- The US Department of Veterans Affairs will relax a rule to make it easier for veterans, particularly those in rural areas, to access government-reimbursed private health care.
- The Veterans Choice Program lets veterans access private care if their wait times are longer than 30 days or if they live more than 40 miles away from a VA health-care facility.
- The VA originally measured the 40 miles in a straight line from a VA facility, even if winding roads and geographic barriers made the actual trip far longer. The VA's announced change on Tuesday makes it so the 40 miles are instead measured by driving distance. The change is expected to double how many veterans can use the Veterans Choice Program, according to the Associated Press.
- The Veterans Choice Program was established by Congress last year in response to a massive VA scandal, when VA health-care administrators falsified veterans' wait-time records to receive bonus payments.
Watch Jon Stewart explain why this change was needed
The VA announced the change after The Daily Show's Jon Stewart ran a segment on Monday blasting the agency's method of measuring 40 miles, which was dubbed the "as-the-crow-flies" standard. "That is the least meaningful way to judge how hard it is to get somewhere for non-crows," Stewart said.
Stewart took some credit for the change on Tuesday, but the Military Times reported that veterans groups and Congress had also been putting pressure on the VA to relax its rules. But Stewart's "investigative joke-alism," as he called it, likely helped expand awareness of the issue.
The Veterans Choice Program still doesn't let veterans get advanced care at private clinics or hospitals if they live within 40 miles of any VA facility, even if the facility doesn't offer the advanced care they need. VA officials said letting those veterans get advanced care will require Congress to change the law.