RBC I U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) is working to advance a measure in the U.S. House to ensure veterans living farther than a 40 mile drive from a VA healthcare facility are able to receive and use Veterans Choice Cards to access alternative care providers closer to home.
When the House passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (H.R. 3230) last year, the legislation established the 40-mile distance cutoff, which for some veterans living in rural areas, failed to truly provide access to local care given that their actual driving distance to a VA facility exceeded 40 miles, while the 40 mile distance in the law is being implemented as “as the crow flies.
The Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015, which Tipton cosponsored and is expected to be introduced in the House tomorrow, seeks to fix this issue by clarifying the 40 mile distance from a VA facility be based on driving distance, rather than point-to-point or “as the crow flies.”
“The intent of the reforms passed last year was to ensure that veterans receive timely healthcare and are able to access that care close to home,” Tipton said. “As the law has been implemented, we’ve heard from many veterans living further than a 40 mile drive from VA care facilities that they are still unable to see local providers because of a technicality.
“This was not the bill’s intent, and it’s frustrating that it’s being implemented this way,” he said. “For veterans living over a 40-mile drive, especially in rural mountainous areas, every extra mile adds up to increased travel-time, risk and hardship.
“We’re working to address this issue through legislation that clarifies the language so that veterans living in rural areas are able to access timely care close to home,” Tipton said. “This is a bipartisan, commonsense fix that needs to be a priority in Congress.”