Veterans May Have to Pay for Service Injuries
This is just messed up...
Obama mulls making vets foot bill for service injuries
WASHINGTON - WASHINGTON-The Obama administration is considering making veterans use private insurance to pay for treatment of combat and service-related injuries. The plan would be an about-face on what veterans believe is a long-standing pledge to pay for health care costs that result from their military service.
But in a White House meeting Monday, veterans groups apparently failed to persuade President Obama to take the plan off the table.
"Veterans of all generations agree that this proposal is bad for the country and bad for veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "If the president and the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] want to cut costs, they can start at AIG, not the VA."
Under current policy, veterans are responsible for health care costs that are unrelated to their military service. Exceptions in some cases can be made for veterans who do not have private insurance or are 100 percent disabled.
The president spoke Monday at the Department of Veterans Affairs to commemorate its 20th anniversary and said he hopes to increase funding by $25 billion over the next five years. But he said nothing about the plan to bill private insurers for service-related medical care.
Few details about the plan have been available, and a VA spokesman did not provide additional information. But the reaction on Capitol Hill to the idea has been swift and harsh.
"Dead on arrival" is how Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington described the idea.
" . . . when our troops are injured while serving our country, we should take care of those injuries completely," Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing last week.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki said at the same hearing that the plan was "a consideration." He also acknowledged that the VA's proposed budget for next year included it as a way to increase revenue. But he told the committee that "a final decision hasn't been made yet."
For veterans, that was little comfort.
Veterans claim that the costs of treating expensive war injuries could raise their insurance costs, as well as those for their employers. Some worried that it also could make it more difficult for disabled veterans to find work.
The leaders of several veterans groups had written Obama last month complaining about the new plan. "There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran's personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide," they wrote.
Many veterans had high expectations for Obama after years of battling the Bush administration over benefit cuts and medical concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the VA's decision to float a potential change in its policy of paying for service-related injuries could signal a quick end to the honeymoon.
"It's a betrayal," said Joe Violante, legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, which signed the letter to Obama. "My insurance company didn't send me to Vietnam, my government did. The same holds true for men and women now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's the government's responsibility."
Meanwhile, a new poll by the independent Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has found Obama's approval rating falling to 59 percent from 64 percent in February. It also found the ranks of Americans who disapprove of his job performance rising, to 26 percent from 17 percent.
Pew found that 44 percent think that the president listens more to liberals than to moderates in his party, while 30 percent think he listens more to moderates. In January, 44 percent thought he listened more to moderates and 34 percent more to liberals.