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Updates from Hirono (June 12-20)



Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act of 2014.

This legislation expands access to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) emergency safety net to all VA-enrolled veterans who rely solely on the VA for their medical care.

The Hirono-Moran bill helps veterans by cutting red tape and eliminating the 24-month rule that can prevent veterans from being reimbursed for their emergency medical expenses.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed last year a similar measure by Hirono and Moran, although that measure was included in an omnibus bill that was eventually blocked from passage.

“The recent scandal at the VA has shown that we must do all we can to help our veterans, even after the spotlight on this issue has faded,” Hirono said. “Building on the successful passage of the Sanders-McCain bill, Senator Moran and I are joining together again to push a permanent fix to the VA system that helps make sure our veterans can access the care that they need. This bill eliminates red tape that prevents veterans from being reimbursed for emergency care – veterans needing care shouldn’t be penalized because they live in rural communities or face outrageous wait times for appointments at VA medical facilities.”

“Veterans should not be forced to bear the burden of emergency health care costs because of the dysfunctional, bureaucratic VA system,” Moran said. “Those who have served our nation with duty and honor deserve quality health care when they need it. As a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Member, I am committed to improving access to care for veterans in Kansas and across the country.”

“The VFW thanks Senators Hirono and Moran for introducing the Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act of 2014. This important legislation would ensure that veterans who seek emergency care will no longer be responsible for financially devastating medical bills, simply because they have not received VA care in the previous 24 months. It would also close a loophole that allows veterans’ insurance companies to withhold reimbursements from VA,” said Raymond C. Kelley, Director of National Legislative Service at Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The current VA system creates a catch-22 for more than one million veterans who rely solely on the VA for their medical care. A veteran who receives emergency care at a non-VA facility can be reimbursed for those costs only if that veteran has also received care at a VA facility in the preceding 24 months. This creates an extreme financial hardship for veterans who experience a medical emergency.

The Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act waives this 24-month rule.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a similar measure last year by Hirono and Moran, although that reform would have only waived the 24-month rule for newly enrolled veterans waiting for their first appointment, not fully repealing it.

The Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act is fully paid for and includes a provision that prevents insurance companies from denying or limiting reimbursements to the VA for medical care provided to insured veterans on the basis that the VA is not an in-network provider.

According to the VA, this provision is projected to raise over $98 million in 2015 and $1.1 billion over 10 years.


Hirono has announced her 2014 Summer Intern Class. Madison DiZinno and Shannon Nakamoto will represent Hawaii Island this year.

“It’s a privilege to have bright Hawaii students intern in my office,” Hirono said. “Meeting with students and hearing their stories often reminds me and my staff of the importance of pushing for more opportunities for our young people, including making college more affordable, strengthening our economy, and ensuring everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream. Mahalo to Madison, Shannon, Michael, Alex, Sarah, Caitlin, and Lana for their service to our office and Hawaii.”

Madison DiZinno, Hawaii Preparatory Academy/Boston College (D.C. Office):

Madison DiZinno is a resident of Kailua-Kona who graduated from Hawaii Preparatory Academy in 2011. She is currently a rising senior at Boston College double majoring in political science and economics. Her studies have spanned everything from Social Security reform and Medicare expansion to U.S.-Iran relations and European Union political systems. Madison has studied abroad in Spain and aspires to someday pursue a career in law.

Shannon Nakamoto, Christian Liberty Academy/Hawaii Pacific University (D.C. Office):

Shannon Nakamoto was born and raised in Pahoa. She is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Hawaii Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Administration and English. Her interest in education has inspired her to work as a part-time teacher at Kalihi Waena Elementary School. While in Washington this summer, Shannon is also participating in the Native American Political Leadership Program at George Washington University. A part-time legal assistant at the Law Offices of Suzanne T. Terada, Shannon plans to attend law school next year to pursue a career as an attorney.

Senator Hirono’s 2014 Summer Intern Class:

Hawaii Island

* Madison DiZinno, Hawaii Preparatory Academy/Boston College (D.C. office)

* Shannon Nakamoto, Christian Liberty Academy/Hawaii Pacific University (D.C. office)


* Michael Kikukawa, Molokai High School/Harvard University (D.C. office)


* Alex Chun, Baldwin High School/University of Washington (D.C. office)


* Sarah Hayashi, Punahou School/George Washington University (D.C. office)

* Caitlin Mori, Sacred Hearts Academy/Yale University/Beijing University (Hawaii office)

* Lana Shaindlin, Mid-Pacific Institute/University of Rochester (Hawaii office)

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