Tester, Moran Lead Bipartisan Call for Reimbursement Plan to Support VA’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Senators: “We want to make certain the reimbursement process is effectively working for the VA and individuals under the VA’s care during this crisis”

(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), along with Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Chairman John Boozman (R-Ark.), are requesting that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) outlines its reimbursement plans for services provided to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a part of VA’s Fourth Mission, the Department plays a unique role in providing veterans and non-veterans alike with medical services during national health emergencies. To ensure these individuals are not unfairly left to foot the bill for services provided by VA during the current crisis, the Senators requested additional information on the Department’s reimbursement process. 

“As the VA continues to accept Fourth Mission assignments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the COVID-19 public health crisis, we want to make certain that individuals will not be unexpectedly billed for services provided by your Department,” the Senators wrote to VA Secretary Wilkie. “As such, we would appreciate additional information with regard to how the VA will be reimbursed by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or other agencies, as well as any costs that non-enrolled veterans or non-veterans may incur for care received at the VA during this crisis.”

On April 7, 2020, VA released a video encouraging veterans to seek care at VA if they needed medical attention during the pandemic. In the letter, the Senators laid out a series of questions to better understand VA’s process to address eligibility for non-enrolled veterans obtaining care from VA facilities following its call. 

The Senators pressed, “If a non-enrolled veteran seeks and receives care at the VA during this public health crisis, and is later found to be ineligible for VA health care, will they receive a bill for services? If yes, does the VA have the authority to waive such charges? How is the VA working with non-enrolled and ineligible veterans to make sure they receive the care they need during COVID-19, while minimizing financial burden for these individuals? Please provide the VA’s guidance to the field on treating non-enrolled veterans during the crisis and any related policies.”

On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a state of emergency, permitting VA to care for non-veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the Department has undertaken assignments from FEMA under its Fourth Mission authority to care for non-veterans, and has provided critical support to veterans living in nursing homes or State Veterans Homes across the country.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.