Hultgren, Delaney, Sinema, Walorski File Bipartisan Bill to Protect Veterans Credit Ratings
Washington, DC — Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14) has reintroduced the Protecting Veterans Credit Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure that veterans’ credit scores and credit reports are not adversely affected by delayed medical payments associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Choice Program and other VA Community Care programs. The lead cosponsors are Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6), Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9) and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-2). In total, the bill has 20 cosponsors.
The legislation creates a one year credit reporting grace period for the resolution of debt from medical services. The slow disbursement of Veterans Choice Program payments has meant that potentially thousands of veterans could be adversely affected, with large and inaccurate medical debts wrongly listed in their name while the VA and private providers work through billing. This error could make it more difficult and more expensive for veterans to buy a home or car, rent a place to live or receive a small business loan.
The Protecting Veterans Credit Act has been endorsed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), the American Legion, Wounded Warrior Project, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients) and the Consumer Federation of America. The legislation was first introduced in 2016. Companion legislation has also been filed in the Senate.
“Enough veterans have faced collateral damage from delays at the VA—their credit score shouldn’t be another casualty of this bureaucracy,” said Congressman Hultgren. “Veterans and their families deserve accurate and timely billing and reimbursements from the VA. This legislation will ensure our veterans aren’t held responsible for bureaucratic ineptitude.”
“No veteran should have their financial record wrongly ruined because of someone else’s delays,” said Congressman Delaney. “This is a straightforward bill that shields veterans and their families from what could be a very damaging predicament and I am proud that this bill has been supported by so many veterans and consumer organizations. Republicans and Democrats are standing together on this bill and we’re going to keep working to build support. Credit reports are so impactful and I don’t think anyone believes that the current situation is right, so we’ve got to solve this problem.”
“Veterans should not be held responsible for the VA’s missed payments and billing errors,” said Congresswoman Sinema. “A damaged credit score makes it more difficult for veterans and their families to rent an apartment, buy car, or apply for a loan. That’s just wrong. This bill is a bipartisan, commonsense solution that ensures bureaucracy does not stand in the way of the American Dream.”
“Veterans shouldn’t have to worry about damage to their credit scores and financial futures due to errors and delays on the part of the VA,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “I’ve heard from too many veterans who need help because the VA or a VA contractor hasn’t paid their medical bills for authorized non-VA care. This commonsense bill will protect veterans while the VA, contractors, and providers work to resolve these billing issues.”
- Created 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.
- The Choice Program is one of several VA programs for veterans to receive non-VA medical care. Unfortunately, all programs that offer non-VA care have had billing and payment issues. This includes the Choice Program which has had issues with delayed payments and inappropriately assigned bills to veterans.
- Because of delays in payment processing and incorrectly assigned bills, veterans have received adverse actions on their credit reports.
- Adverse credit action makes it more difficult and more expensive for a veteran to get a home mortgage, an auto loan or even to rent an apartment.
- To address Choice Program billing issues, the VA set up a call center for veterans to contact the VA to resolve debt collection and adverse credit reporting. The call center received thousands of calls within just a few months, showing the extent of the billing issues with the Choice Program.
- While the VA is reforming its non-VA care billing procedures, veterans need immediate and retroactive relief from erroneous credit reporting actions. No veteran should have their credit score hurt because of a delay in the VA paying the medical bills.
- The Protecting Veterans Credit Act delays medical debt from medical services received through non-VA medical care, including 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 any billing 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 credit reports.
- By instituting a one year grace period, it will allow sufficient time for the multiple parties involved in the VA community care programs to process the payments, so that veterans receive the care they need, doctors are fairly compensated, and veterans don’t suffer a credit loss for something that isn’t their fault.