Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) has cosponsored H.R. 2683, the Protecting Veterans Credit Act – legislation to protect the credit of veterans who may be affected by delays in payment processing and incorrectly assigned bills through the Veterans Choice Program.
“The Veterans Choice Program is an invaluable resource to ensure our heroes receive the care they need, but unfortunately, payments to non-VA facilities have created billing problems for many of our veterans,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “It is important the VA continue to work towards correcting these billing issues. However, until then, this bipartisan legislation makes a commonsense fix so that our veterans’ credit isn’t harmed when seeking the care they deserve. This will help our veterans be able to purchase homes, apply for loans and better transition to civilian life.”
In 2014, Congress created the Veterans Choice Program as a response to unacceptable delays for veterans attempting to receive medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. The Choice Program became part of the preexisting non-VA care programs whereby eligible veterans can receive medical assistance from non-VA facilities. To decrease the wait time and allow easier access to necessary care, the Choice Program allows veterans to receive care in a non-VA facility if the VA cannot schedule an appointment within a specified amount of time or if the veteran lives too far from a VA facility. While the intent is worthy, the execution of the program has been far from perfect.
Delayed non-VA care payments, including through the Choice Program, have resulted in many veterans being wrongfully held responsible for medical bills. While billing and payments issues are being resolved between the VA, contractors and providers, the unpaid bills can lead to adverse credit report actions. In response to billing issues associated with the Choice Program, the VA established a call center to help veterans, resulting in thousands of calls in only a few short months. While work is being done to fix the billing process for non-VA care, veterans should not be on the hook for bills not settled in a timely manner.
Credit scores are critical to a veteran’s ability to rent property, get a mortgage and even get a job. Veterans should not have to suffer economic consequences due to the failures of the VA or its contractors.
The Protecting Veterans Credit Act will prohibit medical debt due to care received through the Choice Program and other VA community care programs from being reported to credit agencies for one year, allowing the VA, contractors, and medical providers involved to sort out coverage and billing discrepancies before the veteran’s credit score is adversely affected. The changes to the legislation from last year are that it will expand to include all non-VA medical care, no longer be limited to care received through the Choice program, and it removes Section 4. Section 4 amended the Fair Debt Collection Practices.