Tester urges VA to speed up travel reimbursements for Montana veterans

(Billings, Mont.) – After hearing from Montana veterans, Senator Jon Tester is pressing the VA to make urgent changes to the way it’s reimbursing veterans who travel to and from its medical facilities.

Recently, the VA implemented a new way of reimbursing veterans using Electronic Funds Transfer. The new direct deposit method was designed to address problems associated with fraudulent claims.

However, in a letter to VA Secretary Bob McDonald, Tester expressed concern that that the initiative puts rural and low-income veterans at a severe disadvantage as some veterans in Montana have had to wait up to five weeks to receive reimbursements.

“If there are veterans who choose not to receive treatment and care at a VA facility because they can’t afford to travel there, then we have a real problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” wrote Tester, Montana’s only member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Despite the good intention behind this change, it has led to many problems, particularly for veterans in rural areas or those who live paycheck-to-paycheck.”

Previously, any veteran who traveled to a VA health facility for care was reimbursed the same day with cash. Under the new policy, veterans now have two options for payment reimbursement. Veterans with a checking account can choose to have their reimbursement deposited in their bank account after submitting their travel voucher. Alternatively, veterans without the option of a direct deposit can opt to receive a check in the mail within 10 business days.

“Many veterans in Montana cannot afford to drive back home without an immediate reimbursement, let alone wait up to 10 business days or more to be reimbursed,” Tester wrote.

Tester’s letter to Secretary McDonald is available HERE.