WASHINGTON, DC - On March 16, 2023, the Veteran’s Administration issued a press release announcing an “updated version of its 1959 mission statement as follows:
To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation's military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
According to Town Hall, the VA is under fire after it was revealed the Department of Veteran’s Affairs entered an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to process claims for medical care of illegal aliens. That revelation concerns Russ Duerstine, a veteran of the United States Air Force and executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, he told Fox News Digital.
Duerstine said that veterans' health care would suffer as a result.
According to Duerstine, the VA has had an internal agreement with the Health Service Corps since 2002, to provide processing. However, that agreement said it is not responsible for offering or paying for healthcare. He called upon Congress to launch an investigation into the agreement with ICE.
According to Trending Politics:
“When an illegal immigrant detained by ICE requires medical attention, they are usually treated by on-site medical specialists. If they require expert or emergency treatment, they may be moved to an independent private provider. In these circumstances, ICE enters into a contract with the VA’s Financial Service Center (VA-FSC) to execute payments to those providers.
"According to a July report, ICE has hundreds of letters of understanding in which the Health Service Corps (IHSC) of ICE will compensate clinicians at Medicare rates. The VA-FSC’s Healthcare Claims Processing System is used for this, which is a portal that allows clinicians to file and evaluate claims as well as access other services.”
In other words, it appears that the VA is paying for and processing healthcare claims for illegal aliens.
ICE claims the VA does not pay for healthcare services for illegal aliens but directs funds to the VA-FSC for reimbursements. The IHSC spent approximately $352 million in FY23 on a “spectrum of healthcare services” to illegals in ICE custody.
When word of the agreement got out, it caught the attention of veterans’ supporters and ICE and Border Patrol personnel who are also veterans, who said they were unaware of this.
During the Trump administration, Darin Selnick worked as a veterans’ affairs adviser on the Domestic Policy Council and was a senior adviser to the VA secretary.
“In my position, we would have stopped this because if the VA had the extra ability to do this, then they should have been doing it for veterans and not for another agency,” Selnick said.
This story arose at a time when our border is under siege by illegal aliens, with some estimating over eight million illegals have crossed the border since Biden was inaugurated on January 20, 2021. In addition, complaints persist about the care being provided to veterans by the VA.
A spokesman for the VA denies that the organization provides healthcare to illegal aliens.
“VA does not provide or fund any health care services to individuals detained in [ICE] custody. At no time are any VA health care professionals or VA funds used for this purpose,” press secretary Terrence Hayes told Fox News Digital. “[HSC] provides and pays for all health care services for individuals detained in its custody."
He further claimed the FSC, part of the VA’s Office of Management, is a “franchise fund organization that offers medical claims processing services to VA and other government agencies.”
“IHSC is solely responsible for the authorization of health care services and obtaining the providers to deliver the health care,” Hayes said.
Fox News Digital said the issue was raised in a Senate hearing last month by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and VA officials said they were “not aware” of it.
Duerstine said he would like to see Veterans’ Affairs committees in Congress further probe the issue.
“That is the solution we need to have.”
The issue comes about as tensions between veterans’ affairs advocates and the VA have risen over the use of community care, with the VA saying they want to encourage the use of VA facilities rather than independent providers whom the agency then reimburses.
Video released from an August town hall provided to Fox News Digital showed VA Undersecretary for Veterans Affairs for Health Shereef Elnahal telling employees that the agency's goal is to “reduce our reliance on community care” by maximizing the use of VA facilities. He advised employees to “press the easy button less with community care.”
“We should be relying on ourselves first and foremost more than anybody else,” Elnahal said while adding that “unless we maximize the number of veterans we see while also preventing burnout to the extent that we can, we cannot meet the mark for what veterans deserve.”
The VA denies that it is not providing adequate health care, noting that statistics show that it allegedly provided the most health care appointments to veterans in VA history while also claiming “trust scores” reached 91%.
They also noted high ratings of VA healthcare facilities, which outpaced non-VA facilities, and noted a review of studies suggesting VA care is as good as, if not better than, non-VA hospitals.
There have been some notable high levels of burnout within the VA, as well as staffing shortages, leading to backlogs in processing claims. Duerstine worries that the VA-ICE arrangement may negatively impact veterans' care.
“That is the real issue, veterans not getting health care they deserve through community care and being blocked every step of the way.”
Selnick meanwhile said there was a “history of a backlog of medical claims which has resulted in veterans getting bills they shouldn’t be getting, and…having dissatisfied community care providers who are not getting paid in a timely manner.”
“So when you’re talking about health care and, you should be simply talking about supporting the VA mission for veterans’ health,” he continued.
Fox News Digital spoke to a Border Patrol agent who is also a veteran, who said he had received good community care; however, other veterans they knew were struggling to access it.
He said illegal aliens are having no such problem.
“They get pretty much not what they want, but pretty much what they need, whether it’s a specialist…they get it,” the agent said.
The agent also claimed that low-income veterans were getting the shaft, noting, “...we’re here helping everybody else, in our own backyard.”
Another federal officer, this time with ICE, told Fox News Digital that he had issues accessing community care for certain healthcare services, such as for services like neurology, yet illegal aliens were able to be seen by community providers.
“We served in the military in this country, and we have these benefits to use in the VA, and I pay an exorbitant amount of taxes to this country, and I can’t even get seen for basic needs,” the agent said. “But illegals can, they can literally cross the border with all these pre-existing medical injuries or illnesses or whatevery they have going on, and they literally walk right into a primary care doctor or specialty care doctor and get whatever services they need.”