BY Melissa O’Brien, Military Rape Crisis Center, May 7th 2009
It has come to our attention that some of our clients had been charged for treatment at the VA. 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.