San Bernardino Victims Petition Trump to Fix Health Care Roadblocks

The petition needs 100,000 signatures in 30 days to get a White House response.

ByABC News
February 8, 2017, 4:11 PM

— -- A group of San Bernardino terror attack victims has created a petition calling on President Donald Trump to compel local officials to approve medical care that they say has been delayed or outright denied.

San Bernardino Survivors Speak Out, a support and advocacy group organized by those who survived, has been arguing that San Bernardino County officials are delaying treatments, saying today that the county “insists on using” a review process that “continues to delay/deny care.”

“Because injuries are work-related, private insurance refuses to cover treatment and survivors are required to go through the County’s self-administered workers comp, and utilization review (UR),” the group wrote on the petition that is posted to the White House website.

“The State of California stated that treatments can be approved by the County instead of UR. But the County insists on using UR and continues to delay/deny care,” the group said.

Asked about these claims, San Bernardino County Spokesman David Wert said, “employees who are injured on the job, especially those who are the victims of terror, deserve the best in care without delays or red tape, and in no instance has the county delayed or denied necessary care.”

“In the December 2 cases, [utilization review] decisions have been rendered within two to three days,” Wert said. “Many denials were caused by a lack of information provided by employees’ doctors.”

Wert added that the county had assigned case managers to the victims, which “have focused on ensuring the treating physicians submit paperwork for utilization review in a timely manner,” and said that this has resulted in “a sharp decrease in the number of survivors reporting delays or denials.”

Wert said that of the 775 treatments requested by victims of the Dec. 2015 attack, the utilization review had denied about 12 percent. Only one-third of those denied claims, he said, were appealed.

The victim’s petition calls on Trump to, “issue an executive order making it illegal for the County of San Bernardino to use UR for survivors AND mandating the County to approve, retroactively and in the future, ALL treatment for Dec. 2 survivors.”

But even if the petition grabs the president’s attention, he may not have the authority to compel local officials to handle the victims cases differently.

“The difficulties of these survivors may be real, but the President has no authority simply to order local jurisdictions to do his bidding,” Kent Greenfield, a law professor at Boston College, told ABC News.

Regardless of whether Trump can force change, Amanda Gaspard, a victim of the attack and member of the support group, told ABC News in a phone interview on Wednesday that she hopes the petition brings greater attention to their frustrations with the workers compensation process.

“The current White House administration may not know what is happening to the survivors. We are trying to raise awareness... To put it on [Trump’s] radar. To put it hopefully on the national radar of senators and congressman,” she said.

In December, Gaspard, told ABC News how frustrations over receiving treatment had added to her suffering.

Gaspard was struck twice in the leg during the assault that left 14 people dead and 22 others injured.

She said that she had struggled to have a surgery approved despite still having the shrapnel from the two bullets embedded one year out from the attack.

Other survivors pointed to difficulties getting medication and physical therapy.

One of Gaspard’s surgeries was approved shortly after she spoke out, however the advocacy group said in January that the county “has failed to expedite the workers comp process,” and has been slow in providing information to a firm that it hired last month to accelerate the process.

Gaspard says another surgery is pending.

At the time, a county spokesman pointed to a computer system that had to be reconfigured in explaining the delay, and said that the firm handling the workers compensation process had not been able to reach some of the survivors.

The petition, which was posted to the White House website on Jan. 23, will need to garner 100,000 signatures within 30 days of going live. If it does so, the White House will issue an official response, according to the official petition site.