MMAA joins NVLSP in arguing the VA’s rule restricting emergency room care reimbursement based on location overreaches the bounds of VA’s authority and is contrary to Congress’ intent

On Monday, the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) — the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization fighting to advance fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community — joined with the National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP) in filing a “friend of the court” brief with the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in the case of Peter Van Dermark v. Robert L. Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is required by statute to reimburse veterans with service-connected disabilities for the value of emergency medical care furnished at non-VA facilities. The lawsuit challenges a VA rule which restricts such reimbursements to care received inside of the United States. In the brief, MMAA and NVLSP argue that the VA’s geographical restrictions are contrary to Congress’ intent and the VA Secretary does not have the authority to make such restrictions.

“By sacrificing so much in service to our nation, disabled veterans have undeniably earned their right to medical care — no matter where they happen to be in the world,” said MMAA Legal and Policy Director Peter Perkowski. “Congress clearly intended for veterans with service-connected disabilities to be reimbursed for urgent medical care, and the VA’s decision to restrict those reimbursements to care received in the United States is an overreach of authority. We are proud to join with NVLSP in filing this important brief in support of our nation’s veterans.”

In the brief, MMAA and NVLSP make two main arguments. First, when Congress guaranteed veterans that VA will reimburse veterans for the value of emergency medical treatment furnished at non-VA facilities, Congress intended for the guarantee to extend worldwide. The second, broader issue is that whenever Congress guarantees that VA will perform an act “under such regulations as the Secretary prescribes,” the Secretary may not impair Congress’ underlying guarantee. Here, where Congress clearly intended for its guarantee to extend worldwide, the statute does not empower the Secretary to promulgate regulations curtailing that guarantee, such as by restricting it to medical treatment furnished within the United States.

Read the brief in full here.