Senate Petitioning Change to Choice Card Eligibility Rules

Less than half a year has passed since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began issuing Veterans Choice Cards. Choice Cards allow veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic and those who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment to seek private sector care.

According to data from the VA, they have received nearly 500,000 inquires for Choice Cards, but only 30,000 have received private care appointments since November 2014. According to a report on MilitaryTimes.com, the issue may be with the 40-mile rule.

A survey conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars found that nearly 80 percent of veterans who believed they would qualify for private care were rejected. Many of these cases are due to the 40-mile rule, which only looks at whether or not there is a VA facility within 40 miles. The rule gives no regard to the type of services offered at the veteran’s nearest facility.

MilitaryTimes.com shared the story of Mark Gendron, an Air Force veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. His request to see a local psychiatrist for treatment was denied because he lives 12 miles from a VA clinic. However, that clinic does not have the means to properly treat his PTSD, and the nearest VA clinic that does is 70 miles away.

In response to situations like Gendron’s, 41 senators filed a petition with the VA to relax the 40-mile rule and take service availability into account along with geographic location. VA Secretary Bob McDonald is taking the matter to Congress for consideration. Meanwhile, veterans can request a “geographic burden” exception if they believe the 40-mile rule is unfairly blocking them from Choice Card benefits.

VA health services and comprehensive health care are just a few of the benefits veterans are entitled to after their military service. If you suffered a disabling injury or developed a serious medical condition while in service, you may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits. Contact Veterans Help Group® for assistance and support for your claim. Call today – 1-855-855-8992.