VA may have to pay billions in vets' emergency care bills

(Photo: Rosser321 / CC BY 2.0 )

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government may be required to pay billions of dollars in emergency care claims to veterans after a federal court ruled this week that the Department of Veterans Affairs improperly denied reimbursements for such care received at non-VA facilities.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on Monday said federal law mandated the VA to pay the emergency medical expenses if they aren't covered by private insurance.

The case stemmed in part from a reimbursement sought by Coast Guard veteran Amanda Wolfe, who had a bout of appendicitis in September 2016 and sought care at a nearby civilian hospital.

Attorneys representing plaintiffs said the ruling could cost VA $1.8 billion to $6.5 billion in reimbursements to thousands of veterans with claims from 2016 through 2025.