Wicker at work

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker brought it to the attention of the department that some veterans being treated at the VA facility in Columbus were being referred to the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA hospital in Jackson for further treatment. Although Jackson was 191 miles away, the Mississippi veterans were only being reimbursed for travel of 60 miles — the distance from Columbus to the VA facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Wicker said the VA office in Jackson made this reimbursement determination based on existing regulations that stated Tuscaloosa was the nearest VA that could have provided the service.

In a letter written last month to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Wicker said this was an inequity that needed to be fixed promptly.

“The end result is that my constituents are driving three times the distance and are only reimbursed for one-third of the trip,” wrote Wicker, an Air Force veteran and member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “If appropriate care can be provided at the Tuscaloosa, Alabama facility, why are these patients referred to a facility 191 miles away? If the Jackson VA medical center is the appropriate venue for further treatment, why are the patients not reimbursed for that trip?”

In a response last week, Secretary Shinseki wrote that the error had been fixed, and that VA staff had been directed to provide affected veterans with any additional reimbursement for which they may be eligible.