Indy Legislators Ask VA to Shorten Travel Times for Vets
November 5, 2014 — U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (IN-01) and U.S. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Dan Coats (R-IN) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald urging that VA take into account more than just total travel distance in allowing veterans to access non-VA community health care, citing as an example the travel burdens faced by some northwest Indiana veterans.
Visclosky, Donnelly, and Coats wrote, “We urge you to use your authority to consider travel time as well as total distance to a VA facility.”
The bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which was signed into law in August after passing the House and Senate, includes a provision that allows veterans to access non-VA providers if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health facility or face “an unusual or excessive burden” in accessing VA care. The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of translating the new law’s provisions into detailed guidance that will determine which veterans are eligible to see non-VA community providers using their VA benefits.
Visclosky, Donnelly, and Coats wrote to weigh in on this rule-making process, highlighting as an example the challenges faced by northwest Indiana veterans usually served by the Adam Benjamin, Jr. Crown Point outpatient clinic, but who must travel to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago for specialty or inpatient care. Their letter encouraged the VA to consider factors like traffic congestion and transportation to and from shuttle stops into determining a veteran’s total travel burden. Visclosky, Donnelly, and Coats noted that “this is an incredibly frustrating experience for older infirmed veterans, as local non-VA hospital care and medical services are readily available.”
“We encourage you to keep the veterans of Northwest Indiana in mind and ensure that they are afforded the opportunities established under this law,” Visclosky, Donnelly, and Coats wrote.
A copy of the signed letter: 10_31_14_Letter to VA Secretary IN Sens Visclosky