By TIMOTHY SCHUMANN
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – A bill that would close a major VA healthcare coverage loophole for military veterans has passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote that could not have been more bipartisan.
The RELIEVE Act, along with the Wounded Warrior Access Act, passed the House Tuesday by a unanimous vote, with 422 representatives voting for it and 12 absent for the roll call.
“I introduced this bill after a veteran from Spokane reached out for my help,” said bill sponsor eastern Washington Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, on the House floor before the vote. “She had recently retired from service and she was days away from her first VA Appointment when she had a heart attack. She was rushed to the ER where made a full recovery, but the VA refused to pay for her care.”
Rep. McMorris Rodgers thanked her co-sponsors, Reps. Chris Pappas, D-NH, and Jack Bergman, R-MI.
“The RELIEVE act would make this right,” continued Rep. McMorris Rodgers, closing by asking her “ colleagues to join in giving veterans the treatment that they deserve.”
RELIEVE Act is an acronym which stands for the Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency Act.
The text of the bill before it was joined with the Wounded Warrior Access Act was short, coming in at a total of just 14 lines, three of which are the title, as previously reported by The Center Square. Yet those 14 lines could mean tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to unlucky veterans.
The law the bill is amending, as it currently appears in Title 38 Section 1725 of US Code, requires that a veteran be both enrolled in the veterans health care system, as well as have “received care under this chapter within the 24-month period.”
It’s that last clause that’s causing trouble for many veterans.
Under the current law, a veteran could be actively enrolled in care, on the way to their first appointment with the VA, get into a car accident, and be held personally liable for the entirety of their medical bills.
If enacted, the RELIEVE Act would eliminate this loophole by adding a 60-day grace period between enrollment and requirement for that “received care under this chapter within the 24-month period” clause kicking in.
After the bill’s passage by the House, Ms. McMorris Rodgers said in a statement, “There’s much more that needs to be done to ensure we roll out the red carpet for Eastern Washington veterans, but these are some great wins that I hope will make a real difference.”