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Op-Ed: 1978 law denies VA patients the full benefit of travel reimbursement

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
September 15, 2017

When the VA Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement Program was signed into law almost 40 year ago, an over-eager, pencil-pushing bean-counter convinced a U.S. congressman that millions of dollars could be saved by imposing a “deductible” against travel claims for VA Patients. An additional amount could be saved by denying the VA the ability to make periodic increases to its reimbursement rate when the GSA increases the national travel reimbursement rate.

How much longer must VA patients be subjected to such an inequitable program?

The deductible and the inability to make increases to the reimbursement rate prevents VA patients from receiving the same travel reimbursement payments as government employees (including active duty military personnel).

Over the past four decades, efforts of several senators to make the VA Beneficiary Travel Reimbursement Program equitable were blocked. How can the government continue to justify imposing this unfair law on disabled veterans receiving health care from the VA? Just because eliminating the deductible and allowing the VA secretary to make periodic increases to its travel reimbursement rate (coinciding with increases made by the GSA) would increase the cost of providing health care to Veterans, it is blatantly unfair to deny the full benefit to only our VA patients.

We, the People, should convince our representatives in Washington, D.C., to correct this long-endured inequity. The “deductible” should be deleted and the VA secretary should be permitted to periodically increase its reimbursement rate to coincide with GSA increases.

Additionally, the former practice of paying VA patients travel reimbursements, in cash, on the same day as their appointments should be reinstated. Some needy patients need the reimbursements immediately, in order to afford their trips to VA clinics and hospitals.

Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring, Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, the USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.

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