FOX 7 continues to follow up on the VA's denial of coverage for a Leander veteran's kidney transplant.
The VA told the Nelson family the "Choice Program" wouldn't cover the surgery because the living donor is not a veteran. Charles Nelson got his kidney from his son last Thursday and had to go through Medicare in order to pay for the surgery.
Rep. Jeff Miller, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, criticized the VA's move after seeing our story saying:
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. That's why we have brought this issue to the attention of officials at VA headquarters in Washington with a request for them to clarify this policy and make the veteran whole as soon as possible. The Choice Program was created for the express purpose of expanding medical care access for veterans in need. Attempts to use the program as an excuse to deny veterans care are wrong and contrary to the spirit of the law.
Then, over the weekend, the offices of Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk notified FOX 7 they had introduced the "Veterans Transplant Act of 2016" to clarify the Choice Program.
The bill authorizes the VA Secretary to provide veterans coverage for living donor transplant procedures at any facility if they qualify for the Choice Program.
Sen. Cornyn issued the following statement:
Our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our nation deserve the best possible health care we can give them, but unfortunately, the VA bureaucracy is not doing everything they can to help those who need life-saving transplant procedures. I thank Senator Kirk for his leadership on this issue, and I hope we can pass this bill to help veterans in Texas and across the nation cut through the red tape and receive quality, life-changing care.
Sen. Kirk also said:
The VA is not implementing the Veterans Choice Act as Congress intended. The program should be increasing access to care for our veterans but we still see failures at every turn despite continued promises from VA Secretary McDonald.
As we have been from the start, FOX 7 remains committed to staying on top of this. Count on us to update you as this bill makes its way through Congress and let you know how the VA responds.