Too Little, Too Late

Responding to pressure from Congress and veterans groups, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relaxing a rule that makes it hard for some veterans in rural areas to prove they live at least 40 miles from a VA health site.

The relaxation consists of the VA using mapping facilities (vis., Google Maps) to measure actual driving miles rather than simply plotting straight line distances. Here’s Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald:

We’ve determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more veterans have access to care when and where they want it[.]

Well, NSS. Of course you’ve known that right along, but it’s good you’re finally acting on it.

The problem with this, though, is that what the Veterans Administration chooses to relax today it can choose to retighten tomorrow. In addition to that, this VA has in place most of the same bureaucratic leadership that’s been misbehaving right along, excepting only a couple of high profile resignations (not firings). They can’t be trusted.

Disband the VA, and use its erstwhile future budgets for vouchers with which our veterans can select their own doctors and medical facilities.

In the meantime, a suitable interim step would consist of Congress legislating the distance calculation while also legislating a shorter distance to travel—20 miles would be a better maximum. That would still be a 40-minute round trip on the open highway, and closer to 90 minutes’ time in ordinary city traffic. Most folks have other things to do with their time than sit in their cars for an hour and a half—or sit in someone else’s car if the veteran isn’t in a position to drive himself.

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