Travel Reimbursement from the VHA

Table of Contents

1. Purpose
2. Eligibilty For Travel Reimbursement
3. Reimbursement Rate For Veterans (Before Deductible) – Car Travel
4. Distance Calculations
5. Deductible
6. Tolls And Parking
7. Reimbursement Rate For Veterans (Before Deductible) – Bus Travel
8. Reduced Bus Fare Requests
9. Meals And Lodging
10. Reimbursement Of Attendants
11. Application Procedure for Reimbursement
12. Additional Details

1.  PURPOSE: To explain travel reimbursement for VHA health care as it applies to veterans and their families.

2.  ELIGIBILTY FOR TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT*:

–   Veterans rated 30% or more SC for travel relating to any condition
–   Veterans rated less than 30% for travel relating to their SC condition
–   Veterans receiving VA pension benefits for all conditions
–   Veterans with annual income below the maximum applicable annual rate of pension for all conditions
–   Veterans who can present clear evidence that they are unable to defray the cost of travel
–   Veterans traveling in relation to a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination and when VA has determined that a deficiency in lab, EKG, x-ray etc. exists in relation to a C&P exam (“Convenience of the Government”)
–   Certain veterans in certain emergency situations
–   Certain non-veterans when related to care of a veteran (attendants & donors)

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3.  REIMBURSEMENT RATE FOR VETERANS (Before Deductible) – CAR TRAVEL: Effective November 17, 2008, VA reimburses 41.5 cents per mile for ALL veteran travel meeting the eligibility criteria in Paragraph 2.

4.  DISTANCE CALCULATIONS: In May 2012, Wilkes-Barre’s VA Medical Center’s policy on beneficiary travel was revised to calculate travel reimbursement by mileage (address of the residence to the address of the point of VA Service) rather than zip code to zip code (residence to VAMC), unless the zip code to zip code method gives the greater benefit to the veteran.

Note:  Veterans have the choice to go to any VA facility they choose for care. However, travel can only be authorized to the nearest VA facility or authorized VA-provider facility that can provide the needed care. Therefore, should a veteran choose to go to another facility than that closest to his home, they are responsible for any costs beyond that for transportation to the nearest facility.

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5.  DEDUCTIBLE:  Effective January 9, 2009 the Beneficiary Travel deductible was reduced to $3.00 per one way trip; $6.00 for a round trip; with a maximum deductible of $18.00 per calendar month, regardless of whether or not the condition being treated is service-connected.

Notes:
–  The $18.00 is the total monthly deductible amount for travel to all VA facilities.
–  Regardless of the deductible amount withheld per trip, deductible requirements end after 6 one-way (3 round) trips in a calendar month.
–  When multiple VA facilities are used, each facility must inquire of the others to determine if the deductible has been met.

Exemptions:
–  Veterans traveling in conjunction with a C&P examination,
–  Non-veteran donors
–  Veterans requiring a special mode of transportation such as an ambulance or wheel chair van
–  Deductible  would cause a severe financial hardship (see “Waivers” and 38 CFR § 70.31(c))

6.  TOLLS AND PARKING:  Reimbursement for these and/or other accessories of travel may be provided upon presentation of an appropriate receipt. Reimbursement is based on a case-by-case basis and the individual needs and condition of the beneficiary.

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7.  REIMBURSEMENT RATE FOR VETERANS (Before Deductible) – BUS TRAVEL: Like for car travel, the VA reimburses ALL veteran travel meeting the eligibility criteria in Paragraph 2.  The cost of the bus fare will be reimbursed from the point of pick up.  However, the maximum travel distance allowed one way is between the home address and the facility where VA care is provided/authorized. Monthly bus passes will also be reimbursed if also used for VA treatment.  Like with car travel, the deductible rules in Paragraph 5  apply (note the exemptions).  Therefore, the veteran needs to present all tickets/ticket invoices at the time of application (See Paragraph 11 below). For problems, please contact Christine O’Donnell, Assistant Chief of the Business Office at Wilkes-Barre VAMC, at 1-877-928-2621 x7308.

8.  REDUCED BUS FARE REQUESTS: Printed reduced-fare requests for use by eligible beneficiaries and their attendants when traveling at their own expense to or from any VA facility or VA-authorized facility for authorized VA health care are available from any VA medical facility. Beneficiaries may use these request forms to ask transportation providers, such as bus companies, for a reduced fare. Whether to grant a reduced fare is determined by the transportation provider.

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9.  MEALS AND LODGING:  VA may provide reimbursement for the actual cost up to 50% of the government employee rate for meals and/or lodging, when appropriate. The need for such costs should be determined on a case-by-case basis and based upon the veteran’s medical condition, distance required to travel, and any other extenuating circumstances. Such items should be requested and authorized in advance of travel. Reimbursement should not be provided solely because the veteran chooses to stop or take a less direct route to the VA facility.

10. REIMBURSEMENT OF ATTENDANTS: VA has the authority to pay for transportation and associated incidental costs (lodging, food, etc.) at VA expense of certain non-veterans.  This includes when it is clinically determined by a VA provider that due to the veteran’s mental or physical condition that an attendant is required when transporting the veteran.

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11. APPLICATION PROCEDURE FOR REIMBURSEMENT:  A claimant may apply for beneficiary travel orally or in writing but must provide VA the receipt for each expense other than for mileage. Submit the information to the Chief of the Business Office or other designee at the VA medical facility responsible for the medical care or services being provided and for which travel is required.  VA facilities no longer reimburse on the spot except for exceptional circumstances. The Wilkes-Barre VA system switched to direct deposit in the Fall of 2012 (except for emergencies).  The VA ceased issuing paper checks on 1 March 2013, as mandated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Rumors have circulated that there is a 1% transaction fee.  This is untrue.

–  Without a Special Mode of Transportation: Apply within 30 calendar days after completing travel.
–  With a Special Mode of Transportation:  Apply but obtain approval from VA prior to the travel.  No time limit specified.
–  Emergency treatment:  If there has been an emergency treatment and the claimant applies for payment of Beneficiary Travel (without prior approval) within 30 calendar days after the travel is completed, the application will be considered timely submitted.
–  Eligible within 30 days of travel: If a person becomes eligible for Beneficiary Travel after the travel takes place, payment may be made if the person applies for travel benefits within 30 days of the date when the person became eligible for travel benefits.

12. ADDITIONAL DETAILS:  Primary sources were:

–  http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/library/faqs/benetravelfaq.asp#eligible (inactivated; accessed 1 September 2011)
–  replaced by http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/BeneTravelFAQ.asp (accessed 25 July 2013)
–  http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/access/Beneficiary_travel.asp (accessed 25 July 2013)
–  38USC111
–  38CFR70.31
–  http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/Library/pubs/BeneficiaryTravel/BeneficiaryTravel.pdf  (inactivated, accessed 1 September 2011)

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Footnotes:  * Other federal employees and former allies may be reimbursed if an arrangement for service  has been made.

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Last Updated:  26 July 2013 (Bus Travel Rules, link)

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