GRIC Files Lawsuit vs. Veterans Administration Seeking Better Care For Military Veterans

April 1, 2016


Press Release


Sacaton, AZ – The Gila River Indian Community and Gila River Health Care filed suit in the Federal District Court of Arizona, on March 22, 2016, to ensure that Veterans who are eligible for health care services through the federal Veterans Administration (the “VA”) and through Community health care programs have access to all of the health care options and choices that they are entitled to under the law.


On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) was signed into law by President Obama, and included specific provisions designed to improve health care access, delivery and choice for veterans, by requiring the VA to reimburse Indian tribes for Veterans who choose to receive service at a tribal health care facility.


Stephen R. Lewis, Governor of the Gila River Indian Community, said: “Access to quality health care is critical for every veteran who has served our Country. It is a shame that the Community has had to file a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration in order to make sure that veteran care is fully reimbursed under the law. Through this lawsuit we hope that we can secure the ability to provide more services for Veterans who choose to receive their care through Gila River Health Care. Every veteran deserves quality health care. They risked their lives for us, and providing quality health care is the least we can do for them.”


The ACA is clear that if an eligible Veteran chooses to receive health care services through an Indian tribe or tribal organization, the VA must reimburse the cost of the services provided. This requirement is a key to ensuring that eligible Veterans will have the health care choices they are entitled to. Despite the plain and mandatory language of the ACA, the VA has refused to provide reimbursements called for under the ACA, unless Indian tribes and tribal organizations agree to conditions and limitations that are not prescribed by law.


Because of the VA’s refusal to follow the law and their insistence that tribes waive their legal rights in writing, the Gila River Indian Community has decided to seek enforcement of these legal rights in Federal Court.