On the Mend: Bill Requiring Delayed Reporting of Veterans’ Medical Debts Seeks to Correct Department of Veterans Affairs Payments Errors

On November 14, 2018, a previously-introduced bill to amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) to “rectify problematic reporting of medical debt included in a consumer report of a veteran due to inappropriate or delayed payment for hospital care, medical services, or extended care services provided in a non-Department of Veterans Affairs facility under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs” was amended and is currently on the Union Calendar for vote before the House of Representatives.

The bill was originally introduced on May 25, 2017 by Representative John K. Delaney of Maryland as the “Protecting Veterans Credit Act of 2017” also known as “H.R. 2683.”  If passed, it will likely be known as the “Protecting Veterans Credit Act of 2018” (the “Act”).  There are 34 co-sponsors of the bill and the breakdown in sponsorship (19 Democrats and 15 Republicans) seems to demonstrate bipartisan support so far.  Fifteen of those sponsors were added on November 14th.  It will be interesting to see where this bill goes, and whether it is passed this this year, as some of the sponsors will no longer be in the House come January 2019.

As proposed, the Act requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a database – not later than one year after enactment – to allow consumer reporting agencies to verify whether a debt furnished to a consumer reporting agency is veteran’s medical debt.

For purposes of the Act, the term “Veteran’s Medical Debt”:

  • means a medical collection debt of a veteran owed to an eligible non-Department of Veterans Affairs health care provider that was submitted to the Department for payment for health care authorized by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and
  • includes medical collection debt that the Department of Veterans Affairs has wrongfully charged a veteran.

The Act also amends FCRA section 605(a) (15 U.S.C. 1681c(a)), to exclude certain information from consumer reports, including:

  • a veteran’s medical debt if the hospital care, medical services or extended care services relating to the debt antedates the credit report by less than one year; and
  • information related to a fully paid or settled veteran’s medical debt that had been characterized as delinquent, charged off, or in collection.

For purposes of the amendments to section 605(a), the consumer reporting agency must have actual knowledge that the information is related to a veteran’s medical debt and the consumer reporting agency must be in compliance with its obligations to check the Secretary of Veterans Affairs database.

You can find more information on the bill on Congress.gov or by clicking HERE.

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