Van Dermark v. McDonough


Question(s) Presented

“Each of two statutory provisions independently obligates the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reimburse eligible veterans for out-of-pocket costs incurred while receiving emergency medical treatment. One statute provides that ‘[t]he Secretary shall . . . reimburse [eligible] veterans . . . for the customary and usual charges of emergency treatment.’ 38 U.S.C. § 1728(a). Another statute similarly provides that ‘the Secretary shall reimburse a veteran . . . for the reasonable value of emergency treatment furnished the veteran in a non-Department facility,’ provided that the eligibility criteria are met. Id. § 1725(a).”

“The VA nonetheless denied reimbursement to service-disabled veteran Peter Van Dermark because he received treatment for his medical emergencies while he was in Thailand. The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of reimbursement, declaring without any basis in the statutory text that Sections 1728 and 1725 do not apply to emergency treatment obtained outside the United States. The Federal Circuit thus concluded that the specific commands in Sections 1728 and 1725 must yield to a more general statute providing that ‘the Secretary shall not furnish hospital or domiciliary care or medical services outside any State.’ 38 U.S.C. § 1724(a).”

“The question presented is whether eligible veterans are entitled to reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs incurred while receiving emergency treatment abroad based on the specific commands in 38 U.S.C. §§ 1728 & 1725.”

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