Tester calls for improved emergency care for veterans

Senator says VA policies are ‘unrealistic’ for rural veterans

(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to rework its “unrealistic policy” for veterans in need of emergency medical care.

The VA currently instructs veterans requiring emergency care to report to the nearest VA health care facility. But veterans who live long distances from a VA facility – which may be closed when they get there – often seek emergency care outside the VA system.

Those veterans are required to report their treatment to the VA within 72 hours. Many veterans, however, are unaware of the requirement – jeopardizing the VA’s payment of their medical bills.

Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, says the VA needs to update its policy using “common-sense,” while working with outside care providers so veterans can more easily get the care they earned.

“Given the frequency that veterans may be unable to report such treatment in a timely manner, I am hopeful the VA will take steps to institute a common-sense policy,” Tester told VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. “I am confident that collaborative steps can be taken to improve communication with care providers outside of the VA health care system and to streamline unrealistic policies that are not appropriately serving our veterans.”

Tester told Shinseki about a Montana veteran who received emergency care outside the VA, but was unable to notify the department within 72 hours. He was left with significant out-of-pocket health care costs.

Tester recently introduced a bill that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse travel costs for all catastrophically disabled veterans, such as those suffering from spinal cord injuries, blindness, or multiple amputations.

2013-04-26 Shinseki VA Reporting Letter by danmalessa