(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Committee members Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to cut red tape on its volunteer driver certification process, also known as the Volunteer Transportation Network (VTN), to assist veterans traveling to and from health care appointments.
In January 2021, the Senate passed the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, which required the Department to establish a national policy regarding medical exams required to certify volunteer drivers for the VTN no later than 90 days following its passage. As of June 1, 2022 VA has not completed this requirement.
“In rural areas across the country, a pressing concern of veterans is access to transportation to get to and from appointments,” the Senators wrote to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “This is especially true for veterans unable to drive themselves to and from medical appointments for financial or medical reasons. The VTN has stepped in to fill that gap, with the DAV [Disabled American Veterans] providing volunteer drivers, and even covering costs. Despite the difference these efforts make for veterans, the DAV continues to struggle to receive reciprocal support from VA, which is not certifying volunteer drivers in a timely manner.”
In the letter, the Senators highlighted various instances where red tape prevents VTN drivers from helping veterans access the care they need and earned. This includes drivers failing to receive a response from the Department regarding necessary paperwork to participate in the program and prolonged wait times for physical exams required to become certified as a volunteer driver.
They continued, “We are calling on VA to quickly develop and disseminate a straightforward, standardized and timely process for certifying volunteer drivers…Once this process is finalized, VA should undergo a concerted effort to not only disseminate the updated guidance, but also seek out and recruit volunteers, especially those who began the certification process but discontinued it after facing too much bureaucracy to continue.”
Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.