Newhouse Introduces VET Act Requiring Every Veteran’s Access to Highest Level of Emergency Care

July 27, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced H.R. 3216, the Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act. This legislation would require that every enrolled veteran is afforded the highest level of emergency care at every emergency-capable medical facility under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). The VET Act would apply the statutory requirements of the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) to emergency care furnished by the VA to enrolled veterans who arrive at the emergency department of a VA medical facility and indicate an emergency condition exists.

“The men and women who have served in our Armed Forces have already demonstrated their dedication and willingness to sacrifice for our country,” said Rep. Newhouse. “They made serving us their priority, and now we must ensure that veterans are our priority. No veteran should be denied high quality assistance when they require emergency medical care. The VET Act fulfills a promise to our veterans by requiring prompt access to first-class quality emergency care.”

In June, Rep. Newhouse led a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald regarding recent incidents of mismanagement and the subsequent mistreatment of veterans, including the case of 64-year-old Army veteran Donald Siefken, who was refused assistance from his car to the emergency room at a Seattle Veterans Administration hospital in February. 

Highlights of H.R. 3216

EMTALA was enacted by Congress in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 and is designed to prevent hospitals from transferring, or “dumping”, uninsured patients at public hospitals. While a 2007 Veterans Health Administration (VA) directive indicates that the VA complies with the intent of the EMTALA requirements, VA hospitals are considered to be “non-participating” hospitals and are therefore not obligated to fulfill EMTALA requirements. The VET Act would create similar EMTALA requirements for veterans visiting VA hospitals.

The VET Act requires:

1) A VA hospital to conduct a medical examination of an enrolled veteran to determine if an emergency medical condition exists

2) If such condition exists, the VA hospital must either stabilize the patient or comply with the statutory requirements of a proper transfer

3) If an emergency medical condition exists and has not been stabilized, the hospital may not transfer the patient unless the patient, after being made aware of the risks, makes a transfer request in writing or a physician certifies that the medical benefits of a transfer outweigh the risks.

For the text of H.R. 3216, the Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act, click here.