Tester bill gives disabled vets a ‘fair shake’

Senator’s Disabled Veterans Fairness Act significantly boosts VA mileage reimbursement rate

(BILLINGS, Mont.) – Veterans who travel across Montana for VA health care will finally get fair mileage reimbursement under new legislation announced today by Senator Jon Tester.

Tester's Disabled Veterans Fairness Act of 2007 raises the mileage reimbursement rate for disabled veterans from the current 11 cents per mile to the same rate federal employees receive.  Most federal employees are currently reimbursed 48.5 cents per mile, which is an estimate of the actual cost of travel.

The VA hasn't increased its reimbursement rate for vets who travel for health care in 30 years.  During a news conference at his Billings' office today, Tester said increasing vets' reimbursement to the federal level is long overdue.

"We owe this to all our disabled vets," Tester said.  "They were promised accessible, quality health care when they signed up to serve our country.  We've got a lot of work to do to make good on that promise.  This bill is a good start."

Tester's Disabled Veterans Fairness Act also repeals the $18-per-month deductible disabled veterans must pay in order to get mileage reimbursement for health care.

Tester's bill would cost the U.S. government only $127 million per year. That's about what the government spends every 10 hours fighting the War in Iraq.

"For what we spend in just a few hours in Iraq, we can give our veterans a fair shake for an entire year," Tester said.

The Veterans Administration reimburses all veterans who travel to VA centers for treatment of service-connected conditions.  For veterans who are deemed 30% disabled or more, the VA reimburses travel for treatment of any condition.

Tester is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  The VA's outdated travel reimbursement rate is one of the most common complaints Tester hears while attending listening sessions for vets across the state.

The U.S. House passed similar legislation last week.  Tester's bill will take effect 90 days after President Bush signs it into law.