Forty House lawmakers signed onto a letter Monday criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for slow reimbursements to private-sector doctors that they say harm their veteran constituents’ credit reports.
Thousands of veterans who use the Veterans Choice Program, which allows VA patients to use outside health care that is paid for by the VA, have complained their medical bills are sent to debt collectors when a timely payment is not made, according to the letter.
The situation “has negative consequences for veterans’ financial standing, through no fault of their own,” the letter reads. “[T]he long-term damage to credit scores could be severe. At a minimum, this increases the costs of credit and could make it more difficult, if not impossible, for veterans to secure credit for life essentials such as a car or housing.”
Issues with the payments to non-VA health care providers have plagued the VA since the Veterans Choice Program was created in 2014. Between then and May 18 of this year, the VA received 57,228 calls from veterans seeking help after the VA’s delayed payments affected their credit reports, the letter states.
VA officials have said part of the problem is a result of the rush to establish the program. Congress gave the department only 90 days to do so.
In an attempt to streamline reimbursements to private doctors, Congress worked with VA Secretary David Shulkin and passed legislation earlier this year that made the VA the primary payer under the Veterans Choice Program, rather than having third-party contractors pay the debts.
Even with the change, the lawmakers wrote Monday that they “remain concerned” that the negative credit reporting is continuing.
The letter, sent to Shulkin, was led by Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., and Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas.
Delaney and Hultgren introduced legislation last year to provide a one-year grace period before debts for medical services through the Veterans Choice Program are sent to creditors. The bill was endorsed by major veterans organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America, but it stalled. The congressmen reintroduced the bill — the “Protecting Veterans Credit Act” — in May.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."