[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) led the introduction of legislation that would mandate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reimburse veterans’ emergency health care expenses from non-VA facilities that are not covered by the veteran’s private insurance. This bicameral legislation follows the 2016 Staab v. McDonald and 2019 Wolfe v. Wilkie decisions, both ruling that the VA must reimburse veterans for these emergency medical expenses.
“This bill compels the VA to pay for emergency care—as it should have done long ago without a new law,” said Blumenthal. “It’s simple fairness and common sense that emergency care should be covered, at a time when care is most critical, just like other medical treatment. Two separate courts have found the VA to be acting illegally as it continues to deny paying for hundreds of thousands of veterans’ emergency room care. Congress must step in to right this legal and moral failure, ensuring our veterans get the support they deserve.”
“No veteran should ever have to worry about whether they can afford costly medical expenses, especially when it comes to an emergency,” said Dingell. “Yet, the VA is currently disregarding court rulings and continuing to deny veterans’ reimbursement claims for any non-VA emergency medical expense. With the Veterans Emergency Care Reimbursement Act, we can address this inexcusable issue head-on and ensure that those who put their lives on the line for us are receiving the proper support and care they deserve through the VA.”
Hundreds of thousands of veterans apply each year to the VA for reimbursement of emergency medical care expenses at non-VA facilities. The VA has always reimbursed emergency care expenses incurred by veterans who do not have health insurance. However, for over a decade the VA has refused to pay for emergency care expenses if the veterans have other health insurance. This leaves insured veterans on the hook to pay deductibles and coinsurance, which can amount to thousands of dollars for just one episode of care.
The legislation has been co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) in the Senate.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), Paralyzed Veterans of America, and America’s Warrior Partnership.
“We are grateful for the commitment and efforts of Senators Blumenthal and Rep. Dingell and Members of Congress to introduce this bill to right a terrible wrong for the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have endured needless financial hardships because of the VA’s illegal treatment of their emergency reimbursement claims,” said NVLSP Executive Director Paul Wright.
The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here. The House introduced a similar version of the legislation.