Veterans, Consumer Organizations Show Support for Delaney Legislation to Protect Veterans Credit
WASHINGTON – A number of leading veterans and consumer protection organizations have voiced their support for Congressman John K. Delaney’s (MD-6) Protecting Veterans Credit Act (H.R. 5593). Rep. Delaney’s bipartisan legislation was introduced last week and protects the credit rating of veterans from being wrongfully lowered due to delayed payments associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Choice Program. The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the National Patient Advocate Foundation have issued statements of support for The Protecting Veterans Credit Act.
Delayed payments have meant that potentially thousands of veterans have had large and inaccurate medical debts wrongly listed in their name while the VA and private providers work through billing. The Protecting Veterans Credit Act is cosponsored by Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14), Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-2). The legislation is part of Delaney’s Consumer Protection and Community Investment Agenda.
“It’s unacceptable to me that we would subject any veteran to a lower credit score and all the financial costs and barriers that come with it because of delayed VA payments and processing,” said Congressman Delaney. “Our bipartisan bill solves this problem and I’m honored to have the support of so many organizations behind us. When these groups speak the American people listen and I look forward to continuing to work with them to help veterans.”
“Veterans should not have to worry about their financial credit when VA sends them to a private sector doctor,” said VFW National Legislative Director, Raymond Kelley. “That is why the VFW supports Congressman Delaney’s legislation which would protect veterans who are erroneously sent to collections.”
“We salute the leadership of Congressman Delaney in this effort to see to it that VA pays its bills on time. This is crucial if we are to make this public /private integrated health care system work to deliver the best care to our nation’s veterans,” said Vietnam Veterans of America National President John Rowan.
“The Protecting Veterans Credit Act is needed to ensure veterans’ credit ratings are not damaged through no fault of their own,” said Lt Gen Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), President of the Military Officers Association of America. “While it is understandable VA needs time to resolve medical billing issues originating from the Choice Program, veterans should not suffer unintended negative consequences in the meantime. MOAA applauds Congressman Delaney for developing creative solutions to assist VA and veterans.”
“With one in four of our patients reporting problems stemming from medical debt, the National Patient Advocate Foundation is all too familiar with the financial toxicity of medical debt and its impact on patients, regardless of their insurance status, age, income, or ethnicity. The provisions in the Protecting Veterans Credit Act will help relieve the significant burdens that medical debt places on veterans, and the crippling manner in which medical debt can affect them for years, often long after the debt has been settled. Our veterans must be enabled to focus on their treatment and recovery, rather than financial hardship,” said Alan Balch, CEO, National Patient Advocate Foundation & Patient Advocate Foundation.
The Protecting Veterans Credit Act (H.R. 5593)
- Enacted in 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice Program provides veterans with the ability to receive medical care in a non-VA facility if the VA cannot schedule an appointment within a specified time period or if the veteran lives more than 40 miles from the closest VA medical facility. Unfortunately, there have been issues with the implementation of the program, including delayed Choice Program payments and inappropriately assigned bills to veterans.
- Because of delays and incorrectly assigned bills, veterans have received adverse actions on their credit reports and inappropriate debt collection efforts.
- Adverse credit action makes it more difficult and more expensive for a person to get a home mortgage or an auto loan or even to rent an apartment.
- To address these issues, the VA set up a call center for veterans to contact the VA to resolve debt collection and adverse credit reporting. As of the end of May, the VA handled over 7100 inbound telephone calls.
- While the VA is actively trying to reform the Choice Program, veterans need immediate and retroactive relief from erroneous credit reporting actions and debt collection efforts. No veteran should have their credit score hurt or be harassed by debt collectors because of a delay in the VA or their private contractor paying the bills.
- The Protecting Veterans’ Credit Act delays medical debt from medical services received through the Choice Program from being reported to credit reporting agencies for one year. This delay provides adequate time for the VA and its contractors to resolve the issues, while retaining a route for resolution of any co-payments or other obligations.
- The bill provides a mechanism for veterans to easily dispute adverse actions already on their reports. Additionally, the bill requires debt collectors to provide the veteran with written information of their rights and who they can contact to resolve an issue.
- By instituting a one year grace period, it will allow for the multiple parties involved in the Choice Program time to process the payments, so the veterans receive the care they need, the doctors are fairly compensated, and veterans don’t suffer a credit loss for something that isn’t their fault.
- Ensures veterans are not unnecessarily pressured into paying bills that they do not owe.