When veterans try to get health care covered, VA says ‘no’

If you’re a veteran and you want the government to honor its committment to provide health care coverage, it helps if you can get your story told on a local TV station.

KARE 11, for example, told the story last night of Ben Krause of Woodbury, who was taken to the local hospital in February with chest pains.

Chest pains are a serious symptom. The Veterans Administration says so, KARE says.

In fact, KARE 11 discovered the VA’s own guidelines spell out an example of when a veteran was acting prudently when they visited an emergency room – even if the final diagnosis turns out to be something less serious.

“Case Example A” describes a patient who goes to the ER complaining of chest pain but is given a diagnosis of “mild gastric irritation.”

The VA’s “Prudent Layperson Fact Sheet” goes on to state that because chest pain is a “potentially serious problem” it “clearly falls into the category of what any prudent layperson would consider an appropriate use of an emergency department.”

Krause wasn’t having a heart attack. He was having a panic attack. The VA denied his claim. That $6,066 bill was all his.

“If it happened to me, I guarantee it’s happening to thousands of veterans nationwide,” Krause, a veterans rights attorney, told KARE. The assertion was proven, in fact, by congressional testimony last year that showed veterans are being denied reimbursement for ER visits.

KARE contacted the VA.

The same day KARE 11 emailed the Minneapolis VA asking for an interview to discuss the case, Krause says he received a call from an official saying a mistake had been made and his claim should not have been denied.

“The second that they realized that somebody was looking into it, and somebody with the ability to make it into a national story, once they realized that, then they called and said, ‘Oh sorry, we made a mistake, we’re going to take care of it.’”

Minneapolis VA officials refused to be interviewed for this report.

The VA blamed the problem on a “coding error,” and never contacted either the hospital or Krause for information on the claim. It just denied it.

Here’s the question: How many veterans don’t have the resources Krause had to fight the denial and are just eating the hospital bills?

“If you don’t have the ability to get your story out there,” Krause said, “I mean, you’re not going to get the justice you need.”