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Veterans’ Advocates Raise Concerns Over VA’s Role in Migrant Medical Care Amid Border Crisis

As the ongoing border crisis continues to intensify, veterans’ advocates are questioning the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) involvement in processing claims for migrant medical care.

This arrangement between the VA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is drawing scrutiny due to concerns that it may impact the agency’s ability to care for veterans effectively, especially considering existing complaints about veterans’ healthcare.

Russ Duerstine, a veteran of the United States Air Force and the executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, expressed his confusion about why the VA is involved in this process. Typically, when an illegal immigrant under ICE detention requires medical care, they are treated on-site.

Credit: DepositPhotos

However, if specialized or emergency care is necessary, they may be transported to an independent private provider. In these cases, ICE contracts with the VA’s Financial Service Center (VA-FSC) to handle reimbursements to the providers.

Although the arrangement predates the Biden administration and was outlined in a 2020 memo during the Trump administration, many veterans’ advocates, as well as ICE and Border Patrol agents who are also veterans, have expressed surprise about it.

Darin Selnick, a former veterans’ affairs advisor, stated that he would have stopped this arrangement if he had known about it during the previous administration.

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Concerns about the VA’s involvement in migrant medical care have arisen alongside the ongoing tensions between veterans’ advocates and the VA over the use of community care. The VA’s goal is to reduce reliance on independent providers and increase care at VA facilities.

However, this has led to dissatisfaction among veterans who struggle to access community care while witnessing illegal immigrants receive prompt medical attention.

The VA has been adamant that it does not fund or provide healthcare services to individuals detained in ICE custody. Instead, the VA-FSC provides claims processing services to ICE, which then reimburses healthcare providers.

ICE has executed a budget of nearly $352 million for healthcare services to individuals in custody. However, veterans’ advocates want further scrutiny of the VA’s role in migrant medical care from congressional Veterans’ Affairs committees.

Credits: DepositPhotos

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The VA has faced criticism for burnout, staffing shortages, and backlogs in processing claims. Veterans’ advocates argue that the VA-ICE arrangement would be less concerning if the VA were consistently providing the healthcare veterans deserve.

The lack of timely payments to community care providers and the backlog of medical claims have caused dissatisfaction among veterans.

In the midst of an unprecedented border crisis with millions of migrant encounters, the role of the VA in migrant medical care adds to the ongoing debate surrounding veterans’ healthcare. Advocates and veterans alike are calling for a thorough examination of the VA’s priorities and the level of care provided to veterans compared to illegal immigrants.

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