Tester measure to let VA hire drivers for veterans becomes law


by Martin Kidston

A measure allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire drivers to transport veterans to health care facilities became law last week.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., attached the measure to the defense authorization bill last month, saying the new service, when combined with services provided by volunteers, will make it easier for veterans to reach their medical appointments.

“Veterans earned quality health care, and they should be able to access that care no matter where they live,” Tester said. “The work done by VA drivers and volunteers will ensure that more veterans get the care they need and that we live up to the promises this nation made to them.”

Tester said the new law could save nearly $11 million a year by cutting expensive contracts with ambulance services.

He said it’s less expensive for the VA to hire drivers than it is to contract the services, or provide mileage reimbursement to vets driving long distances.

Last year, Tester also secured 12 new VA vans to transport Montana vets in rural areas and the state’s Indian reservations to health care facilities.

“The VA vans would supplement the work done by volunteer drivers from Disabled American Veterans, who drive thousands of miles on Montana roads helping veterans get to VA facilities,” Tester said.

Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the new measure gives the VA the authority it needs to hire full-time drivers.