WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-21), Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) and Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-9) introduced legislation to protect veterans and their families from unexpected medical bills in the case of a health emergency.

The Emergency Community Care Notification Time Adjustment Act would shift the requirement to notify the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of emergency treatment provided by a community care partner – or health care facility outside of the VA - from 72 hours after admittance to 72 hours after discharge. This will allow veterans and their families to focus on their health and recovery, instead of immediately having to worry about navigating the VA bureaucracy.

“When you or your loved one is facing a health emergency, the last thing on your mind is filling out a form for the VA, but under the status quo, that’s an oversight that could cost you thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills,” said Congressman Mast. “All too often, the bureaucracy of the VA stands in the way of the VA’s mission: to provide the best possible care for those who have served our nation. Our bill is a simple fix that will help veterans receive the care they earned and deserve.” 

“When Veterans are in the midst of a medical emergency, their sole focus should be on getting well,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “They should not have to worry about how the provider will get reimbursed by the VA or be saddled with fears of getting stuck with the bill. The flexibility our commonsense bill affords to Veterans is the least we owe to our nation’s heroes.” 

“It may not always be feasible for a Veteran, or someone acting on a Veteran’s behalf, to notify the VA of an emergency treatment event. The last thing a Veteran needs to endure is a hefty penalty or surprise medical bills for failing to meet the 72-hour deadline,” said Congressman Gosar.

Congressman Mast introduced the legislation after several veterans and family members were blindsided by surprise medical bills totaling thousands of dollars. Those families were informed that the VA would not cover the costs because of a failure to notify the VA within 72 hours of being admitted.

Under current law, the VA must be notified that a veteran received — or is receiving — emergency care within 72 hours of when that care starts. This notification can come from the veteran themselves, their medical provider, or an individual acting on the veteran’s behalf.

If they fail to do so, the veteran is responsible for the entirety of their hospital bill. This bill would provide families more time to notify the VA by giving them up to 72 hours after being discharged rather than up to 72 hours after being admitted.

The Emergency Community Care Notification Time Adjustment Act has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. To read the full text of the bill, click here.