When the Veterans Choice Program began in November 2014, one of the primary rules for eligibility was that a veteran had to live more than 40 miles from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facility. Within the first six months since the program began, the VA found a lower-than-expected number of appointments through the program.
Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program found that the 40-mile rule used a straight line to calculate distance from residence to VA center. The driving reality for many veterans could be double that distance depending on the terrain and roads available between the veteran’s home and the clinic or hospital.
Due to this issue, the VA is changing the clinic distance rule, using driving distance instead of straight line distance. The Veterans Choice Program administration will use a commercial product to determine eligibility in the next few weeks. VA officials expect the change to allow access to private care choices to double the amount of veterans already eligible for the program.
Last month, U.S. senators brought to light an issue plaguing several veterans who were ineligible for the Veterans Choice Program due to living too close to a VA clinic, but the nearest clinic did not provide the care they needed. Another rule change is in the works to allow veterans to see private practitioners when the VA clinic near their home does not provide those necessary services.
Since the program began nearly five months ago, vets have made more than 45,000 private care appointments. Veterans living more than 40 miles from a VA facility or those who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment are eligible for care outside of the VA system.
Meanwhile, special disability benefits are available for many veterans injured in combat or who suffered disabling conditions due to their military service. If you would like help with a disability benefits claim, contact Veterans Help Group® for assistance. Call 1-855-855-8992.