TAMPA (FOX 13) - Robert Steiner says he suffered for days without food when the VA slammed him with bills and the federal government docked his Social Security -- all because of a mix-up on his way to the hospital.
Steiner served for years in the National Guard, but knew he did not have full VA benefits. Unfortunately, the medics who found him unresponsive did not know that. They heard he was a veteran and drove him to the Bill Young VA Medical Center, which does not take his private insurance.
When Robert recovered, he received the bill for more than $14,000. Unable to pay, the Treasury Department took payments from his Social Security check, which Robert said was his only means of support.
“That’s one quarter of my monthly income…I went approximately six days one month without food,” he said. "My knees buckled…I could sell everything I own and not be able to cover it."
The government said he would have to put his pleas for help in writing, and sent him forms filled with fine print, overlooking the fact that he is blind, lives alone, and has no one to assist.
He said he called and begged and the government agreed to stop docking his Social Security. But then it sent him the bill again, and warned if he didn’t pay, they could dock his Social Security.
FOX 13 explained his predicament to Congressman Charlie Crist, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Two days later, Robert Steiner said the VA called and told him they fixed it by waiving the hospital bill.
"It as just like a weight had been lifted off of me,” he said. “If you know you're right, stick with it and with Lord Almighty's help, you will win."
A federal spokesman confirmed to FOX 13 that Steiner’s dilemma had been resolved.
“I received notification from the Florida Caribbean Consolidated Patient Account Center (FCCPAC) that Mr. Steiner’s debts with the VA were resolved and that his account balance is now zero,” said Jason Dangel, a public affairs officer for the Bay Pines VA Health Care System. “I am happy that the FCCPAC was able to help Mr. Steiner achieve a positive outcome.”