Tester, Bost Urge VA to Improve Travel Reimbursement Program for Veterans

Veterans’ Affairs Committee leaders call on VA Secretary to address paper claim backlog, staffing, and ease of access and utilization of the travel mileage reimbursement benefit

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.) are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make critical improvements to its travel reimbursement program for the nation’s veterans.

“We write today to formally express our ongoing concerns regarding the roll out of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System (BTSSS),” wrote the members to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “While you and your team have taken a number of actions to help smooth the implementation of this new system, we see issues that remain and will cause further challenges if they are not adequately addressed. Many veterans are still choosing to submit paper claims instead of using the system and many more have ceased accessing this benefit altogether. For a system that was intended to make the process easier and more accessible, this is discouraging.”

VA Beneficiary Travel Office provides mileage reimbursement for certain veterans to defray costs for traveling to and from health care appointments. Last year, VA rolled out their new BTSSS to streamline this service and reduce payment errors by allowing veterans to submit claims online. However, many veterans feel left behind with inconsistent messaging about the new system and without the technological resources to access it. The only alternative submission process available to them is a paper claim, which can be subject to errors resulting in incorrect claim denials and severely delayed reimbursement payments.

Tester and Bost further highlighted the need to have a permanent, sustainable staffing plan in place for the new system to be a success. The members also relayed their concerns with the number of veterans reporting higher wait-times for their reimbursements than with the previous system, which often increases financial hardships for veterans and hampers their ability to make future medical appointments. The letter proposed a number of questions to help facilitate further discussions and planning at VA to increase veterans’ access to and utilization of this important benefit.

They continued, “One of the main reasons VA pursued the new BTSSS was to improve ease of access and utilization of the beneficiary travel mileage reimbursement benefit for veterans. It is imperative that goal is met.”

Read the members’ full letter HERE.