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Congressman Ralph Abraham

Representing the 5th District of Louisiana

Abraham applauds changes to Veterans Choice Program, but demands more for our heroes

March 24, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, applauded the decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to amend the 40-mile rule in the Veterans Choice Program, but he says more work needs to be done to ensure America’s heroes have better access to the care they need.

The Veterans Choice Program was announced in 2014 to increase veterans’ access to healthcare by allowing them to visit certain community health care facilities if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. It provides veterans with an alternative to waiting unreasonable lengths of time for an appointment at a VA facility.

The VA announced it will now calculate eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program by using driving distance from a veteran’s residence to the nearest VA facility. Previously, the VA determined eligibility for the program by using a straight line distance from the veteran’s home to the facility, otherwise known as “as the crow flies.”

“The change to this program will directly benefit veterans in rural areas because it will expand the number of health care facilities where they can receive treatment. Today’s announcement is a good first step in making sure the Veterans Choice Program is working for those who need it most. No veteran should be forced to drive hundreds of miles just to see a doctor,” Dr. Abraham said.

The Veterans Choice Program was authorized by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 as Congress sought to correct some of the dysfunction inherent in the VA. The change in the program’s 40-mile rule is expected to double the number of veterans who are eligible for the program.

As a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Dr. Abraham has continually pushed for common sense solutions to make the Veterans Choice Program work for veterans, not the VA. He has repeatedly questioned VA officials about the program to find ways to improve it, and he has called for expanding the program to give veterans more health care options.

“While I am encouraged by the announced changes to the Veterans Choice Program, it doesn’t go as far as it needs to go. We must ensure those in the VA system have access to adequate care facilities that can provide the specific services the veteran may need. Further expanding the facility options for the veteran can go a long way in making sure our heroes get the care they need,” Dr. Abraham said.