WASHINGTON, D.C. - Adhering to Congressional mandate, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced improvements to its beneficiary travel program for veterans who must travel for VA health care. The VA increased the mileage reimbursement rate by 13 cents a mile and cut deductibles by more than half. The improvements were mandated in legislation introduced by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) that was included in S. 2162, the Veterans' Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, now Public Law (PL) 110-387.
"VA health care should be open and accessible to all veterans, not just those who live close to VA facilities. I am pleased VA is acting so that starting early next year, deductibles for one-way, round trip, and monthly travel will be cut by more than half."
"At the beginning of this Congress, mileage reimbursement for veterans traveling to receive health care had not increased since 1978 - nearly three decades ago. This increase, authorized by Congress, leaves veterans' mileage reimbursements over three times higher than the 2007 level," said Senator Akaka.
As provided for by PL 110-387, the deductibles for one-way and roundtrip travel will be set as follows: $3 for each one-way trip (from $7.77), and $6 per round trip (from $15.54). In addition, the monthly cap has been reduced to $18 (from $46.62). PL 110-387 also authorized VA to raise the veterans' mileage reimbursements above the rate given to federal employees when using their own vehicles, while setting that rate as a minimum. Earlier this year, the Majority members of the Committee recommended that VA's increase the rate to match the reimbursement for federal employees using government vehicles for official travel.
The change in the mileage reimbursement rate is effective November 17, 2008, while the deductible will go into effect January 9, 2009. The Secretary's announcement is published in today's Federal Register.