With hundreds of thousands of veterans’ healthcare claims on backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), top Republicans in the House and Senate are hoping to prevent VA resources from being used to process claims for medical care of illegal immigrants.
According to a July report from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency contracts with the VA to process medical claims reimbursements involving illegal immigrants even though they did not serve in the U.S. military. Medical professionals treat illegal immigrants detained by ICE on site, but when specialized or emergency care is required, they are transported to private providers, according to Fox News. The arrangement between ICE and the VA was outlined in a 2020 memo during the Trump administration, Fox News reported.
According to the ICE report, in fiscal year 2022, the VA processed healthcare claims for illegal immigrants totaling more than $63.6 million in medical services. That number is expected to rise in fiscal year 2023, the report explains, because providers have one year after the date of service to submit claims.
Terrence Hayes, spokesperson for the VA, told Fox News that the VA doesn’t provide any healthcare services to individuals who ICE detains. All healthcare expenses are paid for and provided by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Health Service Corps, he said.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., in October pressed the VA to address a backlog of more than 300,000 claims, meaning they’ve been pending for more than 125 days. That number, according to a statement from Spanberger, is expected to increase in 2024 to over 400,000 as a result of expanded healthcare benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service.
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