I am on the mailing list for the House and Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, so when they put out press releases I get all of them, this one digusted me to no end.
It remninded me of during the campaign last year, when we learned that Sarah Palin had the Police Chief charging the rape victims for the rape kits when they were taken to the hospital after they were attacked.
In this case the Veterans Adminitstration is billing the victims of Military Sexual Trauma for counseling and any other bills related to medical or mental health care related to the incidents, regardless of service connection or not. Senator Akaka of Hawaii has the VA Inspector General looking into it and it appears that it is pervasive in the system and they will now be checking all VA hospitals nationwide about their billing practices. After the jump I will post Senator Akaka's press release and a link to the PDF from the IG about their investigation.
INSPECTOR GENERAL TO REVIEW VA MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA BILLING POLICY NATIONWIDE DUE TO AKAKA OVERSIGHT
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following discoveries from an initial oversight request by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Inspector General (IG) will conduct a national review to determine whether veterans are being inappropriately charged for treatment related to military sexual trauma (MST).
Chairman Akaka requested a review of MST-related billing at the Austin VA outpatient clinic after receiving a letter from a veteran who discovered she was being inappropriately charged for her care. VA’s investigation into that facility revealed that the clinic was, in fact, billing veterans inappropriately for MST-related services and prescriptions. Under existing law, veterans are entitled to free VA treatment for conditions related to military sexual trauma.
"Disabilities resulting from military sexual trauma, physical or invisible, must be treated like other service-connected wounds: VA has an obligation to provide and pay for the care. I am disappointed to find that at least one outpatient clinic was wrongly charging veterans for this type of care, but I commend VA for immediately launching a national review to determine if this problem is occurring elsewhere, so appropriate corrective actions can take place as soon as possible.
"The veteran who notified me about this matter has done a great deed for veterans across this nation. With her help I was able to notify VA’s Inspector General, whose office conducted this very important review," said Akaka.
VA IG George Opfer notified Akaka of the results of the inquiry in a letter received last week.
The Inspector Generals letter can be read here and see their explanation and where the investigation is going from here.
This is becoming a worse problem now than it has ever been in the military, but to have these women be sent bills to pay for their care is just outrageous, this goes beyond the pale of acceptibility.
The nation was outraged when the Obama Administration suggested billing all insurance companies for veterans who get treatment at the VA for service connected wounds in combat and the Veterans Organizations were screaming loud and clear NO, why are they so silent on this issue?
Do NOT the women veterans deserve the same support other combat veterans deserve about paying for service connected injuries? I think so.
UPDATE: The New York Times has now picked this up
Studies have found that male and female members of the military have reported high rates of sexual harassment and assault while in the service, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. A 2003 report by the department estimated that nearly a quarter of women in the National Guard or Reserve reported having been sexually assaulted.
Over half of the assaults were at a military base or worksite during duty hours, and in most cases, military personnel were the offenders, the report said.
The inspector general’s review was prompted by complaints from a woman in Texas who said the clinic in Austin had for years charged her for care relating to military sexual trauma, the department’s term for physical and psychological problems caused by sexual harassment or assault. Her complaints reached Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Democrat of Hawaii and chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who requested the review.