“It’s the ones that need it the most is the ones that they’re hurting the most,” says veteran Matt Magiera.
Come January, the way veterans are reimbursed for travel for medical care will change.
Many veterans in Northern Michigan travel to the Saginaw VA for treatment.
Some get reimbursed there in cash for their travel costs, but come the first of the year, they’ll be reimbursed differently.
9 and 10’s Megan Atwood and photojournalist John Harrington found out what veterans think of the change.
Beneficiary travel pay is a service many veterans rely on in Northern Michigan to get them to and from VA hospitals.
“The most important thing that I think our veterans need to be prepared for is they will be reimbursed, it’s just not right away, so if many of them are wanting to get that upon arrival at the Saginaw VA then they need to be prepared for that,” says Renee Haley, the Veteran Services Director for Wexford and Clare Counties.
At the start of the New Year, the Saginaw VA hospital is making the switch to a paperless and cashless system. Veterans won’t get reimbursed with cash on the spot, but instead with direct deposit. Saginaw is one of the last to make the switch.
“Our vision is several states combined that hasn’t done this yet. So they are going along, they have no choice actually it’s just a part of the federal program,” finishes Renee Haley.
And veterans are concerned about how this may affect their travels.
“The older veterans some of them only have enough gas money to get to the VA facility, especially up here in northern Michigan that drive down to Saginaw,” says veteran Matt Magiera.
Matt Magiera is the Post Commander at AM-Vets in Cadillac. He served in the air force for 30 years and uses the beneficiary travel program.
Magiera goes on, “I get 80 dollars for my travel pay to drive to Saginaw and back. Some of the guys I know, they need that money to get back home because they have just enough gas money to get them there.”
Vets will still get reimbursed, but it could take up to five days.
“It’s the modern era but it’s really bad for some of our older veterans,” concludes Magiera.
Only some veterans are eligible for this program, those with a lower income or with a service connected condition. This change will go into effect on January 1, 2017.