VA promises to pay veteran's medical bill 'any day' after WBTV investigation

(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte-area veteran called WBTV for help after doctors at a VA clinic sent him to a private hospital for medical treatment that left him with a big bill.

Stephen Hudspeth was driving from Asheville, NC to his home in Harrisburg, NC when he started experiencing heart problems. That's when he stopped at the VA medical clinic in Hickory.

Hudspeth's medical records show doctors at the Hickory VA clinic called an ambulance that picked Hudspeth up inside the clinic and took him to a nearby hospital, Frye Regional Medical Center.

Hudspeth was treated at Frye and eventually released.

Because Hudspeth was sent to the private medical facility by VA doctors, the government is supposed to pay the cost of the medical treatment.

But that's not what happened in Hudspeth's case.

Frye sent Hudspeth a bill for more than $19,000 in May. In the months since Hudspeth said he has been unable to get a straight answer from neither the hospital nor the VA about why he got the bill and whether this is something, the VA is actually going to pay.

"Six months later, I got a bill in the mail for almost $20,000 and I almost fell on the floor," Hudspeth said in an interview with WBTV. "I said, 'Lord, the VA said they were going to take care of all this.'"

Hudspeth received his bill in May. He said he tried asking the VA why he received the bill and whether they would pay the charges but never got an answer.

"When you get a bill for that kind of money and you don't have it, you sit there and say 'well, dang, how am I going to pay this?'" Hudspeth said. "I saw you on TV and said 'you know, this guy I think can get this collected for me.'"

It took just one email from WBTV for a VA spokeswoman to promise Hudspeth's bill would be paid as soon as possible.

A VA spokeswoman provided the following statement:

We appreciate the opportunity to address Mr. Hudspeth's billing situation and quickly resolve any pending concerns. After review, the majority of Mr. Hudspeth's bills have been paid by VA, to include the ambulance. The bill from Frye Hospital for $19,085.74 was just submitted to VA for payment on June 27, 2017, and is in the queuing system to be processed any day. At times when a Veteran is seen outside the VA, the invoices can be sent to the wrong location, which can result in a lengthier processing time. We will continue working with our community partners to ensure bills are handled correctly in a timely manner.

A spokeswoman for Frye Regional Medical Center said she was unable to provide a detailed explanation as to why Hudspeth was ever sent a bill for his hospital visit, citing patient confidentiality laws. But the spokesman provided the following statement:

Frye Regional is proud to serve the healthcare needs of our veterans, and we work closely with the US Department of Veteran's Affairs (or the VA) to ensure they have access to high-quality, affordable care close to home. We cannot discuss specifics of any patient's care, but we can tell you that our doors are always open for patients who have questions or concerns.

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