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Newsletters > Donnelly bill would speed VA payments
Donnelly bill would speed VA payments

Sep 8, 2016

Donnelly bill would speed VA payments

Veterans' credit scores hurt if reimbursement delayed

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette



Where to call

• Veterans who receive care through the Choice Program and experience adverse credit reporting or debt collections because of billing delays should call 877-881-7618.



Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is pushing legislation to protect the credit ratings of military veterans with unpaid medical bills.



Donnelly said Wednesday that veterans can be "wrongly penalized" when the Department of Veterans Affairs is slow to pay for health care they receive from non-VA physicians.



Such delays "can create a financial hardship for some veterans and even damage credit scores," Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters in a conference call.



Donnelly is the Senate sponsor of the Protecting Veterans Credit Act, which would impose a one-year delay on the reporting of medical debt to credit agencies for veterans who access health care through the Veterans Choice Program. The delay would begin when a debt collector contacts the veteran.



Under the Veterans Choice Program, VA is to reimburse non-VA physicians to care for veterans who must wait at least 30 days for a VA appointment or who live more than 40 miles from a VA clinic or hospital.



The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans advocacy group, supports the Protecting Veterans Credit Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Donnelly and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and in the House by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. House co-sponsors include Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd.



Roscoe Butler, deputy director for health care for the American Legion, said during Wednesday's conference call that veterans should "not have to worry about whether VA has paid the bill timely."



Veterans' credit ratings can be "destroyed," he said, "because of VA's slow payment process. That is wrong."



Donnelly said he does not know how many veterans have been adversely affected by tardy reimbursements from the Veterans Choice Program, although he said "one is too many."



"The VA should take care of this, and it shouldn't ever even get to the point where this act, that we hope will become law, has to even be needed," Donnelly told reporters.



"It's clearly something the VA should be handling, and we're going to stay after them to get it right," he said.