WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) and Congressman Joe Cunningham (D-South Carolina) introduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday, June 19, that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse certain veterans for ambulance transportation required during their medical treatment.
Currently, the law allows the VA to reimburse ambulance rides to non-VA hospitals, as well as emergency treatment at such hospitals, for a veteran until he or she is medically stable.
However, if the veteran is stabilized and then requires continued care at a VA facility, the VA is not allowed to reimburse his or her transportation to that facility — which often must be accomplished using ambulance resources that can be too expensive for patients to cover out-of-pocket.
“In 1999, Congress created a safety net to ensure that the most vulnerable veterans weren’t left holding the bill for emergency care that could leave them in financial ruin,” Hartzler said. “This bill repairs a hole in that safety net that has too often resulted in veterans and community health providers being liable for costly transfer to a VA hospital, a necessity for veterans unless they want to pay out-of-pocket for their medical costs. I’m proud to introduce this common-sense reform that will enhance the protection we provide to veterans who need it most.”
“Veterans should not be left holding the bill for expensive, surprise transportation to get the care they need, especially when dealing with an emergency situation,” Cunningham said. “I am proud to work across the aisle to close this unnecessary gap in coverage for our veterans.”
American Veterans is one Veterans’ Service Organization among many who have voiced their support for this bill.
“It is easy to overlook the importance of the remedy that the VA Emergency Transportation Act offers. Unless you happen to be a veteran who needed emergency services and was forced to rely on ambulance transportation from a community ER to a VA medical facility for ongoing treatment,” Sherman Gillums, AMVETS chief advocacy officer, said. “The fear of getting hit with a hefty ambulance expense after the fact has proven to be a deterrent to seeking timely emergency care for too many veterans. This bill, if passed, would change that.”
The VA Emergency Transportation Act is also endorsed by: Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Reserve Officer Association, Military Officers Association, Fleet Reserve Association, Blinded Veterans Association, Association of the United States Navy and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-Georgia), Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Don Bacon (R-Nebraska), Bradley Byrne (R-Alabama), Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), Brian Mast (R-Florida), Greg Steube (R-Florida), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Josh Harder (D-California), Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania), Jeff Van Drew (D-New Jersey), Scott Tipton (R-Colorado), Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington D.C.) have signed on to this measure as original cosponsors.