New report finds miliary families and veterans are improperly being billed for outpatient VA care, later being sent to debt collectors
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff is working to protect Georgia’s military families and veterans from surprise medical billing.
In a U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing today, Sen. Ossoff raised concerns about veterans and military families being improperly billed for outpatient medical care, which often leads to debt collectors harassing them for charges they should not incur.
According to a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report, more than 42,000 veterans and servicemembers submitted complains in 2021 about coercive credit reporting tactics.
“You receive many complaints from veterans who incur medical debt as a result of a community care health care provider that is a third-party provider to whom the veteran is referred by the VA for some outpatient services, who trust that those community care providers will bill the VA,” Sen. Ossoff asked the CFPB Director in the hearing. “But instead, they billed the veteran improperly, then it gets referred for collections, and then suddenly this veteran has collectors coming after them and maybe an adverse credit reporting event.”
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra told Sen. Ossoff the agency continues to work with the VA to update rules about medical debt and is working to reduce the number of incorrect charges to veterans and servicemembers.
Please find a transcript below:
SEN. OSSOFF: “Building on what Senator Cortez Masto was just discussing in terms of the impact that adverse credit reports can have on Americans, let’s talk about how this can impact veterans and what you can do, Director Chopra, to protect veterans from improper billing and collections from providers of community care services referred by the VA.
“You published the Office of Servicemember Affairs’ 2022 annual report. It noted that you receive many complaints from veterans who incur medical debt as a result of a community care health care provider — that is a third-party provider — to whom the veteran is referred by the VA for some outpatient services, who trust that those community care providers were billed the VA, but instead, they bill the veteran improperly, then it gets referred for collections, and then suddenly this veteran has collectors coming after them, maybe an adverse credit reporting event.
“The report that you issued, Director Chopra recommended that medical providers and third-party billing companies should have adequate systems in place to serve veterans. Of course, they should. What else can you do with the powers at your disposal to protect veterans who are at risk of becoming trapped by medical debt having adverse credit reports because of the failures of these health care providers to properly build a VA?”
CFPB DIRECTOR CHOPRA: “Well, let me just say that credit reports should not be a tool to extort money out of someone who doesn’t really owe it. And I think for many veterans, and frankly, many Americans, they end up just paying it because it’s such a headache. We’ve already taken a few steps.
“One, we’ve put some focus on nursing home debt collection. This is a place where we want to make sure that debt collectors who are collecting on nursing home debt know that’s when there might be indicia, that those debts are invalid.
“This issue of outpatient referrals from the VA, we’re really pleased to work with the VA on how they are dealing with credit reporting. They have updated some of their rules about when medical debts will be reported. It will drastically reduce the number that are reported because ultimately, I think we don’t want to penalize veterans for getting medical care for which the law entitles them to receive as benefits of their service.
“So, Senator Ossoff, I think there’s other places in credit reporting and debt collection that we continue to find concrete solutions to address these issues.”