Guidelines for emergency care in non-VA facilities

SUN Columnist

A medical emergency is when you have an injury or illness that is so severe that, without immediate treatment, the injury or illness threatens your health or life.

In your best judgment, if you believe your health or life is in danger, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

The nearest VA Medical Center must be notified as soon as possible, within 72 hours, so you, as the veteran, are better aware of services the VA might limit payment for.

You, your family, friends or hospital staff can make this notification. Provide the VA with information about your emergency event and services being provided to you. Ask the VA for guidance on how they will consider reimbursing these emergency charges on your behalf, so you can plan accordingly.

The veteran bears the ultimate responsibility of VA notification.

If the doctor wants to admit you into the hospital because the admission is an emergency, you are still required to notify the VA. If a VA bed is available, and a veteran can be safely transferred, the veteran must move to the VA hospital. Refusal will result in VA not paying for any further care.

If the veteran leaves the emergency room prior to being treated by a physician, the VA may not consider claims for that emergency event, and the veteran may be liable for some or all resulting ambulance and emergency room charges, regardless of veteran eligibility.

Payment by the VA depends on VA eligibility. The VA may pay all, some or none of the charges, based on the veteran’s service-connected conditions, or non service-connected conditions. The veteran may also have co-pays based on VA enrollment. Sometimes, the extent of healthcare services reimbursable by the VA is limited by Federal Law.

A veteran’s enrollment in the VA HealthCare System could affect eligibility for emergency care at VA’s expense.

VAMC Albuquerque, N.M., emergency notification: (800) 465-8262, Ext. 5739.

Further information

For further Information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd.

I will be out of the office on the following days for regular scheduled meetings:

• Vets4Vets: Tuesday mornings, 0900-1200.

• Arboles Community Center, first and third Thursdays. Back around 1400.

• Pagosa Outreach Connection, 0830 to 1000 every Thursday.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. If the office is closed, I am out assisting veterans, leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

This story was posted on September 12, 2013.