The VA will most certainly become your valentine – once they see to it that all of your unpaid and unpayable hospital bills are made available for legitimate and final debt forgiveness. Every. Single. Dollar. Forgiven.
Although differing in form, this wouldn’t be the first “modest proposal” made publicly for a cause that would benefit society. Jonathan Swift, in an essay by that title published in England in 1729. He made a strong argument that – since there the Irish at that time were painfully impoverished – that they should sell their youth to the English as food.
Our not-so-modest Valentine proposal is that a similar societal ill be addressed, the medical debt on the backs of current and former service members (our veterans). It is not so modest in that this debt has been estimated to be as high as $6 billion.
You weren’t aware that America’s warriors, who on joining the military, basically agreed to do whatever necessary to protect our country – up to and including loss of limb and life – would not be cared for by a grateful populace once that service is completed? Time to fetch the Smelling Salts.
OK – We’re Conscious – Tell Us More
To quote from my article in Physician Outlook that appeared on 2/10/22, “Whether you have a role in the VA delivery system or a civilian (physician) serving veterans at a public hospital, you are unwitting (unaware?) accomplices in bringing about the $6 billion in unpaid medical bills that the VA has refused to pay…or forgive…up to this point.”
You see, if someone has an injury or disability caused by military service, they are eligible to be treated by the VA for free. That same promise does not include treatment for a service-related disability outside of the system.
That’s not a typo, although it is difficult to know at this point how much debt is being and has been disallowed for payment by the VA for emergency services provided outside of their hospital system. As said earlier, at one point it was over $6 billion, but an appeals court ruling in 2019 contested that policy and is requiring the VA to reimburse vets. Is that happening? Has it happened? I don’t know. If you do, please let me know.
Being in debt is not even the worst part.
I can tell you that – whatever and however it is owed – the IRS would envy the collections apparatus for recovering those monies. Such as, reporting your past-due account to credit bureaus after exhausting months of their phone calls and dunning letters.
Public blowback on this practice got so bad that, earlier this month, new rules were issued by the VA sharply to limit its credit reporting activities. As reported by Jim Rice of the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this month, the VA is instituting “additional protections to the most financially vulnerable veterans” which will result in a 99% reduction in reporting. (Italics mine)
That doesn’t mean they will stop attempting to recover on a past-due balance. A veteran owing as little as $25 will still be pursued. Not even a commercial collection agency (and I come from that world) would go after a bill that small. Forget the morality, it just doesn’t make business sense. Spending $100 to collect $25…and failing?
Formally Launched : A Campaign Titled #EndVetMedDebt
Beginning with this Valentine’s Day announcement and continuing through Veterans Day which will take place on November 11, 2022, a coalition of military and civilian organizations and individuals are forming to devote themselves to the task of seeing that VA unpayable medical bills be forgiven. Legally, and in full.
How forgiveness can be done while ensuring that there are no tax consequences to the recipient is a process that has been pioneered and perfected by the 501(c)(3) charity that I helped to co-found in 2014, RIP Medical Debt. It was a great ride, and after achieving all the goals I had set for myself and RIP I retired to its board in October 2020 to invent other channels by which to create positive social and economic impact. Out of this has come my present venture, Let’s Rethink This (LRT).
LRT will serve as a temporary platform until a formal #EndVetMedDebt website is revealed on March 1 – a scant two weeks from now.
To date, RIP has abolished over $5.5 billion in medical debt, positively affecting the lives of over 3 million Americans. It has published a seminal book on the need and reasons behind its work, put on first-ever summits on medical debt, enabled a major study of the costly impact of medical debt on our citizens and is now involving itself more deeply in influencing policy.
To be clear, this is not a fundraising campaign for RIP. This is a campaign that intends first to see that public awareness, federal legislation, VA policy changes – whatever works best – comes about so that this debt can be accessed and made available to organizations, such as RIP, which can step forward with their solutions.
Let’s Rethink This is only the originator of this campaign. Over the next eight-plus months we will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of other organizations and individuals that share in this mission and its purpose. Are you one of them?