February 26, 2015

Manchin, Capito Urge VA to Upgrade Veterans Choice Card Program

Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined 40 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Robert McDonald to raise serious concerns about the implementation of the Veterans Choice Card program, which allows veterans who live 40 miles from the closest VA facility or who face a significant delay in scheduling an appointment to access non-VA care. However, many veterans in West Virginia and across the nation who face barriers to accessing care are still being excluded from this program. The program was created as part of the Veterans Choice, Access, and Accountability Act of 2014 that passed last year.

“The VA is construing the eligibility criteria as it relates to the 40-mile rule so narrowly that it is excluding too many who are far away from the care that they need,” wrote the bipartisan group of Senators. “While many Veterans are satisfied with care provided through the VA Health Care System, trips to VA medical centers can be difficult for rural veterans, especially those who are elderly or ill.  Because long drive times are a hardship for these individuals and can present a significant barrier to accessing care, many Veterans anticipated using their Choice Cards when Congress established the Choice Program last year.”

The Senators urged Secretary McDonald to make certain that funding provided by Congress is being used to implement the Veterans Choice Card Program to the fullest extent possible.

In addition to Senators Manchin and Capito, the letter was signed by Senators Collins (R-ME), Warner (D-VA), Kaine (D-VA), Moran (R-KS), McCain (R-AZ), King (I-ME), Grassley (R-IA), Markey (D-MA), Ernst (R-IA), Vitter (R-LA), Manchin (D-WV), Fischer (R-NE), Klobuchar (D-MN), Flake (R-AZ), Crapo (R-ID), Wyden (D-OR), Hatch (R-UT), Boxer (D-CA), Roberts (R-KS), Barrasso (R-WY), Brown (D-OH), Enzi (R-WY), Heitkamp (D-ND), Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD), Tillis (R-NC), Mikulski (D-MD), Toomey (R-PA), Heinrich (D-NM), Daines (R-MT), Inhofe (R-OK), Burr (R-NC), Alexander (R-TN), Thune (R-SD), Cotton (R-AR), Hoeven (R-ND), Cruz (R-TX), Merkley (D-OR), Kirk (R-IL), McCaskill (D-MO), Scott (R-SC), and Schatz (D-HI).