Congressman Lamar Smith

Representing the 21st District of Texas
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Proposed ‘Wingman Act’ would help veterans track medical claims

Feb 14, 2017
In The News

Veterans — Congress wants to be your "wingman." That's what lawmakers are calling a bill they hope would make it easier for you to find out where veterans’ medical claims stand.

At the oldest VFW post in Texas, veterans share their war stories.

"I went into the Marine Corps in 1969," said Retired Marine Luis Gomez. "I was 18 years old. Never in my wildest dreams did I think, you know - I lost my hearing in my right ear in Vietnam. My heart attack's attributed to Agent Orange."

He had quadruple bypass surgery more than a year ago. The VA still hasn't paid the medical bills because of a dispute with the private hospital.

"I was in an EMS ambulance,” explained Gomez. “I couldn't very well call them."

Like so many other veterans, Gomez asked lawmakers for help. It’s a tedious process, says Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

"We want to provide a prompt response,” Rep. Doggett told us. “And sometimes, there's so much red tape, it's such a big bureaucracy, we're unable to do that."

The "Wingman Act" would give certified congressional staffers the ability to access the VA database and give veterans immediate answers.

"It's mainly a matter of looking and seeing precisely what the Veterans Administration has, what was their basis for denying or not acting promptly on a claim," Rep. Doggett explained.

It passed the house with bipartisan support.

Republican Lamar Smith wrote in a statement, "I am hopeful this bill will help our veterans and caseworkers alike to speed up the claims process."

Democrat Joaquin Castro agrees, saying in a statement "it will help reduce the VA's processing time."

"If it expedites it, I'm all for it," said Gomez.

For Gomez, the clock is ticking.

"The medical bills are in my credit report now, and I get letters almost on a monthly basis," Gomez told us.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers will deal with any privacy issues this could raise.