H.R. 3216, Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act

H.R. 3216

Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act

September 26, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On­­­­ ­­­­­­­­­Monday, September 26, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3216, the Veterans Emergency Treatment (VET) Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3216 was introduced on June 7, 2016, by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which ordered the bill reported on September 21, 2016, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3216 requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to follow certain procedures when enrolled veterans arrive with a perceived emergency condition at a VA medical facility to ensure that veterans receive high-quality care. Specifically, the bill requires a VA hospital to conduct a medical examination of an enrolled veteran to determine if an emergency medical condition exists; if such condition does exist, the VA hospital must either stabilize the patient or comply with the statutory requirements of a proper transfer; and if an emergency medical condition exists and has not been stabilized, the hospital may not transfer the patient unless the patient, after being made aware of the risks, makes a transfer request in writing or a physician certifies that the medical benefits of a transfer outweigh the risks. The bill would also prohibit VA from delaying the provision of an appropriate medical exam and/or treatment required in order to inquire about the payment method/insurance status.


In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay.[1] The bill was designed to prevent hospitals from transferring, or “dumping”, uninsured patients at public hospitals. While a 2007 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) directive indicates that the VA complies with the intent of the EMTALA requirements, VA hospitals are considered to be “non-participating” hospitals under the Act and are therefore not obligated to fulfill EMTALA requirements. The VET Act would create similar EMTALA requirements for veterans visiting VA hospitals.[2]

According to the bill sponsor, “The men and women who have served in our Armed Forces have already demonstrated their dedication and willingness to sacrifice for our country. They made serving us their priority, and now we must ensure that veterans are our priority. No veteran should be denied high quality assistance when they require emergency medical care. The VET Act fulfills a promise to our veterans by requiring prompt access to first-class quality emergency care.”[3]

[1] See CMS Website, Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA)
[2] See Rep. Dan Newhouse Press Release, “Newhouse Introduces VET Act Requiring Every Veteran’s Access to Highest Level of Emergency Care,” July 27, 2015.
[3] Id.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates implementing H.R. 3216 would have insignificant costs over the 2017-2021 period, and would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.