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Obama Gives Back of His Hand to Wounded, Sick Veterans

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In a startling, unprecedented and shameful move on Monday, President Barack Obama enraged leaders of 11 of America's principal veterans service organizations (VSOs), at a meeting celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs' elevation to Cabinet status held at VA headquarters in Washington, D.C., telling them that a proposal to order the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to bill veterans' private insurance companies for treatment for service-connected injuries and illnesses is still under consideration.

A report from CNN notes:

Some of the veterans groups were caught off guard when the president said the administration is still thinking about the idea as a way of generating $540 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010. The groups and some members of Congress have been very vocal in opposing the idea.

"Veterans of all generations agree that this proposal is bad for the country and bad for veterans. If the president and the OMB want to cut costs, they can start at AIG, not the VA," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in a written statement.

Jay Agg, a spokesman for AMVETS said, "This flies in the face of the VA's covenant to cover all service-related health-care expenses."

FOX News quotes American Legion Commander David K. Rehbein, invoking the VA's motto, saying:

This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate 'to care for him who shall have borne the battle,' given that the United States government sent members of the Armed Forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies…I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service-connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans.

From the Revolutionary War onward, America has had a long, proud history of providing for its citizens who have served in its armed forces and who have paid the price of shedding their blood in defense of our country. The nation's earliest efforts left much to be desired in their scope, but the intent has always been to care for and support those who fought our battles.

Today's Department of Veterans Affairs saw its birth in July, 1930 as the Veterans Administration, a sub-Cabinet level agency charged with a variety of responsibilities to veterans, including medical services, disability compensation, and allowances for World War I veterans.

In 1944, as World War II wound down, Congress passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, which quickly became popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights. With its passage, the role of the Veterans Administration was greatly expanded, encompassing job training, educational benefits, home, farm and business loans, life insurance, and unemployment insurance, as well as health care and compensation for wounded and disabled veterans returning from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation to elevate the Veterans Administration to Cabinet level, and twenty years ago, on March 15, 1989, the newly created Cabinet Department was renamed the Department of Veterans Affairs, with Edward J. Derwinski as its first Secretary. Three administrations comprised the new Department: the Veterans Health Administration; the Veterans Benefits Administration; and the National Cemetery System.

During all the years of its existence in various incarnations, the prime mission of the VA has always been the care, at no expense, of wounded and sick combat veterans. All veterans who have served honorably are eligible for treatment for non service-connected problems on a fee-paid basis, subject to means testing, but injured, maimed, and diseased veterans who incurred their debilities as a result of their service have never been required to pay for treatment from the VA.

About Clavos

Raised in Mexico by American parents, Clavos is proudly bi-cultural, and considers both Spanish and English as his native languages. A lifelong boating enthusiast, Clavos lives aboard his ancient trawler, Second Act, in Coconut Grove, Florida and enjoys cruising the Bahamas and Florida Keys from that base. When not dealing with the never-ending maintenance issues inherent in ancient trawlers, Clavos sells yachts to finance his boat habit, but his real love (after boating, of course) is writing and editing; a craft he has practiced at Blogcritics since 2006.
  • Cannonshop

    #45: Agreed. There’s tall buildings, with windows, so they don’t even have to run afoul of New York’s handgun laws to do so, and it would provide some make-work to stimulate the economy.

    The only problem, of course, is that they would need the NYPD to clear the streets for the jump so that innocent folks who were screwed over don’t get insult added to injury.

    Notably: VA doesn’t work well, but it DOES work-a rare thing in any government agency not directly designed to kill people and break their stuff. It doesn’t hold up to Civilian standards, but it does provide better care than relying on poverty-ER medicine or other “Public Health” systems in this country.

  • Baritone

    It doesn’t hold up to Civilian standards…

    I disagree. While you can’t go to the VA to get a face lift or a tummy tuck, there is little that one can’t get if needed from the VA. No doubt some facilities are better than others, but that’s just as true in the private sector.

    Clavos indicated that the VA hospital in Miami is exemplary and I believe the facility here in Indy is as well.

    In the ten or so years I have been going to the VA, I have rarely had to wait more than 15 or 20 minutes for an appointment. I see my primary physician at least twice a year who facilitates getting me into the various clinics – ortho, heart, etc. I always receive appointment reminders in the mail, and often a phone call the day prior.

    I am claustrophobic. I had a conventional MRI for my knee which turned out to be 35 minutes of relative terror. While they don’t have an open sided MRI at the hospital, they had no problem outsourcing me to a private facility for my next MRI for my other knee. Both of my knee scopes have been outsourced, so that I wouldn’t have a long wait to get them done.

    The clientele at the VA is somewhat specialized. There are no kids. The great majority of patients are men, although owing to the rise in women serving in the military and coming into harm’s way, there is a growing contingent of women patients as well.

    Many of the patients are an older, cantankerous lot. Many are poor. Of course a large number of them are disabled in some manner. It ain’t no suburban spa.

    But, regardless, the quality of the care and the facility is, IMO, first rate.


  • Mark Schannon


    Agree completely with your sentiments. Thankfully, someone with more brains & sensitivity alerted the higher ups to this nonsense & the White House today withdrew the idea.

    I’ve said elsewhere that, in a crisis, your primary job is to minimize the screwups as you try to figure your way out. This was a perfect example.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • roger nowosielski

    Mark Schannon,

    You should get on Aetius’s thread. I touches on things you might like to address. Besides, I’d be interested to hear your views regarding Aetius’s article.

    Remember, we still have an issue or two to settle. Consequently, I need more material (from you) to better understand where you’re coming from and the position you’re espousing.


