Vets groups’ concerns on healthcare soothed

A leading veterans group said on Monday its concerns that healthcare reform would jeopardize the care of millions of veterans have been partly alleviated.

But one sticking point remains: ensuring that veterans who are participating in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system would not be subject to a tax for uninsured or underinsured individuals.

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Until that issue is fixed “our concerns are not fully resolved,” said Raymond Dempsey, the National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). DAV was among six high-profile veterans groups that sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week expressing “grave concerns” over the House healthcare reform bill and warning that they would actively oppose it if several changes were not made.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), the ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, successfully offered several amendments that took care of most concerns: ensuring that veterans receiving VA healthcare could also enroll for additional health insurance and that the VA secretary would retain full authority to operate the VA healthcare system without interference from any new organizations or agencies established by the legislation.

Buyer also offered an amendment aimed at ensuring that veterans in the VA healthcare system would not be subject to a tax for uninsured or underinsured individuals. While the amendment was withdrawn, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said that he would allow Buyer to offer the amendment when the bill is considered on the House floor later this year.

Buyer’s “amendments and bipartisan support from Chairman Waxman are big steps in the right direction,” Dempsey said in a statement. “The DAV will continue to do more analysis of this voluminous bill, not to mention future versions, before we can have true assurance that veterans are protected.

“But for now, we are pleased lawmakers are willing to make the fixes necessary to protect those who sacrificed to protect us.”

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