Ensure All Veterans Are Covered
"I think it is important for all veterans to be eligible for the VA. And that is something that I'm going to reverse when I'm president of the United States."-- Las Cruces, N.M.
FEBRUARY 01, 2010
Obama's FY11 Budget To Increase Access To VA Health Care
In Obama's 2011 budget outline, funding will be provided to allow continued enrollment of more than "500,000 previously ineligble veterans" into VA's health care system by 2013.
JUNE 15, 2009
Health Care Restored To 'Group 8' Vets
The VA announced that it was extending health care to "Priority Group 8" veterans, those considered non-disabled and whose income exceeds the eligibility threshold by up to 10 percent. Benefits for this group had been dropped in 2003.
APRIL 29, 2009
Conference Budget Report Would Expand VA Benefits
The conference version of the budget resolution, passed by both chambers, allows appropriators to "expand the number of disabled military retirees who receive both disability compensation and retired pay," and improve disability benefits. It also calls for expediting concurrent receipt of both disability and retirement benefits, a request that would allow certain veterans to receive the full amount of each from the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments. The resolution also authorizes "restoring health care eligibility to additional nondisabled veterans with modest incomes" and declares that the VA should not bill private insurers for "treatment of health conditions that are related to veterans' military service."
By THERESA POULSON
The Obama administration recently backed down from a controversial veterans' health care proposal in the face of widespread opposition, wasting an opportunity to win support from veterans, one vets' advocate says.
President Obama's budget outline for Veterans Affairs would increase the department's budget significantly, but it also called for billing veterans' private insurance providers for the treatment of some battle-related injuries. The proposal would have saved about $540 million, less than 1 percent of the department budget.
When the proposal came to light, veterans' advocates were quick to express opposition, and dozens of lawmakers from both sides of aisle were vocal in their disapproval, sending letters to the administration and calling any appropriations bill containing the provision "dead on arrival." The administration quickly changed course, but did so having hurt its reputation among veterans.
"This was one of the largest increases for VA by an administration, and that all got lost in the message because of that proposal," said Joseph A. Violante, national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. "It's the government's responsibility, not my insurance company's responsibility, to care for those disabilities that resulted from my honorable service in the military, and we believe that it was a breach of a sacred principle that this country was founded on."
While the third-party billing plan wasn't a direct reneging of Obama's promise to expand benefits to more veterans, it brings to light the difficulties of finding ways to trim the budget in order to make funds available for new initiatives, such as bringing additional veterans into the VA network.
The proposal "wasn't an attempt to swindle veterans," said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, spokesman for Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. "The money saved would have been kept at VA, but I think that this was a bad idea and it looked particularly bad." But Broder Van Dyke finds Obama's quick reversal encouraging, and doesn't question the administration's commitment to veterans' care. "They have shown their commitment to veterans through increased funding, swift transition appointments, and high-level meetings seeking out the recommendations of the veterans service organizations," he said.
Though the plan would have meant savings for the department, the cost of care would have been passed along to others, Violante said. "If you look at a severely disabled veteran, somebody who might be missing limbs or has traumatic brain injury or needs a lot of care ... their insurance company is not going to pay those additional costs without passing them on to somebody, whether it's the veteran themselves -- increasing their premiums -- or spreading that increase among all policy holders." The prospect of increased premiums could also lead employers to discriminate against hiring veterans for fear of bringing them into their insurance network, Violante argued.
The DAV is backing legislation that would ban billing private insurance companies for treatment of service-related disabilities. Three measures have been introduced in the 111th Congress: H.Res.249, H.R.1591 and H.R.1658.
FEBRUARY 26, 2009
Budget Plan Expands Benefits To More Low-Income, Disabled Veterans
President Obama's FY10 budget outline calls for restoring benefits eligibility for nondisabled, modest-income veterans. The outline estimates that the move will expand eligibility to over 500,000 veterans, and it promises to maintain quality and timely care for those already covered.
Further, the budget as outlined would allow "highly disabled veterans who are medically retired from service" to simultaneously receive disability benefits from Veterans Affairs and Defense.
FEBRUARY 17, 2009
More Filipino Veterans Granted Benefits
The Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund was established by the economic stimulus bill, setting aside $198 million for Filipino veterans who fought for the U.S. in World War II. The fund will be used to give $15,000 lump sum payments to Filipino veterans who are U.S. citizens. Noncitizens will be eligible for $9,000 payments. Prior to the law, only a portion of the Filipino veterans were able to receive benefits for their service.