Did you know that you could get paid for your travel expenses to VA appointments? You sure can! The VA offers travel reimbursement for mileage, lodging, and meals if you qualify. This travel reimbursement if available for Veterans and eligible caretakers. Below we’ll explain the program and how you can get reimbursed.
First we’ll discuss eligibility and filing a claim. Generally, healthcare travel reimbursement covers expenses for eligible Veterans and their caretakers. The travel reimbursement includes transportation via car, plane, train, bus, taxi, or light rail. It also can include meals and lodging expenses. Alcohol is not included.
Filing a Travel Reimbursement Claim
Claims are usually filed online through the beneficiary travel self-service system. If you don’t have access to a computer or internet service, you can file via mail or fax. You can also take the travel reimbursement form to the VA facility and hand it to the person at the front desk. Just make sure you get a receipt if you don’t use the online portal. Also make sure to get some confirmation that you sent it. Do this via a fax cover sheet or be sure to send it via certified mail if you choose to mail it.
Qualifying for Travel Reimbursement
In order to qualify for VA travel reimbursement, you have to be traveling for care at a VA vacility or approved care at a non-VA healthcare facility. Make sure that you check with the VA first if you’re using a provider outside of the VA healthcare system. Get confirmation that it’s approved and that you will still be reimbursed. Otherwise, you might not be covered.
You must have a disability rating of 30% or higher. But if you’re traveling for treatment of a service-connected condition, you could still qualify if your rating is less than 30%. It has to be for a service-connected disability or condition though. Also if you receive VA pension, also known as Aid & Attendance, you would qualify.
You can also qualify for travel reimbursement if your income is below the maximum annual VA pension rate. If you’re a single Veteran, the monthly pension rate is $2,100. If you’re monthly income is consistently below that on an annual basis, then you could qualify for travel reimbursement.
Additionally, you’ll qualify for travel reimbursement if you’re traveling for one of these three reasons. If you are traveling for a VA C&P exam, you would qualify. If you have PTSD and you’re traveling to get a service dog, you would qualify. If you’re traveling for VA-approved transplant care, you would qualify for travel reimbursement.
Caregiver Travel Reimbursement
What happens if take a caregiver with you? Can they get reimbursed? The VA can and sometimes does pay caregivers for transportation, lodging, and meals. But the caregivers have to meet certain criteria. And also remember that the meals don’t include alcohol.
At least one of these must be true for the caregiver to be reimbursed. The person must be your family caregiver under the National Caregiver Program and they’re traveling with you for training or support of your care. The caregiver is your medically-required attendant and has to travel with you. Or if the caregiver is your transplant care donor or support person, they can get reimbursed.
Important Timelines for Applying
Before filing your first claim, you would ideally setup your account on the online VA Access portal. The VA prefers this method because they can direct deposit the travel reimbursement into your bank account. If you’re not computer literate or don’t have a bank account, you can always go the paper route. If you hand deliver your claim to the VA facility, make sure you get a receipt of submission from the staff there.
Make sure you keep all your receipts for transportation, lodging, and meals. Track your mileage to and from all appointments with a log book so that you have it written on paper. Be sure to file your claim on time or else you won’t get paid. You must file the claim within 30 days of your appointment. I’ve had Veterans come to me with six months of travel expenses that they want to submit, and I have to give them the bad news that they’re only going to get reimbursed for those expenses within 30 days of the appointment.
Once you file your claim via the online portal or via the paper form, the VA will process that claim. They’ll look at the receipts you submitted and verify your eligibility for travel reimbursement. Once approved, they’ll deposit funds via direct deposit if you’ve used the online portal. If you don’t have a bank account, they can also mail a check for the travel reimbursement.
Special Rules and Regulations
If you have a special disability or you’re going to an inpatient rehab center, you can get reimbursed. But you have to be inpatient and you have to get the temporary lodging pre-approved by the VA. This would include clinics that provide care for spinal cord injuries, vision loss, blindness, prosthetics, and more.
In our area Veterans have access to free transportation to the VA facility in Gainesville, FL. If you’re using that free transportation service, you can’t get reimbursed for that. You can get travel reimbursement for the mileage from your house to the area where the free transportation starts. But don’t try to cheat the VA and claim mileage on free transportation. That’s not the right thing to do.
What if you’re traveling with another Veteran to an appointment? Are you both eligible for travel reimbursement? It depends on whose vehicle you are using. Only the owner of the vehicle can claim mileage for reimbursement. But if you’re splitting the cost of gas, both of you can be reimbursed. Or if both of you are splitting a taxi or other form of public transportation, then you both can get reimbursed.
If you’re a Veteran and need transportation by ambulance, wheelchair van, or some other special kind of vehicle, then you would be covered under a special mode of transportation reimbursement program through the VA. For the special mode of transportation exemption, you have to be traveling for care at a VA facility or a VA-approved healthcare facility in your community. The VA healthcare provider will determine if your medical condition requires special transportation and they have to approve that in advance. If you need emergency transportation, notify the VA within 72 hours of transport.
Contact Us So We Can Help!
If you need assistance with VA travel reimbursement for yourself, a fellow Veteran, or a caregiver, you can complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. We’ll ensure that you have all the correct documentation to get paid for your travel expenses to VA appointments.
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