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Baldwin Joins Colleagues in Introducing Legislation Requiring the VA to Reimburse Veterans for Emergency Health Claims

Some veterans have been waiting over a decade to receive emergency care reimbursements

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) in introducing 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.

“It is unacceptable that veterans have to wait years, or even decades, to be reimbursed for costly emergency medical expenses,” said Baldwin. “This legislation would ensure that the hundreds of thousands of veterans who apply for reimbursements from non-VA facilities receive quick and efficient responses and are reimbursed for emergency medical expenses. Our veterans should never have to worry whether emergency room visits will be covered by the VA. We need to do right by them and their families and ensure they receive reimbursement for the care they have earned and deserve, especially for emergency care.” 

“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 was also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators 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.  

The full text of the Senate legislation can be found here