Wednesday, March 25, 2015

VA changes interpretation of rule to allow some rural veterans access to care at other facilities

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday changed its much-criticized interpretation of a law that was making it more difficult for rural veterans to receive medical care at facilities other than VA clinics, Ben Kesling reports for The Wall Street Journal.

The 2014 Veterans Choice Act said that veterans who had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or who had to travel more than 40 miles to a VA facility could instead get appointments at other locations, Kesling writes. But Veterans Affairs judged the 40 miles based on actual distance, not driving distance, a move that eliminated some rural veterans from going to health care facilities located closer to their homes. "The new rule allows veterans to plug directions into a commercial product such as Google Maps to calculate actual driving distance."

Some advocates are still unhappy with the rule because it doesn't take into account the services offered by the closest facility, Kesling writes. "For example, if a veteran requires specialized care available only at major facilities but lives within 40 miles of a basic clinic, that veteran isn't eligible for outside appointments and still may have to drive hours to get necessary care." (Read more)

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