VA follows Tester’s lead, removes barrier preventing veterans from quality health care

40-mile eligibility rule reformed to increase veterans’ access to non-VA care

(U.S. SENATE) – In response to legislation cosponsored by Senator Jon Tester, the VA is increasing veterans’ access to care by allowing veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to access waivers so they can seek care closer to home.

The Veterans Choice Act that was signed into law last year gave veterans access to non-VA care if they live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility. Initially the VA rolled out its plan saying veterans had to live 40 miles “as the crow flies” from any VA facility, rather than 40 “driving” miles.

Tester heard from Montana veterans who said this wasn’t working for them, so he introduced legislation to fix it. Today, the VA announced it’s taking a step to address veterans’ concerns.

“Living up to the commitment we make to our veterans is a top priority, and this common sense change allows more rural veterans to access the care they earned,” Tester said. “This is a step in the right direction, but there is still more barriers we need to remove that prevent veterans from receiving quality care.”

In applying the 40-mile requirement for veterans seeking care outside the VA, the department will allow veterans to apply for waivers to better take into consideration the geographical challenges they often face in accessing care.

Passing Tester’s bill is still necessary to alleviate the need for such waivers and to address other concerns the VA has not yet fixed. Tester’s bill demands that the 40-mile requirement should be measured from a VA facility that provides the specific care or services being sought by the veteran, as opposed to any VA facility.

Last summer, Tester helped author the VA reform bill and held a statewide listening tour to hear from Montana veterans about obstacles to care at the VA. In response to the feedback he received, Tester recently introduced two packages of bills aimed at increasing access to health care and supporting employment for veterans and their families.