March 10th, 2009
03:38 PM ET
5 years ago

Senator warns White House on possible vet insurance plan

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial a plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance, but was told by lawmakers that it would be "dead on arrival" if sent to Congress.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray used that blunt terminology, telling Shinseki that the idea would not be acceptable and would be rejected if formally proposed. She made the remarks during a Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing about the 2010 budget.

No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a pre-emptive letter last week to President Obama opposing the idea after hearing the plan was under consideration. The groups also noticed an increase in “third-party collections” estimated in the 2010 budget proposal—something they said could only be achieved if the VA started billing for service-related injuries.

Asked about the proposal, Shinseki said it was under "consideration."

"A final decision hasn't been made yet," he said.

A second senator, North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, said he agreed that the idea should not go forward.

"I think you will give that up" as a revenue stream, if it is included in this April's budget, Burr said.

Sen. Murray said she'd already discussed her concerns with the secretary the previous week.

"I believe that veterans with service-connected injuries have already paid by putting their lives on the line," Murray said in her remarks. "I don't think we should nickel and dime them for their care."

Eleven of the most prominent veterans organizations have been lobbying Congress to oppose the idea. In the letter sent last week to President Barack Obama, the veterans groups warned that the idea "is wholly unacceptable and a total abrogation of our government's moral and legal responsbility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much."

The groups included The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

At the time, a White House spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the option was being considere


Filed under: Veterans
soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. Leland J Wolf

    Each time I go to the Veteran's Hospital for service connected disability treatment, they ask me for my private medical insurance insurance card so they can be reimbursed for the treatment. None of the other departments ask for it. Now I'm wondering why. I prefer the VA hospital over Kaiser Prmanente as they treat you like a person instead of just another patient.

    March 10, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. DOC

    It would appear that Mr. Obama is "staying the course" of former President Bush.

    There must be some kind of chemical leak in the White House that turns every president into an uncaring putz when it comes to the service men and women of this country.

    Well, at least they still have Walter Reed. WHOOPS, theres another can of worms!

    March 10, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  3. disgusted

    So this is again, about a rumor. How about wait and see what happens?

    March 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. Tony in Maine

    The treatment wounded vets received during the reign of Bush was bad – this idea is horrible.

    Even under universal single payer health insurance, a veteran with a service related injury or illness must receive care with no copay.

    To ask the veteran to buy insurance to cover such care is unbelievable.

    March 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Ken Bryden

    How can this even be even considered? Why would anyone even think of doing such a thing as to make our brave men and women, who fight for our country, the red, white and blue, a free nation, have to pay for their own medical? this is the dumbest idea I have ever heard of and will do everything I can and write everyone I know to make sure that nobody in our armed services are treated this way. What has happened to this great country of ours?

    March 10, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. MrMac

    Will that apply to The Secretary himself?? Don't forget he sustained woumds in Viet Nam, and I believe lost part of one foot.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Marydoe

    It will never happen.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. Angela Ashley

    I tthink that the very suggestion of possibly requiring our veterans to pay for their healthcare by private insurance is awful. Our men and women in uniform have served our country with honor. They deserve everything we can provide to them for their service. Who in the world came up with this idea? It stinks. Congress, for once, do your duty and shoot this thing down in flames if it comes to you for consideration. The American people will NOT stand for this.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. d1120

    The chickens are coming home to roost....you voted for it, you got it.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. Steve

    Time for a Washington tea party, We are losing our country if we cannot support the people that fight and die for us. The American people need to stand up against anything that hurts our Veterans, GOD Bless America and her Fighting Forces.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  11. David

    Has anyone considered that part of the plan might be to reimburse service members for the private insurance that they buy? My point here is that we know almost nothing about the details of the plan so it's not possible to make a rational decision about whether it's good or not.

    Any time anyone mentions reform of our medical/insurance system, people immediately scream socialism, our choices are being taken away, Govt run health care is going to be the end of Democracy, etc. So.....if Govt run health care is so horrible for the majority of us, why is it great for veterans?

    In my opinion, using health insurance companies isn't good for veterans or the rest of us for that matter. They are huge bureaucracies whose primary goal is to take money from our wallets and produce profits. I would prefer health care be handled by organizations whose primary goal is to provide the best care.

