WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) heeded her call to expand veterans’ access to healthcare by modifying the calculation used to determine whether a veteran is eligible to receive care at a non-VA medical facility through the Veterans Choice Program.
“I’m pleased that the VA listened to the concerns of veterans across our country and will now use driving distance as opposed to straight line distance to determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “This common sense adjustment will help ensure more veterans have access to the timely, high-quality health care services they have earned and deserve.”
After spending a week on the road last month meeting with local veterans and listening to their priorities and concerns, Bustos and a bipartisan coalition sent a letter to VA Secretary McDonald urging the VA to modify the Veterans Choice Program to use driving distance as opposed to straight line distance to determine if a veteran is eligible to receive care at a non-VA facility. She received word today that the effort was successful and that the VA will use driving distance in its calculation to determine eligibility going forward. The change is expected to roughly double the number of eligible veterans.
The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, which Bustos voted for last year, established the Veterans Choice Program to expand access to non-VA healthcare for veterans residing more than 40 miles from a VA facility. However, until today, the VA had calculated this eligibility by using the straight line distance between the veteran’s residence and the nearest medical facility, not the actual driving distance.
Veterans seeking to use the Veterans Choice Program should call 1-866-606-8198 to confirm their eligibility and to schedule an appointment.