In light of the Department of Veterans Affairs waiting list scandal, Congress passed legislation including reforms such as giving veterans an option to receive medical care outside of the VA system when access to VA care is limited using a “choice card.” The Department of Veterans Affairs is interpreting that provision in a way that will disadvantage many veterans in Iowa and other states. Sen. Chuck Grassley has joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging the agency to fix this problem. Grassley also is a co-sponsor of legislation from Sen. Jerry Moran, one of the lead authors of the letter, to correct the misinterpretation if the VA doesn’t correct it voluntarily. Grassley made the following comment on the issue.
“Congress intended to give veterans an option in addition to the Veterans Affairs system to increase their ability to get care, but the way the VA is implementing the program will result in very few Iowans’ being able to take advantage of the new choice cards. Its measure of distance for eligibility to use a non-VA facility is too narrow. The VA uses an ‘as the crow flies’ definition of 40 miles and counts every outpatient clinic even if it doesn’t offer the care the veteran needs and the veteran needs to drive a lot more than 40 miles to get that care. Unless the VA corrects its misinterpretation as called for in our letter, very few Iowa veterans are eligible for non-VA care based on the 40 mile rule. The VA should offer the flexibility Congress intended to make sure veterans receive what they need. If it doesn’t, Congress will need to pass legislation to get this fixed.”
The letter Grassley and fellow senators sent to the Department of Veterans of Affairs is available here.