WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine joined a bipartisan group of 40 colleagues in writing to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald raising serious concerns about the implementation of the Veterans Choice Card program, which was created as part of the Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act of 2014, passed last year. The program was established in response to the nationwide crisis of veterans’ access to care but has yet to be implemented as Congress envisioned. The program allows veterans who live 40 miles from the closest VA facility, or who face a significant delay in scheduling an appointment, to access non-VA care. However, many veterans in Virginia and across the nation who face barriers to accessing care are still being excluded from the program.
“The VA is construing the eligibility criteria as it relates to the 40-mile rule so narrowly that it is excluding too many who are far away from the care that they need,” wrote the bipartisan group of Senators. “While many Veterans are satisfied with care provided through the VA Health Care System, trips to VA medical centers can be difficult for rural Veterans, especially those who are elderly or ill. Because long drive times are a hardship for these individuals and can present a significant barrier to accessing care, many Veterans anticipated using their Choice Cards when Congress established the Choice Program last year.”
The Senators urged Secretary McDonald to make certain that funding provided by Congress is being used to implement the Veterans Choice Program to the fullest extent possible.
In addition to Warner and Kaine, the letter is signed by Senators Collins (R-ME), Moran (R-KS), McCain (R-AZ), King (I-ME), Grassley (R-IA), Markey (D-MA), Ernst (R-IA), Vitter (R-LA), Manchin (D-WV), Fischer (R-NE), Klobuchar (D-MN), Flake (R-AZ), Crapo (R-ID), Wyden (D-OR), Hatch (R-UT), Boxer (D-CA), Roberts (R-KS), Barrasso (R-WY), Brown (D-OH), Enzi (R-WY), Heitkamp (D-ND), Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD), Tillis (R-NC), Mikulski (D-MD), Toomey (R-PA), Heinrich (D-NM), Capito (R-WV), Daines (R-MT), Inhofe (R-OK), Burr (R-NC), Alexander (R-TN), Thune (R-SD), Cotton (R-AR), Hoeven (R-ND), Cruz (R-TX), Merkley (D-OR), Kirk (R-IL), McCaskill (D-MO), and Scott (R-SC).
The letter appears below.