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In Senate hearing, Senator Murray champions legislation to ensure VA follows the law, covers the costs of medically-necessary emergency transportation for newborns of veterans

The VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act would ensure that veterans and their families aren’t left with expensive medical bills they shouldn’t have to pay

For the second time this week, Senator Murray works to hold VA accountable for services they are required to provide

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S REMARKS HERE OR BELOW***

(Washington, D.C.)  – During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on pending legislation, U.S. Senator Patty Murray made clear that she is looking out for veterans and their families, and spoke on legislation she’s offered to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs is honoring its promise to provide care and support for veterans who’ve sacrificed for our country. During the hearing, Senator Murray championed her VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act, a bill that would require the VA to both cover the upfront costs for medically-necessary emergency transportation for newborns of veterans and reimburse veterans who were inappropriately forced to pay those costs out-of-pocket. While the VA is already supposed to cover the costs of emergency transportation for veterans’ newborns, they often refuse to pay the cost of transporting infants in emergency situation, leaving veterans to foot the expensive bill. The bill would also give doctors the ability to waive the arbitrary seven-day cap on newborn care if it is medically necessary. This is the second time this week that Senator Murray has worked to hold the VA accountable to veterans and taxpayers, after sending a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie demanding that the VA provide mental health care services to veterans who need it.

“My legislation, the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act, makes clear Congress’ intent in the law and ensures veterans and their newborns are getting the care they need while being treated with the dignity they deserve,” Senator Murray said. “The idea that transportation to get newborn infants emergency treatment would not be covered by the VA is a shocking and needless gap in care and I firmly believe Congress must ensure no veteran ever faces a surprise bill for benefits they’ve earned through their sacrifice to our country especially new moms and their babies dealing with an emergency situation.”

(Watch video of Senator Murray’s Remarks HERE)

In 2008, Senator Murray introduced S. 2799, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008 which originally gave the VA the authority to provide care for newborn babies born to women veterans. However, after hearing multiple reports of new mothers being stuck with thousands of dollars in bills because of a narrow interpretation of current law by VA, Senator Murray introduced the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act to make clear the VA has the authority to cover the costs of medically-necessary emergency transportation services for newborn babies of certain women veterans.

Read the fact sheet on the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act HERE.

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening remarks below:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

“I’m pleased to be here today, and have an opportunity to discuss my legislation that will help clarify current law…

“…and provide relief and peace of mind to countless veteran moms and their newborns during the most critical moments after a child is born.  

“But before I say more about my proposal—let me first voice a grave note of concern regarding the rash of veteran suicides we’ve seen recently across our country.

“It’s a crisis that impacts all of our communities—including my home state of Washington…

“…where over the weekend another one of our veterans took their lives—this time at the VA hospital in American Lake…

“Mr. Chairman, every case like this is a tragedy that defies explanation…

“…for any of our veterans or servicemembers—including those who have survived combat in our service—to die by suicide…

“…and we can’t just stand by while this epidemic claims more of our veterans, crushes more military families, and continues to overwhelm our communities.

“I certainly won’t—this committee must hold hearings and take action in order to uphold our promise to our veterans to have their backs and do what’s necessary to get a handle on this growing tragedy among our veterans…

“Now, in turning to the topic of today’s hearing—I’m glad to speak on my legislation to help make life easier for veteran moms—to help them get the care they need for their newborn infants in the event of a medical emergency…

“As you know, under current law, veterans expecting a child are eligible to have that care covered by the VA…

“…and in some cases—when there is an emergency—the veteran and the newborn may need to be transferred, often by helicopter, to a hospital that can provide a higher level of care.

“However—anecdotal reports from veterans have unveiled the VA often improperly refuses to pay the cost of transporting newborns to a more advanced facility…

“….leaving veterans stuck with thousands of dollars in surprise bills.

“Now, as this committee knows, current law clearly states the VA can cover “all post-delivery care services” a newborn may need—but bizarrely, the VA so far has refused to pay for these expenses…

“…not to mention, current law limits care for newborns to only seven days—which is a threshold that can be far too restrictive in certain cases, such as premature births.

“I know this is not how we—Congress—intended for this to work for our veterans…

“So my proposal, the VA Newborn Emergency Treatment Act, makes clear Congress’ intent in the law…

“…and ensures veterans and their newborns are getting the care they need while being treated with the dignity they deserve…

“The idea that transportation to get newborn infants emergency treatment would not be covered by the VA is a shocking and needless gap in care…

“…and I firmly believe Congress must ensure no veteran ever faces a surprise bill for benefits they’ve earned through their sacrifice to our country—especially new moms and their babies dealing with an emergency situation.

“So I hope my colleagues from both sides of the aisle can join me in supporting this important and necessary fix to make sure we’re doing right by our veteran moms and military families…

“…and I look forward to a future mark-up in this committee as I push to get this passed through Congress and signed into law.”