|
|
|
The Shawnee News-Star
  • Bruce Coulter: White House picking vets’ pockets

  • Military matters column: Hey, G.I., is that a gun in your pocket, or is it just Obama and company reaching for your insurance card?


     

    • email print
  •  

    Hey, G.I., is that a gun in your pocket, or is it just Obama and company reaching for your insurance card?

    President Barack Obama pledged to be a friend to veterans while on the campaign trail.

    As a matter of fact, while at a town hall meeting with veterans in Las Cruces, N.M., Obama said: “One of the best ways that we can honor our fallen soldiers is to honor those who came back, who survived. And so, to all the veterans who are here, I am grateful to your service, and as president of the United States, I will not let you down.”

    Evidence of Obama’s outreach to veterans lies in the numbers of the VA’s fiscal 2010 budget proposal. In testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Secretary Eric Shinseki said the proposed 2010 budget would increase VA’s budget to $113 billion, $15 billion more than fiscal 2009.

    The VA, Shinseki tells us, is about to sow seeds that will blossom into a wealth of benefits and opportunities for veterans.

    The blossoms may include a Venus flytrap as well.

    As reported by CNN last week, Shinseki confirmed the Obama administration is considering a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.

    I have two words for this proposal, only one of which I can use: bull.

    No formal proposal has been made. According to Dave Autry, the deputy national director of communications for the Disabled American Veterans, details would be forthcoming from the Office of Management and Budget in April.

    Autry called the plan for what it is, saying, “The administration should not be using my personal insurance as a revenue stream.”

    What in the world could this administration be thinking? Not only does this proposal penalize disabled veterans for being, well, disabled, but it could also hurt their future employment prospects.

    What employer would hire a disabled veteran knowing he or she could be coming aboard with higher insurance payouts?

    “If you have a million-dollar lifetime limit and a severe disability, it won’t take long to burn through that limit, leaving veterans without insurance coverage and indigent,” said Autry. “The VA would [eventually have to] pick up the cost anyway.”

    Sooner or later, many of us rob Peter to pay Paul. Apparently, Uncle Sam wants to rob disabled veterans to pay – for the veterans’ own benefits.

    To be fair, I understand the VA’s policy to charge private insurers when veterans receive services not related to service-connected injuries. It’s a sound economic policy. But if I have an appointment with a VA audiologist for a hearing loss caused by my service in the military (and I do), my private insurer should not have to pick up the tab.

    Page 2 of 2 -

    Ray Dempsey, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans was much more eloquent in his disappointment.

    In a statement released last week, Dempsey said: “As a native of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, I can’t help but note the irony of such a proposal. Lincoln’s famous quote, ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan,’ has been adopted as the VA’s official motto. But if the current president — who also calls Illinois home — expands third-party collections to service-connected conditions, that motto will be rendered meaningless and should be removed from the VA building.”

    Dead on arrival

    Fortunately, Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., took the matter into her own hands when she spoke at a fiscal 2010 budget hearing held by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

    “While there is much to commend in this budget, I do want to express my concern about a rumored proposal that would supposedly allow the VA to bill a veteran’s insurance company for service-connected disabilities and injuries,” she said. “I believe that veterans with service-connected injuries have already paid by putting their lives on the line for our safety. When our troops are injured while serving this country, we should take care of those injuries completely. We shouldn’t nickel and dime them with their care. While no such proposal has been formally made, I can assure you that it will be dead on arrival in this Congress if it is proposed.

    This isn’t the first time an administration has attempted to recoup dollars from private insurance companies, noted Autry. The idea was debated during the Clinton administration when OMB was looking at ways to increase funding for the VA.

    Meeting

    Earlier this week, representatives of 11 veterans’ groups met with Obama, Shinseki, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and Steven Kosiak of OMB, but to no avail.

    “It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion, in a statement released Wednesday. “He says he is looking to generate $540 million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”

    Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Burlington (Mass.) Union and a retired, disabled veteran. He may be reached at 978-371-5775 or bcoulter@cnc.com.

        calendar