May 22, 2015

Wyden Bill To Help Veterans Passes Senate

Legislation Benefits Veterans Needing to Travel Long Distances For Health Care

Washington, D.C . – A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would expand access to health care for veterans who live far away from VA facilities passed the Senate today.

The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 that Senator Wyden strongly supported last year was interpreted by the VA to enable veterans to seek local care only if they live more than 40 miles from any VA facility.  The legislation passed today expands many veterans’ healthcare options by making veterans eligible for community care if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility that offers the specific care they need. 

“Last year’s VA reform law sent a clear message that veterans shouldn’t have to wait months for care or drive hundreds of miles,” Wyden said. “I am gratified that today the Senate took another important step to make that commitment a reality for veterans in Oregon and around the country.’’

The Senate also passed separate legislation today to clarify that the 40-mile criteria should mean 40 miles travelled, not 40 miles in a straight line.  At the urging of Senator Wyden and others, the VA announced earlier this year that it would make this needed change. Today’s bill makes that decision permanent.

The legislation also gives the VA more flexibility to determine that veterans within 40 miles of VA care still face geographic or environmental hurdles to get access for purposes of being eligible for health care.