of San Juan and Grand, will benefit by recent changes in VA policy and law.
One change was a mileage allowance increase from 11 cents to 28 cents a mile for veterans living more than 50 miles from a VA medical center or clinic. The increase was effective today. The change was authorized by the new secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. James Peake.
“With more than half of our local veterans living in rural areas this increase is very, very good news,” said Dave Dunnagan, of the Disabled American Veterans. “The mileage reimbursement increase is one more step to help veterans access the health care they deserve.”
This is the first such increase in 30 years.
The Grand Junction VA Medical Center and its two community based clinics in Montrose and Craig serve nearly 11,000 Veterans in 17 counties on the Western Slope and in western Utah as well as Baggs, Wyo.
While increasing the payment, VA, as mandated by law, also increased the deductible amounts applied to certain mileage reimbursements.
The new deductibles are $7.77 for a one way trip, $15.54 for a round trip, with a maximum of $46.62 per calendar month.
However, these deductibles can be waived if they cause a financial hardship to the veteran.
In addition to the mileage increase, several other benefits were expanded or created, under an appropriations bill signed by President George W. Bush last week and are expected to be phased in by Oct. 1.