The Veterans Choice Program will use driving distance to determine the distance between a veteran’s residence and the nearest VA medical facility, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced today. The department expects to implement the policy change through an interim final rule in the coming weeks. Under the change, it said veterans who live less than 40 miles, straight-line distance, from the nearest VA medical facility but must drive more than 40 miles to get there would be eligible for the program. “We’ve determined that changing the distance calculation will help ensure more Veterans have access to care when and where they want it,” said Secretary Robert McDonald. “VA looks forward to the ongoing support of our partners as we continue to make improvements to this new program.” AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack praised today’s change. “Hospitals and health systems throughout the country want to serve their veteran community and give back to the brave Americans who have served our country,” he said. “AHA believes VA’s decision to consider driving distance is an important step in the right direction.” In written comments to the department earlier this month, AHA expressed concern that the VA’s interpretation of the 40-mile criterion unreasonably restricts many veterans’ ability to access health care, and offered suggestions for improving the program with respect to the mileage requirement, timely payment of claims, and contracting to provide care. According to a VA factsheet on the policy change, the distance criterion will remain 40 miles from any VA medical facility, rather than 40 miles from a VA facility that actually provides the care needed.