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VA Changes 40-Miles Rule For Private Medical Care


And we have an update on a story we brought to you earlier this month about veterans and health care. Vets are allowed to go outside the VA system for care if they have to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Steve Walsh of Lakeshore Public Media in northwest Indiana had our original story. He reports now on the VA's announcement yesterday that they have changed their 40-mile rule.

STEVE WALSH, BYLINE: Veteran's Choice, the new VA program, measured 40 miles from a veteran's front door to the nearest VA clinic or hospital in a straight line, as the crow flies. Now the VA will measure 40 miles based on actual driving distance. It hopes ditching the crow fly's measure will make more veterans eligible for the program. The new rule won't fix a different problem. Some vets live near a VA facility, like a small clinic, but they need care somewhere else. That nearby clinic disqualifies them from going outside the VA. That troubled John Birdzell, who I met when I first reported this story.


JOHN BIRDZELL: It's kind of mind-boggling to me that you get on a bus to go to Chicago to have things as simple as blood work and simple X-rays done.

WALSH: Birdzell drives veterans to the VA clinic in Crown Point, Ind. just so they can catch a bus to the big VA hospital in Chicago. He'll still be doing that under the new 40-mile measure. But the VA hopes there may not be quite as many people in his van. For NPR News, I'm Steve Walsh in Merrillville, Ind. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a military reporter, Steve Walsh delivers stories and features for TV, radio and the web.