13 May VA Choice Program Experiences Major Change
In a move that may have escaped the notice of some, the VA announced late last month that it was making a monumental change in the way it interprets the VA Choice program. The VA Choice program was created in 2014 after news reports indicated some veterans may have died while waiting to receive care from their local VA healthcare facility. The VA Choice program allowed an eligible veteran to visit a private healthcare professional for treatment and have that care covered by the VA. Eligible veterans included those who:
- Were told by their local VA medical facility that they would need to wait over 30 days from their preferred date or the date medically determined by their physician before receiving treatment.
- Lived more than 40 miles from the closest VA healthcare facility.
- Needed to travel by boat or plane to reach the closest VA medical facility.
- Those who faced an “unusual or significant” burden in traveling to a VA healthcare facility because of a body of water or geologic formation that could not be crossed by road.
It is the second situation – veterans who live more than 40 miles away from the closest VA healthcare facility – that received the attention of investigative journalists and, eventually, Congress.
Forty Miles is Forty Miles…Right?
Prior to last month, the VA interpreted the “40 mile” requirement to preclude any veteran who lived within 40 miles of a VA healthcare facility, as measured “as the crow flies.” This means that anyone who lived within a 40 mile radius of a VA healthcare facility was not eligible for the VA Choice program. In other words, if Veteran Abe drew a straight line on a map from his house to his local VA healthcare facility and the length of that line was 40 miles or less, then Abe would be ineligible for the VA Choice program.
A problem was discovered, however, when ineligible veterans began to complain that the 40-mile “as the crow flies” rule was unfair. These veterans lived within 40 miles of their local VA healthcare facility; however, their actual travel distance was greater than 40 miles because of road layout and highway access.
Pressure Changes the VA’s Mind
As more and more stories of veterans negatively impacted by the “as the crow flies” rule became public, the VA was facing serious questions from Congress. Rather than require a Congress to enact a legislative fix to the problem, the VA decided to “save face” and change the way it calculates the 40-mile requirement. Now veterans whose actual travel distance to their local VA healthcare facility is greater than 40 miles are eligible for the VA Choice program.
Seek Help from the Klok Law Firm LLC
Whether you are applying for veterans’ disability benefits for the first time or have been receiving benefits but have questions, the experienced attorneys at the Klok Law Firm, LLC can help ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact us today at (843) 216-8860 for a free consultation.