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Gus Bilirakis Introduces Bill to Let Veterans Continue in VA Travel Reimbursement Program

This week, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., introduced the “Preserving Access to Patient Reimbursement Act (PAPR Act).”

The bill “will ensure all veterans, throughout the nation, continue to be able to fully participate in the travel reimbursement program.”

The congressman’s office offered some of the reasons why he introduced the bill.

“In late July of 2023, Congressman Bilirakis began receiving calls from concerned veterans throughout his district who were upset about newly announced changes to the VA Travel Reimbursement program. The announced changes required all travel reimbursement forms to be submitted online. Under the previous policy, online submissions were encouraged, but paper forms were available for those veterans who did not have access to a computer, internet connectivity, or did not have the capability to navigate the online portal. Congressman Bilirakis’s Veterans Advisory Committee reinforced the problematic nature of this policy change – as several senior veterans in the most rural parts of Florida’s 12th Congressional District don’t have access to broadband. Many of these same veterans are forced to drive up to thirty miles each way to access VA health care, sometimes multiple times per week. These veterans rely upon the travel reimbursement program to be able to afford that commute to their doctor appointments. Immediately upon learning of this situation, Congressman Bilirakis reached out to James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital leadership to share his concerns. Together, local VA officials and Congressman Bilirakis were able to work out an arrangement to ensure paper forms were still accepted for those who could not access the online portal,” the congressman’s office noted.

“However, the congressman was later advised that the VA had implemented a nationwide directive to disallow the use of paper forms starting with Fiscal Year 2024. When this occurs, the local VA Center will not have access to a mechanism to process paper forms. The congressman believes this is completely unacceptable and was the impetus for his filing of the PAPR Act,” Bilirakis’ office added.

“It is simply unconscionable that the VA would implement a nationwide policy that threatens to leave many of our most vulnerable veterans behind,” said Bilirakis. “By effectively eliminating access to the travel reimbursement program for some veterans, the VA is jeopardizing their ability to get the healthcare they’ve earned and deserve. While we are working to expand broadband connectivity throughout the country, there are still swaths that do not have access, including parts of my district. Also, many elderly veterans and those with physical impairments do not have the capability to navigate the online portal. All of these veterans deserve access to care and to the reimbursement program. I will not stop fighting until a commonsense solution to this manufactured problem is implemented.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, is co-sponsoring the bill.

“For many New Hampshire veterans, seeking VA care means traveling long distances across our state to reach a community-based outpatient clinic or VA hospital,” said Pappas. “We ought to make it easier for these veterans to receive the travel reimbursements they are owed, and I’m glad to partner with Congressman Bilirakis on this commonsense legislation to ensure reimbursement forms are available via mail and at all VA facilities – not just online.”

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

Author

  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Patricia Gauvreau

    October 8, 2023 at 11:34 am

    I am the spouse of one of the veterans relying on the paper submission form. Thank you for fighting for this right. There are times the VA tortures the veterans without meaning to, because older veterans are not as capable to stand up for what is important.
    It is important the ALL veterans , both young and old , are represented equally.

  2. Gary Simone

    October 8, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    Hey, I voted for Richard Nixon in 1968 and yet republicans took our SSA deduction as well as my VA disability and deducted from my Military Pension. If you want to help vets a bit more fight to get our disability benefits back with out stealing it from our pensions. Take care and God Bless 🙏🏻

  3. frank papcin

    October 9, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    I a veteran know that this program has already started where paper requests are NO LONGER PROVIDED– with the hope to reduce the amount of veterans getting anything screwing the veterans anyway they can

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