  • Heloise

    Good article Clav. I too was wondering about the cash part even before I read the article. It sounds like an after thought. I read your explain and you still don’t explain it. Okay.

    But all one has to do is to visit a VA hospital. There is a real one in Chicago. And the physical structure is old and decrepit. I think I tried to get a job there once and that’s why I went in there. Didn’t work there nor get hired.

    Don’t know any Vets either and never heard them complain. Glad someone is bringing up the obvious not enough has been done for them. What about the crazies coming back from Iraq? We have to worry about the PTSD from all these people returning. America cares not for those who get damanged in war after they send them off.


  • roger nowosielski


    To the best of my knowledge, VA has always been underfunded. And given the size of the budget and the stimulus package, the amount of money to be saved is indeed a pittance.

    Do you know, Clavos, what would the reaction from the private insurance companies be if this proposal went through?

    On the face of it, at least, it appears analogous to a similar move when those on Social Security and Medicare would be/are (?) required to pay for some of the benefits if either their total income is above certain level and if they have other medical insurance besides

  • Clavos

    The thing is, Roger, that all honorably discharged veterans are entitled to treatment at a VA facility.

    Among those veterans, however, are two kinds of patients: those who come for treatment for conditions that occurred as a result of their service, and those who seek treatment of conditions that have no connection to their service.

    The latter group already are means tested and pay copays (as Baritone explained he does, above), either themselves (as in B-tone’s case) or, if they have private insurance, the VA bills their insurance carrier, just as any other medical provider would.

    The group who are suffering conditions incurred as a result of their service, and/or are deemed disabled as a result of their service, are NOT required to pay, not even copays. It was the insurance carriers of this group that Obama was proposing to start billing for services.

    Not only would this have been a revocation of the VA’s primary and most important mission, it would have inevitably resulted in those veterans having to pay out of pocket expenses in the form of copayments and/or increased premiums on their insurance.

    In addition, as Cindy mentioned above, many (if not most) of this group are seriously wounded and/or sick; their treatment is complex, long lasting (often for life) and very expensive, greatly increasing the likelihood of such veterans “topping out” on their insurance, and winding up uninsured altogether, which also would hurt their families.

    It was a very bad idea, which would not have resulted in much savings (relatively speaking), but definitely would have cost the president (and by extension, the Democratic party) a lot of good will, not only with the millions of veterans and their families, but with the voters in general.

  • The Obnoxious American


    Fantastic article. Terrible thing we are discussing here. I just can’t believe Obama would actually do this.

    Forget about bailing out corporations. What about the 8 billion for the monorail between cali and las vegas? Or any of the other pork projects or handouts in the several trillion in spending over these first two months? Obama clearly has his priorities totally wrong.

    One good note however, Obama did do his NCAA brackets, so we are covered in that regard.

  • Clavos


    …those on Social Security and Medicare would be/are (?) required to pay for some of the benefits if either their total income is above certain level and if they have other medical insurance besides…

    Actually, Medicare only pays 80% for ALL patients, regardless of income, and doesn’t pay for medications (with a few very specialized exceptions), so everyone on Medicare has to have so-called “Medigap” insurance to cover the 20%, as well as insurance for medications.

  • Clavos

    Thanks OA.

    I’m sure it wasn’t Bam’s own idea, but I do fault him for not stepping on it AND the insect who proposed it; at the very least, his own political self-interest alarms should have gone off when they presented the idea to him.

  • The Obnoxious American


    As the left has reminded us many times over the last eight years, he is the president and it all falls under his responsibility. See Katrina for more details.

    But don’t worry, Obama will always do what is expidient, so now that everyone is in a huff, Obama will likely give another prime time teleprompter speech talking about his new proposal to help all the vetrans. He will sound pious doing it, and the average joe will walk away thinking, wow, I am really glad we got that Obama guy in office.

    Given Obama’s proclivity to do what is perceived as expedient, as opposed to having a principled center, I wonder if foreign countries are scheming ways to control Obama via drummed up outrage over this or that policy. It really wouldn’t be hard. A little propaganda, some foreign owned press outlets, and you could effectively guide the president’s actions via expediency. It happens all the time in the business world, it’s known as managing up.

  • Baritone


    RE your #40: “Have you signed up for MyHealtheVet yet?”

    Yes. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, though.


  • Cindy

    Jobless rate hits 11.2% for Vets. USA Today. 3-20-09.

    Having a military record is apparently seen almost in the same way as having a felony conviction one Vet said. Employers apparently think Vets must have some kind of mental aberration from having been in a war.

  • roger nowosielski

    Pretty soon it will be 20 percent and rising for the country at large.

  • leighann

    The VA hospitals that I know about are terrible! (Biloxi)My dad is a disabled vet (with service related injuries) who is also mentally ill. He is in liver failure and the VA has him seeing a nurse practitioner. Not a liver specialist, not even a doctor. When my dad’s amonia levels go up, his eyes get very matted. When he asked her about this she told him that she did not deal with eyes, he would have to go somewhere else. He can’t walk, take his pills independently, or even hold a spoon to feed himself but each time he has been just about ready to get on a transplant list, they tell him that he failed the drug test for THC. We finally got tired of it and took him the next day for another test from a civilan doctor and he passed. When VA ran it again, he passed but they would not even listen to his wife before that when she told him that there was no way he has been smoking marijuana. I go to a support group on line for families of liver patients and I have heard a few of the people from VA say that they have dealt with the same thing. If you complian it just makes it worse, and if you have no other insurance then you do not have any other choice but to take the crap tht they give.
    Thankfully, my father does and now sees a civilian doctor, a real doctor at that.

    So much for socialized medicine, where my family is concerned anyway.