U.S. senators look to clarify VA Choice Program after FOX 7 story

Right now the VA is denying transplant coverage through its Choice Program if the donor isn't a veteran too but change may be coming soon thanks in part to a story by FOX 7.

FOX 7's Rebecca Thomas shared the story of a Leander veteran whose son donated a kidney. to him last week. Charles Nelson ended up having to use Medicare to pay for the surgery.

FOX 7 contacted the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the chairman told FOX 7 that the VA was wrong.

Representative Jeff Miller says, "It seems as if VA has created a technicality that doesn't exist, as basic common sense dictates that in cases of transplants, the donor's medical care is an essential part of the procedure."

Recently Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Illinois U.S. Senator Mark Kirk introduced the Veterans Transplant Act of 2016 to clarify the Choice Program and close any loopholes.

Sen. Cornyn spoke to FOX 7 about his bill and how veterans are being treated by the VA.

"I could not believe that  the VA would not pay for harvesting a kidney from a donor to give it to the veteran and took the position that since the donor was not a veteran they couldn't do that so my office and I intervened and I'm glad that wiser heads prevailed at the veterans administration but i am now joined with Senator Kirk to introduce legislation to make sure this never happens again," Cornyn says.

"It's just, it's bureaucratic red tape its endangered the lives of this veteran that we are supposed to be trying to help and it just doesn't make any sense what so ever," Cornyn adds.

FOX 7 contacted the VA after the House Committee on Veterans Affairs issues its statement and the senators introduced their bills.

The VA issued a statement that contradicts the words of the committee that actually drafted the Choice Act of 2014.

The statement said, in part, "The Choice Program only authorizes VA to furnish hospital care and medical services to eligible veterans as defined by the law.  VA is not authorized to pay for the expenses related to donor's treatment under the Choice Act even if the recipient be a Choice eligible veteran."

Meantime Charles Nelson has marked one week since receiving his new kidney. His son Coty was his donor and they underwent surgery at University Hospital in San Antonio. Both men are recovering and doing well and a lot has happened since the surgery.

Charles and his wife Tamara shared their thoughts on the congressional action taken on behalf of all veterans.

"We're just thankful and blessed that we got our message out and that it went to a federal level to help the Choice Program and all of the veterans that are trying to getting their message heard as well. So, to get that out to where we got it and to see changes this rapid - we're just honored and blessed that this is going to help a lot of veterans hopefully," Charles says.

Tamara says, "We're just so blessed and grateful to our son - that has given us this opportunity and are so grateful that he was willing to do this- and, also that he's doing wonderful and had a clean bill of health today too."

The Nelsons say they hope Congress closes all loopholes so the VA can't use the Choice Program to also deny transplant surgeries from deceased donors who weren't veterans. They say the new legislation is a great start.

 

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