38 USC 111 - Payments or allowances for beneficiary travel

(a) Under regulations prescribed by the President pursuant to the provisions of this section, the Secretary may pay the actual necessary expense of travel (including lodging and subsistence), or in lieu thereof an allowance based upon mileage traveled, of any person to or from a Department facility or other place in connection with vocational rehabilitation, counseling required by the Secretary pursuant to chapter 34 or 35 of this title, or for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care. In addition to the mileage allowance authorized by this section, there may be allowed reimbursement for the actual cost of ferry fares, and bridge, road, and tunnel tolls.
(b) 
(1) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section and notwithstanding subsection (g)(2)(A) of this section or any other provision of law, if, with respect to any fiscal year, the Secretary exercises the authority under this section to make any payments, the Secretary shall make the payments provided for in this section to or for the following persons for travel during such fiscal year for examination, treatment, or care for which the person is eligible:
(A) A veteran or other person whose travel is in connection with treatment or care for a service-connected disability.

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(B) A veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 30 percent or more.
(C) A veteran receiving pension under section 1521 of this title.
(D) A veteran
(i)  whose annual income (as determined under section 1503 of this title) does not exceed the maximum annual rate of pension which would be payable to such veteran if such veteran were eligible for pension under section 1521 of this title, or
(ii)  who is determined, under regulations prescribed by the Secretary, to be unable to defray the expenses of the travel for which payment under this section is claimed.
(E) Subject to paragraph (3) of this subsection, a veteran or other person whose travel to or from a Department facility is medically required to be performed by a special mode of travel and who is determined under such regulations to be unable to defray the expenses of the travel for which payment under this section is claimed.
(F) A veteran whose travel to a Department facility is incident to a scheduled compensation and pension examination.
(2) The Secretary may make payments provided for in this section to or for any person not covered by paragraph (1) of this subsection for travel by such person for examination, treatment, or care. Such payments shall be made in accordance with regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe.
(3) 
(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B) of this paragraph, the Secretary shall not make payments under this section for travel performed by a special mode of travel unless

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(i)  the travel by such mode is medically required and is authorized by the Secretary before the travel begins, or
(ii)  the travel by such mode is in connection with a medical emergency of such a nature that the delay incident to obtaining authorization from the Secretary to use that mode of travel would have been hazardous to the persons life or health.
(B) In the case of travel by a person to or from a Department facility by special mode of travel, the Secretary may provide payment under this section to the provider of the transportation by special mode before determining the eligibility of such person for such payment if the Secretary determines that providing such payment is in the best interest of furnishing care and services. Such a payment shall be made subject to subsequently recovering from such person the amount of the payment if such person is determined to have been ineligible for payment for such travel.
(c) 
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, the Secretary, in making a payment under this section to or for a person described in subparagraph (A), (B), (C), or (D) of subsection (b)(1) of this section for travel for examination, treatment, or care, shall deduct from the amount otherwise payable an amount equal to $3 for each one-way trip.
(2) In the case of a person who is determined by the Secretary to be a person who is required to make six or more one-way trips for needed examination, treatment, or care during the remainder of the calendar month in which the determination is made or during any subsequent calendar month during the one-year period following the last day of the month in which the determination is made, the amount deducted by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection from payments for trips made to or from such facility during any such month shall not, except as provided in paragraph (5) of this subsection, exceed $18.
(3) No deduction shall be made pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection in the case of a person whose travel to or from a Department facility is performed by a special mode of travel for which payment under this section is authorized under subsection (b)(3) of this section.
(4) The Secretary may waive the deduction requirement of paragraph (1) of this subsection in the case of the travel of any veteran for whom the imposition of the deduction would cause severe financial hardship. The Secretary shall prescribe in regulations the conditions under which a finding of severe financial hardship is warranted for purposes of this paragraph.
(5) Whenever the Secretary increases or decreases the rates of allowances or reimbursement to be paid under this section, the Secretary shall, effective on the date on which such increase or decrease takes effect, adjust proportionately the dollar amounts specified in paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection as such amounts may have been increased or decreased pursuant to this paragraph before such date.
(d) Payment of the following expenses or allowances in connection with vocational rehabilitation, counseling, or upon termination of examination, treatment, or care, may be made before the completion of travel:
(1) The mileage allowance authorized by subsection (a) of this section.
(2) Actual local travel expenses.
(3) The expense of hiring an automobile or ambulance, or the fee authorized for the services of a nonemployee attendant.
(e) When any person entitled to mileage under this section requires an attendant (other than an employee of the Department) in order to perform such travel, the attendant may be allowed expenses of travel upon the same basis as such person.
(f) The Secretary may provide for the purchase of printed reduced-fare requests for use by veterans and their authorized attendants when traveling at their own expense to or from any Department facility.
(g) 
(1) In carrying out the purposes of this section, the Secretary, in consultation with the Administrator of General Services, the Secretary of Transportation, the Comptroller General of the United States, and representatives of organizations of veterans, shall conduct periodic investigations of the actual cost of travel (including lodging and subsistence) to beneficiaries while traveling to or from a Department facility or other place pursuant to the provisions of this section, and the estimated cost of alternative modes of travel, including public transportation and the operation of privately owned vehicles. The Secretary shall conduct such investigations immediately following any alteration in the rates described in paragraph (3)(C) of this subsection, and, in any event, immediately following the enactment of this subsection and not less often than annually thereafter, and based thereon, shall determine rates of allowances or reimbursement to be paid under this section.
(2) In no event shall payment be provided under this section
(A) unless the person claiming reimbursement has been determined, pursuant to regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe, to be unable to defray the expenses of such travel (except with respect to a person receiving benefits for or in connection with a service-connected disability under this title, a veteran receiving or eligible to receive pension under section 1521 of this title, or a person whose annual income, determined in accordance with section 1503 of this title, does not exceed the maximum annual rate of pension which would be payable to such person if such person were eligible for pension under section 1521 of this title);
(B) to reimburse for the cost of travel by privately owned vehicle in any amount in excess of the cost of such travel by public transportation unless
(i)  public transportation is not reasonably accessible or would be medically inadvisable, or
(ii)  the cost of such travel is not greater than the cost of public transportation; and
(C) in excess of the actual expense incurred by such person as certified in writing by such person.
(3) In conducting investigations and determining rates under this section, the Secretary shall review and analyze, among other factors, the following factors:
(A) 
(i) Depreciation of original vehicle costs;
(ii) gasoline and oil costs;
(iii) maintenance, accessories, parts, and tire costs;
(iv) insurance costs; and
(v) State and Federal taxes.
(B) The availability of and time required for public transportation.
(C) The per diem rates, mileage allowances, and expenses of travel authorized under sections 5702 and 5704 of title 5 for employees of the United States.
(4) Before determining rates or adjusting amounts under this section and not later than sixty days after any alteration in the rates described in paragraph (3)(C) of this subsection, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Senate a report containing the rates and amounts the Secretary proposes to establish or continue with a full justification therefor in terms of each of the limitations and factors set forth in this section.
(h) The Secretary, in consultation and coordination with the Secretary of Transportation and appropriate representatives of veterans service organizations, shall take all appropriate steps to facilitate the establishment and maintenance of a program under which such organizations, or individuals who are volunteering their services to the Department, would take responsibility for the transportation, without reimbursement from the Department, to Department facilities of veterans (primarily those residing in areas which are geographically accessible to such facilities) who seek services or benefits from the Department under chapter 17 or other provisions of this title.