Summaries of recent news related to veterans' health care appear below. Reimbursements: The House Veterans' Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved a bill (HR 1377), sponsored by committee Chair Bob Filner (D-Calif.), that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to reimburse veterans who receive emergency care at non-VA facilities, CQ Today reports. In addition, the bill would require VA to pay for conditions not related to military service in the event a third-party insurer does not cover the full cost of care. Veterans would still be responsible for copayments to third-party insurers. The proposal is retroactive, allowing for reimbursement of the costs of emergency treatment received at any time before its enactment. The committee also approved a bill (HR 1513) that would provide a cost-of-living adjustment and increase the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-related disabilities. The measure also would increase the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of veterans with certain service-related disabilities (Adofo, CQ Today, 3/25).

Unsterile equipment: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) have requested that VA disclose information and account for mistakes with medical equipment that possibly exposed more than 10,000 patients to infectious diseases, the AP/Miami Herald reports. The request was prompted after VA sent letters to colonoscopy patients at clinics in Miami and Murfreesboro, Tenn., and to patients at VA ear, nose and throat clinic in Augusta, Ga. According to VA, the risk of infection is minimal and related only to valves and tubing on equipment but not any device that came in direct contact with patients (AP/Miami Herald, 3/25).

Service-related injuries: A World War II-era law defining service-related injuries is outdated and is preventing some veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from receiving the medical treatment they need, members of veterans groups testified during a House Veterans' Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee hearing, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. According to the law, veterans who "engaged in combat with the enemy" receive special treatment when they seek disability compensation, making it easier for them to prove that their injury was service-related. However, some injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, might not be documented by the military, preventing the servicemembers from receiving benefits, according to the groups. In addition, PTSD has affected servicemembers in non-infantry roles, such as truck drivers or cooks, who do not receive a combat infantry badge or other proof of battlefield experience, according to the AP/Tribune. According to VA, about half of all disability claims for PTSD are approved, with the majority of denials due to a lack of evidence that the condition is service related. Subcommittee Chair John Hall (D-N.Y.) said the law should be updated to define a combat veteran as any veteran who served in a combat theater of operations or in combat against a hostile force. According to the AP/Tribune, such a change would prompt thousands of additional veterans to seek disability compensation for PTSD, which could potentially cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually (Hefling, AP/Chicago Tribune, 3/25).

PTSD: VA has hired outreach specialists to assist veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in enrolling in programs that aid them in transitioning back to civilian life, the AP/Kansas City Star reports. The programs include no-cost assistance in finding jobs and marriage and mental health counseling (Orkin Emmanuel, AP/Kansas City Star, 3/24). In related news, USA Today on Tuesday examined how the military is attempting to address "an epidemic of suicides" among soldiers. The efforts include the military providing every soldier arriving in Iraq a card detailing the warning signs of depression and suicide, videos that feature two-star generals discussing their experiences with mental health professionals and an effort to provide more mental health professionals on the front lines. The article also profiled a presentation called "Warrior Resilience and Thriving," in which troops are taught that they have the choice of either accepting their experience as a traumatizing event or a learning or empowering experience (Gomez, USA Today, 3/24). Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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