McMorris Rodgers Brings Bill Before Veterans Affairs Committee To Expand Emergency Care Coverage

Mar 16, 2022
Press
Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today brought her Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency (RELIEVE) Act before the House Veterans Affairs Committee to close a glaring gap in veteran emergency care coverage.

Cathy introduced the bipartisan RELIEVE Act last month after a Spokane veteran’s claims were denied because she hadn’t been seen by a VA doctor in the last 24 months, making her ineligible for emergency care in the community. The RELIEVE Act would waive the 24-month rule for 60 days after a veteran enrolls in VA Health, preventing this from happening again. 

Below are Cathy’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairwoman Brownley and Ranking Member Bergman, for inviting me to speak today about my bill to close a critical gap in veteran emergency care coverage. 

“Last year, a Gulf War veteran from Spokane needed help. She’d recently enrolled in VA Health and scheduled her first VA doctor’s appointment after retiring from the service. 

“Then disaster struck. Days before her appointment, she was sitting at home when she began experiencing severe nausea and lightheadedness. On the advice of a friend, she rushed herself to the emergency room. 

“She was having a heart attack. 

“Thankfully, she was treated and discharged without further incident … but her problems were just beginning. 

“Despite following the VA’s rules and notifying them of her treatment within 72 hours, the VA denied her claims. Since she hadn’t been seen by a VA doctor in the last 24 months, she was not considered eligible for emergency Care in the Community.  

“Thinking there must have been a misunderstanding, she appealed and waited more than a year for the ruling.  

“Denied. It didn’t matter that she’d just enrolled.  

“It didn’t matter that her appointment was just days away.  

“It didn’t matter that many VA facilities have 30-60 day wait times to get an appointment. 

“And it didn’t matter that she’d been regularly seeing a non-VA doctor. The VA stood by the 24-month rule and denied her the coverage she needed. 

“With bills piling up and nowhere else to turn, she reached out to my office. My team worked with her, desperately looking for a solution.  

“But there was none – only a glaring gap in coverage for veterans in crisis. This is a nationwide problem, and Congress – starting with this committee – must act to address it. 

“Every separating servicemember faces a gap in emergency coverage when they enroll in VA health … and it lasts until they can get their first VA doctor’s appointment … even if it’s a 2-month wait! 

“My bill would change that. The RELIEVE Act – Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency – would waive the 24-month rule for 60 days after a veteran enrolls in VA Health. 

“This simple fix will give veterans the time they need to complete their first VA appointment at even the slowest of VA facilities, ensuring they will qualify for normal emergency outside coverage and eliminating the gap. 

“Veterans stepped up for us. They put their lives and health on the line for our country. Now it’s time for us to step up for them. Let’s eliminate the veteran emergency coverage gap NOW and give veterans the treatment they need and deserve.  

“Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.”

CLICK HERE to watch her full remarks.

CLICK HERE to read the RELIEVE Act.

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