The Massachusetts congressional delegation on Thursday sent a letter to the US Department of Veterans Affairs expressing concern about reports of veterans being sent to medical appointments at facilities far from their homes and across New England state lines.
In their letter to Secretary-Designate of Veteran Affairs Denis McDonough, the state’s two US senators and nine representatives wrote that a “veteran from outside Boston reported being sent to Western Massachusetts for his appointment, a 206-mile and 4-hour round trip.”
Massachusetts veterans have also reported being sent to Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire for care or physical examinations, “including a veteran with Multiple Sclerosis who had to drive 210 miles round trip in a blizzard to an appointment in Connecticut,” according to the legislators.
The letter was signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and Representatives Katherine Clark, Richard E. Neal, James P. McGovern, Stephen Lynch, William R. Keating, Seth Moulton, Ayanna Pressley, Lori Trahan, and Jake Auchincloss.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
The lawmakers wrote that sending veterans great distances for medical care violates the federal MISSION Act, which says “a veteran can receive care closer to their home if the closest VA care is more than a 30-minute drive for standard care and a 60-minute drive for specialty care.”
Some veterans who object to long treks have reportedly been marked “no shows” for their appointments, which could jeopardize their disability compensation, they wrote.
“We know this pandemic has created many challenges to providing veterans quality health care, and we know that resources at many hospitals grow scarce as the number of COVID cases continue to rise,” the legislators wrote. “However, forcing veterans, who are often critically vulnerable to the risk of infection, to cross state lines or travel great distances is not an appropriate solution.”
Michael Durham, Medford’s director of veterans services, said he supports the lawmakers’ inquiry.
“Inflexibility of third-party appointment schedulers compounded by the large distances traveled to multiple mandatory medical screening appointments has proven to be a severe obstacle for even young Veterans to overcome in pursuing VA benefits,” Durham, an Army veteran, said in a statement provided by Clark’s office.
Original story here.