The Veterans Benefits Administration is making changes to its Beneficiary Travel Pay program policies within VA Vocational Rehabilitation (VR&E) governed by M28R VR&E Manual due to pay out problems. The reason for the change is that 25% of all errors in the travel pay system indicate payment to veterans who are not eligible for travel pay.
The Veterans Benefits Administration has decided VA Form 3542 will replace the existing M28R, Part V, Section B, Chapter 6 procedure for travel pay in the near future to correct the problem.
Travel pay may only be authorized when a veteran is reporting for an initial evaluation, reevaluation, or counseling appointment. Travel pay will not be authorized for scheduled case management appointments or annual review appointments.
Further, case managers (Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors) are authorized to approve travel pay for veterans who come in without scheduled appointments or for a scheduled appointment with the following purpose: 1) when the case manager concludes the veteran is in need of vocational or personal adjustment counseling, and; 2) the case manager provides that counseling during the meeting. Such counseling must be documented in the VA Form 1905d or in a Corporate WINRS (CWINRS) note.
Moving forward, travel pay is therefore authorized for the exact distance of the travel from the veteran’s home to the place of the counseling. This means the distance will be calculated door-to-door rather than zip code-to-zip code.
Travel pay for meals and lodging may also be approved if overnight travel is required. Overnight travel is considered when the recipient travels distances that take longer than 12 hours to accomplish. This means 12 hours round trip.
Here is the text from the bulletin I received:
CHAPTER 31 BENEFICIARY TRAVEL PAY 02-10-15Procedures regarding payment of Beneficiary Travel (BT) may be found in M28R.V.B.6. VA Form 3542 will soon be replaced by a VBA form that will be used to process Beneficiary Travel and the field will be notified when the new form is available. Recent Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act (IPERA) audits indicate that approximately 25% of all noted errors are related to the payment of BT to Veterans who are not eligible to receive BT payments.
VR&E staff may only authorize BT when the individual is reporting for an initial evaluation, reevaluation, or counseling appointment and must not authorize BT for scheduled case management appointments and/or annual review appointments at any time. VR&E must only authorize payment of BT for a Veteran who comes in without a scheduled appointment, or for a scheduled case management appointment, when the case manager determines that the Veteran was in need of and was provided personal or vocational adjustment counseling. This determination must be documented on VA Form (VAF) 1905d or in a Corporate WINRS (CWINRS) note.
When VR&E asks a Veteran to report for an initial evaluation, a reevaluation, or a counseling appointment (including personal or vocational adjustment counseling), payment of travel expenses must be authorized to and from the place of evaluation and counseling (i.e., door-to-door not zip-to-zip code). BT is not tied to a specific case status and meals and lodging may be approved if overnight travel is required (i.e., travel beyond 12 hours).
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Benjamin Krause is an award winning investigative journalist, attorney, and disabled veteran of the US Air Force, where he served in its Special Operations Command. He wrote his guide, the Voc Rehab Survival Guide for Veterans, after winning his long fight for benefits against VA to help other veterans do the same. Benjamin is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota Law School using VA Vocational Rehabilitation.