WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment, introduced by John Barrow (D-Savannah) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), to H.R. 6599, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2009. This amendment will prevent the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) from increasing the deductible that disabled veterans must pay in order to receive their mileage reimbursement when they travel to get medical treatment.
“I’ve been working to restore the full veterans mileage reimbursement benefit since I got to Congress, and the deductible is a big part of the problem,” said Barrow. “I won’t be satisfied until we get rid of the deductible altogether, and this is a big step in the right direction.”
Last year, the House adopted Barrow’s bill to eliminate the deductible and fully restore the reimbursement rate to the level paid to federal civil servants, but the Senate wouldn’t go along. Instead, the reimbursement rate was increased from 11 cents per mile to 28.5 cents per mile — the first increase in 30 years. However, the Secretary of the VA increased the deductible from $6 per round trip to over $15 per round trip.
Under the current bill, all veterans who currently get a travel expense reimbursement will get an increase from 28.5 cents per mile to 41.5 cents per mile. And the Barrow-Stupak amendment will prevent the Secretary of the VA from taking any of that back by increasing the deductible.
“We ought to do a better job taking care of those who gave us the best years of their lives taking care of us,” added Barrow. “This change won’t completely close the gap between what’s been promised and what’s being delivered, but it will definitely help.”