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Sen. Franken Successfully Presses to Help Vets Who Live Far from VA Facilities Get Timely, Quality Care

As VA Implements New Reform Measures in Wake of Scandal, Sen. Franken Asked for Greater Flexibility for Vets to Get Their Care

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

After a press from U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) earlier this month to allow veterans who live burdensomely far from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility to get treated by out-of-system healthcare providers, the VA has come out with a new decision to give veterans more flexibility to get timely, quality care.

Under the legislation passed in the wake of last year's VA scandal, a provision was implemented to let veterans who live 40 miles or more from a VA facility get care from qualified, non-VA providers. Unfortunately, the 40-mile distance was interpreted "as the crow flies"—that is, in a straight line rather than in driving distance. This failed to take into account the actual distance that veterans have to travel to get care.

In a letter he sent earlier this month, which you can read here, Sen. Franken pressed VA to address this problem and ensure that more veterans in Minnesota and across the country can get better access to timely, high-quality care. Today, the VA announced it will calculate eligibility for non-VA care to take in account the concerns that Sen. Franken raised.

"We know that our veterans' battles often don't end when they return home," said Sen. Franken. "Too many return with mental and physical disabilities as a result of protecting our freedoms, and all they expect in return for their service is for our nation to keep its promises and get them the care they need. That's why, after hearing from veterans and veterans service organizations across Minnesota, I pressed to fix a problem that prevented many of our veterans from getting suitable care when they live far from a VA facility. I'm pleased that the VA has responded positively to give veterans more flexibility to get high-quality, timely care, and I will keep pushing to ensure that the VA reform bill is implemented in the best possible way for all of our veterans."

The change is expected to be made in the upcoming weeks and will allow many more veterans in Minnesota and across the country to become eligible for non-VA care.

You can download a copy of the letter that Sen. Franken sent to the VA earlier this month here.


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