Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), along with Representatives Jack Bergman (MI-01) and Chris Pappas (NH-01), today introduced the Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency (RELIEVE) Act. This bipartisan legislation would eliminate a glaring gap in veteran emergency care insurance coverage by expanding emergency coverage under Care in the Community for veterans.
“No veteran should ever be kept up at night wondering how they will pay their medical bills after receiving emergency care in the community. But thanks to a loophole in the VA’s coverage policies, that’s exactly what’s happening in Eastern Washington,” said Rodgers. “The VA is failing veterans with its inability to efficiently schedule appointments, and it’s causing them an unacceptable amount of financial hardship. We nearly eliminated this coverage gap last Congress, so I’m hopeful we can build on that momentum, get this bill across the finish line, and ensure veterans have access to the best health care our country has to offer.”
The idea for this legislation came from an Eastern Washington veteran who reached out to Cathy last year after struggling to get the VA to cover the cost of her emergency care. Under current law, a veteran must have received health services at a VA facility within the last 24 months in order to be covered under Care in the Community. This protocol fails to account for the reality that it often takes more than a month for a veteran to complete their first appointment, resulting in a critical gap in insurance coverage.
“It is unacceptable that veterans have to jump through hoops to have their health care covered by VA, especially in the case of an emergency,” said Pappas. “No veteran should ever think twice about seeking the care they need during an emergency, and no veteran should be faced with costly medical bills due or bureaucratic challenges for receiving that care. Our bipartisan legislation would remove these barriers and ensure veterans can receive the reimbursements they are due, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation across the finish line this year.”
Failing to cover a veteran’s emergency care during a period without coverage can result in a crippling amount of debt that could take a lifetime to pay off. The RELIEVE Act would close this gap by treating enrollment in VA Health as receiving health services at the VA for emergency coverage under Care in the Community. Upon entering the VA Health systems, veterans would have 60 days to complete their first doctor’s appointment. Emergency care at non-VA facilities will be insured during that time, and once a veteran completes their first appointment, they will qualify for regular coverage under the VA’s 24-month rule, eliminating the gap.
“Assisting Veterans as they transition between DOD and VA’s care coverage is a top priority for me in Congress,” said Bergman. “The RELIEVE Act is a much-needed bridge to span that gap and eliminate a dangerous loophole that could impose crippling debt on a recently separated servicemember who sought emergency care. I’m grateful to help introduce this critical bipartisan legislation.
Last Congress, the lawmakers successfully secured the RELIEVE Act in the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The provision, however, was ultimately removed from the final version of the bill signed into law by President Biden.