Senators Warren, Scott Press Department of Defense to Provide Information, Promote Accountability and Interbranch Cooperation
During Recent Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Hearing, Several Senators Raised Concerns about the Lack of DoD Response to their Requests for Information
Washington, D.C. – In their first letter together as Chair and Ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wrote to Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel, Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., following up on requests for information by members of the committee. The letter follows recent testimony before the subcommittee where senators raised their concern over lack of responsiveness from the Department of Defense (DoD) to congressional requests for information.
“We want to remind you of the several requests for information, reports, and responses to previous letters requesting information that Senators have yet to receive and that they raised with you and your colleagues during the hearing,” wrote the lawmakers.
Several members on the subcommittee – including Senators Budd (R-N.C.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kelly (D-Ariz.), Kaine (D-Va.), and Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – have reached out to DoD multiple times, seeking information about recent policy directives and overdue reports on military personnel that were required under previous National Defense Authorization Acts.
At her first hearing as Chair of the Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Warren requested a report or briefing on how DoD will finally implement its authority to waive civilian medical debt for those receiving emergency treatment at military treatment facilities and to ensure patients are informed of their rights to get their debt waived. Between 2016 and 2021, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that DoD had billed over 60,000 civilian patients. Two thirds of the civilian patients DoD treats don’t have any insurance, yet DoD has only waived debt less than 60 times in five years. DoD has yet to implement the authority Senator Warren and Representative Castro passed into law three years ago.
“In all cases the requests issued last week were at least the second if not in some cases the third time we have called upon the Department to comply,” concluded the lawmakers. “As we both indicated to you all during the hearing, congressional requests for information are not only owed to us due to our constitutional oversight responsibilities, but they are also an important means by which our two branches of government can cooperate for the sake of better policy on behalf of taxpayers.”
The lawmakers asked for a response from DoD as soon as possible with a fulfillment of these requests.
Senator Warren has long fought to hold the Department of Defense accountable and ensure affordable access to health care for all:
- On March 16, Senator Warren sent a letter to DoD Secretary Lloyd Austin requesting information from DoD about efforts to implement recommendations from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Servicemember Affairs’ Annual Report to address service member medical debt.
- On March 15, chairing her first hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Warren highlighted the importance of putting pressure on DoD to exercise its authority to waive civilian medical debt.
- In March 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Castro (D-Texas) sent a letter to the Department of Defense’s Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez and Director of the Defense Health Agency Lieutenant General Telita Crosland, urging the agency to waive civilian patients’ medical debts incurred at military treatment facilities, using statutory authority established by the lawmakers’ provision in the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
- In December 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Castro introduced the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act, legislation that would ensure that Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) run by the Department of Defense (DoD) can continue to enhance military readiness without racking up huge bills for civilians receiving emergency medical care.
- In August 2022, Senator Warren and Rep. Castro sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin raising concerns that the Department of Defense (DoD) may be misleading or misinforming civilians about debt they incur when they receive emergency medical care at military health care facilities, and calling for improved billing practices to protect patients.
- In March 2022, Senator Warren joined Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in sending a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra highlighting the growing medical debt burden faced by consumers. Specifically, the letter urges the CFPB to use its authority to address the growing medical debt burden faced by U.S. consumers, and establish an ombudsman position for consumer medical debt.
- The FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included Senator Warren's provision, based on the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act, to give DoD the authority to waive medical debt when the civilian is unable to pay the costs of the care provided and the care enhances the knowledge, skills, and abilities of military healthcare providers.
- Senator Warren originally introduced the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act in June 2020.
- In January 2020, Senator Warren sent a letter to DoD and the Treasury Department requesting information about the collection of military hospital debt from low-income, civilian patients.
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