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MN, WI veterans are hit with thousands in unbilled VA copayments

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Veterans in Minnesota and Wisconsin are being hit with bills for thousands of dollars for medical care copayments dating back five years.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) discovered unbilled copay amounts totaling almost $550,000 for inpatient care at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center dating from 2010 – and told veterans they were facing assessments of between $1,000 to $3,000 because they weren't charged at the time, the Star Tribune reports.

With veterans in Minnesota and Wisconsin among those affected, members of both states' congressional delegations wrote to VA Secretary Bob McDonald asking for a delay in collection of payments to relieve the pressure on vets, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Minnesota Republican, is going further, saying on his website that he intends to introduce legislation that protects vets from what he calls the "erroneous and untimely billing practices" of the VA, which he says have caused "frustration and confusion" to state vets.

"We owe a great deal to those who have proudly served our nation, and they deserve more than unexpected, outdated bills because the VA failed to notify veterans of payments in a timely manner," Kline, himself a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, said.

"I look forward to introducing legislation in September to protect veterans' rights, hold the VA accountable, and ensure promises made are promises kept," added Kline, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

McDonald replied to the delegations' letter last month, apologizing for the billing problems and saying his agency will develop "stronger internal controls" to prevent similar problems in the future, according to the Star Tribune.

Kline's legislation would give the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs the power to waive copayment bills if it was found the VA didn't send the bills out "in a timely manner," and require the VA to inform veterans of their rights to payment plans and waivers if it didn't meet its billing timelines.

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