Mansell, Engel & Cole

ER care reimbursement denied to many thousands of veterans

Military veterans in Oklahoma and nationally incur more emergency care-linked expenses than do other demographics. That is understandable, of course, given the nature of their service, past performance in combat areas and other factors.

It has been widely assumed that vets forced to seek care at emergency facilities will recoup the expended costs. That assumption applies to care received at VA hospitals and clinics, obviously, but also in instances where a vet lacks ready access to a government facility and must go a non-VA emergency center instead.

In fact, what is occurring is this: legions of cases involving vets’ care received in civilian facilities result in the government’s refusal to make payments. The bills make their way to the veterans, who are unexpectedly confronted with onerous repayment duties that threaten to financially ruin them.

The use of the word “legions” is hardly an overstatement. An internal report authored by the VA itself indicates that about 17,400 vets were saddled with such obligations within a recent six-month period. Collectively, they were confronted by a startling $53.3 million debt that one national news account duly notes “they never should have had to pay.”

The problem has been recognized, with a swath of bipartisan support for change recently emerging in the U.S. Congress. Lawmakers broadly confirm that vet-care reimbursement should be the norm even for services received in non-VA centers, and they are demanding answers from agency principals and immediate change.

“No veteran should be afraid to seek care in an emergency room,” says one legislator.

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