The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) to assist veterans in need of emergency medical assistance.
Currently, veterans in need of emergency medical attention who are not near a VA hospital are transported to the nearest non-VA hospital, where they do not necessarily receive the same coverage provided to those who are near a VA hospital. Depending on income, health care services are often covered in full by VA benefits at a VA hospital.
DiZoglio’s legislation, House Bill 2765, An Act establishing emergency medical services for veterans, was included as part of a comprehensive veterans benefit bill passed by the House on May 23. The bill directs the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans’ Services and the Center for Health Information and Analysis to conduct an investigation into the transportation of veterans in emergency medical situations to non-VA hospitals.
The study, which is to be completed by no later than March 2019, will determine reimbursement guidelines for ambulance services to non-VA hospitals and identify any gaps to insure proper continuity of care for veterans.
DiZoglio was inspired to file this legislation by Newbury resident Donald Jarvis, a disabled combat veteran.
“I am very grateful that Representative DiZoglio is helping to lead the charge on this,” said Jarvis. “This will impact every veteran in the Commonwealth, whether they served two years or 20 years in the military. When we are in an emergency, our veterans are there for us and now it is time for us to be there for them. We owe it to our veterans to have their backs when they need us most.”
“This bill is so important to me because right now, no one can seem to agree on what it is exactly that America stands for,” said Army veteran Sara Keefe. “Fortunately, everyone seems to be united in the belief that our brave servicemen and woman were issued a promise in exchange for their oath, and we have fallen shamefully short on fulfilling that promise. It is a travesty and a disgrace to our country that we would even consider anything other than taking care of the very basic essential medical needs of those that were willing to sacrifice everything for the security and comfort of those that could not or would not do so themselves.”
“One of the obstacles our veterans face is transportation,” said Joseph Leblanc, District Director of Veterans Services for the Town of North Andover. “Even more daunting is transportation for veterans who are non-ambulatory, or wheel chair bound. There isn’t much out there. The services that are in place are overtasked and understaffed or very convoluted to access.”
“All too often, veterans in need of emergency medical services find themselves saddled with huge medical costs because there are gaps in the current system,” said DiZoglio. “If you’re a veteran and don’t live near a VA hospital, you will most likely be transferred to the closest hospital if you have a medical emergency. If you were taken to a VA hospital, your emergency care would be covered by the VA. Unfortunately, emergency medical services provided to veterans at a non-VA hospital do not always end up being covered by the VA. There are gaps in the process and many have had to figure out how to pay out of pocket when they shouldn’t have. We need to make sure that the system is fair and equitable for all of our heroes regardless of their zip code and how far away they live from a VA hospital. This measure will provide legislative solutions to make sure these gaps are filled, potentially saving many from unnecessary exorbitant emergency medical costs.”