Veterans groups have ‘grave concerns’ on health bill

Six high-profile veterans groups are raising objections to the House healthcare reform bill, warning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that it could jeopardize the care of millions of veterans.

Citing “grave concerns,” the groups are urging Pelosi to modify the House bill. If changes are not made, the veterans groups say they will actively oppose the measure.

In a letter to Pelosi that was obtained by The Hill, the groups state “the legislation could limit the health care choices for veterans, increase the cost of health care for veterans, deny coverage to dependent family members of veterans, and threaten the quality of health care offered to veterans through the VA health care system.”

The groups that signed the letter are the Disabled American Veterans, Blinded Veterans Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, American Veterans (AMVETS) and the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA.

The letter notes that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides medical services to millions of veterans and the quality of care “has risen to amongst the finest health care systems in the nation.”

“Unfortunately,” the letter states, “as currently drafted, H.R. 3200 fails to adequately recognize, protect or preserve this invaluable system for our nation’s 24 million veterans.”

The groups also want the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to continue running the healthcare system offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs and not be “infringed” upon by any other healthcare organizations or administration departments.

“By virtue of their service and sacrifices, veterans have earned special benefits that are separate and in addition to benefits the government provides to other citizens,” the six groups wrote to Pelosi.

The groups stress that any national health reform legislation “must make certain” that all veterans, including those enrolled in the VHA system, remain eligible to enroll in any other public or cooperative health insurance program.

The final reform bill “must make clear” that veterans’ spouses or children have access to the public or cooperative health insurance program.

A spokesman for Pelosi said that Democrats remain committed to veterans and their needs.

“As the legislative process moves forward we will work with all stakeholders on healthcare reform,” said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami.