Travel reimbursement to VA Health Care Appointments through this office is not an “entitlement.”
We try to provide this benefit service to our veterans the best we can. One way or another we assist all veterans in collecting VA health care travel money either from the VA or from our Colorado Veterans Trust Fund Grant money.
At times, like right now, there are delays in obtaining our grant money, as many of you are aware, and are very patient about. We should have travel money again in about 30 days or so.
However, travel money from the VA in Albuquerque or from this VSO office should not be a “money making deal.” It is supposed to cover your costs of travel and over night lodging.
Some veterans who are service-connected disabled, low income, or other special considerations, receive travel pay from Albuquerque VAMC. Other veterans that do not have these qualifications do not receive travel pay from Albuquerque VAMC. In those cases we try to provide money to pay their travel costs from our local Grant money.
$177 travel pay
Currently the VA is paying our veterans about $177 for a round trip to Albuquerque VAMC, and $44 for a trip to Durango, if they are eligible as mentioned above. However, this travel pay amount was based on $5 a gallon for gas, and gas is now about $2.60 or so a gallon. It only costs about $50-$60 for a round trip, so the veteran is netting a profit of over $100 for a trip to Albuquerque.
I try to normalize our grant money reimbursement for the same trip based on current fuel costs, which I have set in recent months at $75, still plenty of money to cover the trip costs with maybe a little left over, depending on your vehicle. If the price of gas goes up, I increase the reimbursement, etc.
Additionally, the Albuquerque VAMC can provide overnight accommodations at a local motel or the “Hero’s Hall” at the medical facility if they have rooms available. However, if they do not have rooms available the veteran must pay for the room, regardless of their travel pay eligibility (at a reduced veterans’ rate of about $50).
It stands to reason that if the veteran received $177 for travel pay, and ends up also paying for a motel room from that money, they are still money ahead: $75 (gas) plus $50 (motel) is $125. This is certainly more than a fair responsibility of the veteran.
If the veteran is not eligible for travel pay from the VA, than they can see me at the VSO office and received $75 for gas plus $50 for a motel room, which will more than cover their travel costs.
Bottom line is if you receive travel pay from the VA, then any overnight motel bill is also your responsibility from that money. If you are not eligible for travel money from the VA than see me and I will cover your travel costs for gas and motel.
If you are not sure whether you are eligible for VA travel pay you may call Albuquerque VAMC at (800) 465-8262, Ext. 2421, and they can tell you in advance of your trip if you are eligible for travel pay. If you’re not eligible, see me.
I will also assist you with determining your eligibility or filing any travel pay requests to the VA.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is running a VAHC van from Durango on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call Mike Dunaway, 247-2198, and from the Farmington area on Mondays and Wednesdays, call Harriet Mulnix, (505) 793-1782.
Durango VA Clinic
The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, CO 81301 (the old Mercy Medical Center). Phone number is 247-2214.
For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs, and for filing in the VSO office.