Klobuchar, Smith Push for Improved Veteran Emergency Care

Washington, D.C.— Senators Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith (both D-MN) and the entire Minnesota delegation sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough urging the agency to improve veterans’ ability to receive emergency care.

Specifically, the letter asks VA Secretary McDonough to revise existing rules to treat all emergency transport reimbursements the same way, regardless of a veteran’s service-connected disability rating.

“By processing emergency transportation services as beneficiary travel, the VA leaves a large group of veterans with unpaid emergency transportation bills,” wrote the lawmakers. “This places an unjust burden on a population already facing rising medical costs across the board. From 2017 to 2020 alone, the cost to cover charges for emergency transportation services has risen at a rate of almost 18 percent.”

“In light of the sacrifices our veterans have made, we must fulfill our obligation to provide those who have served this country with a high standard of care,” they continued. “While the VHA has played a critical role in providing necessary benefits for veterans, we call on the Administration to amend [these] regulations to provide the coverage of emergency transportation services that was intended under the VA Mission Act.”

Under the 2018 VA Mission Act, emergency transportation and treatment at in-network, non-VA facilities became eligible for reimbursement. However, the VA is currently processing emergency land or air ambulance service claims as beneficiary travel, which restricts coverage to veterans with a disability rating (that is, the designation given to the severity of a service-connected disability used to calculate how much disability compensation a veteran receives) of 30% or more.

This method of reimbursement has left a large group of veterans with burdensome unpaid emergency travel bills, at a time when emergency travel has risen nearly eighteen percent. Based on an audit conducted by the VA office of the Inspector General, 31 percent of denied or rejected non-VA emergency care claims were inappropriately processed.

You can read the letter in full here.