    March 10, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  12. Charles

    This will never fly. Recruitment, in a time where enlistments are already terribly low, will plummet. Who wants to join if you have to worry about outrageous medical bills after separation of service if you were wounded in a battle you were shipped off to? As a Navy vet and Obama supporter, this is truly shocking. When you try so hard to put off the naysayers, sometimes it really is evident you have no one on your side...

    March 10, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. dan

    It is tragic that the Administration even is considering this. But is it not reflective of the general attitude of both political parties toward our military personnel? Do politicians not view military personnel as expendable? No. They are expendable. The politicians praise them for sacrificing their lives to defend our country, and when they come home, they face extraordinary bills, their family life suffers, and they receive less than adequate military treatment in VA hospitals? Is this the way to really treat our military personnel? NO!! They deserve much better than this!! It is time for BOTH political parties to get a clue!!

    March 10, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  14. obama-mama

    toni March 10th, 2009 3:56 pm ET

    perhaps this is an attempt to be sure that Vets are getting the best medical care. Care that meets the medical standard as opposed to what they are getting thru the underfunded and overloaded system that now exists to provide their care.
    ______________________________________________

    Thanks Toni. These people on here are so intense. You know what Benny Hill used to say when you A-S-S-U-M-E

    March 10, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. drwil

    Why is anyone surprized, he did not serve and thinks veterans are beneath him, this is the start of the change! Expect more!

    March 10, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. M Paul

    You sent them to unecessary war and now you want them to pay their treatment out of their pockets. I voted for you man, come out and say no to this evil plan. Democrats in Congress should say NO NO NO. Republicans don't even get involve because you know what you did to our braves men and women.

    Chantilly, Virginia

    March 10, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  17. Richard

    Obama is the most anti-american president ever put in office. Hopefully the country will last 4 more years so we can boot him out !!!

    March 10, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. HoldenLitgo

    This "idea" was floated by the opposition party to make Obama look bad. It's nothing even close to what his policy is. It's farcical. A distraction from the self-destruction of the Repubs.

    March 10, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  19. Pee Wee

    Most are missing the bigger point here. 634 billion dollars in spending as a "down payment" on "UNIVERSAL" health care, yet this idea to make troops pay their own way.

    Anything wrong with this logic? Give it to all, except for those willing to give all.

    Michael Savage was right, liberalism is a mental disorder. (But it's probably covered for them under the Obama plan).

    To borrow a phrase from our esteemed leader, "You've been given the ol' Okey-Doke, bamboozled, hood-winked."

    And this from a good Irishman, Mr. O'Bama

    March 10, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  20. Steve

    Read the article, folks: this is about a RUMOR.

    "NO OFFICIAL PROPOSAL to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a PRE-EMPTIVE letter last week to President Obama opposing the idea after HEARING the plan was under consideration."

    People are getting in an uproar over something somebody "heard," or that might be on a list of considerations. You can put a lot of things on a list of considerations; it doesn't mean that they're not going to be soundly rejected. One method on a list for ways of ridding your house of termites might be burning it down, for example, but that doesn't mean anybody'd be stupid enough to do that.

    I don't like this idea, either, and I don't support any money coming out of our veterans' pockets for any injuries they sustain in defense of this country.... IF that is, indeed, what this plan would mean. The country put them in harm's way, and the country should pay for their care. I was furious at the shabby treatment the Bush administration gave our veterans, and I'll be angry if the Obama administration does the same... but I'm not going to be so foolish as to jump the gun and start throwing out conspiracy theories based on a response to an unsubstantiated RUMOR. And neither should you.

    March 10, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  21. The One

    Democrat Patty Murray fighting with the President on an issue. Patty Murray will not get reelected.

    March 10, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    More change we can believe in (NOT). What an idiot this man is and so are his advisors! Egad – why did you liberal idiots think he was sooooooooooo good???? We are all going to pay for this one's arrogance!

    March 10, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  23. Boston Irish

    That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. If a person gets injured on the job, the EMPLOYER pays the cost of medical fees. If I'm not mistaken, soldiers receive a paycheck from the US Government, so the US Government is their employer. I can't believe this is even being considered. if Obama approves this, he has nobody to blame but himself for the hate mail he will receive and the dropping to the bottom of the barrel of his approval rating. He could probably kiss goodbye any hopes he has of ever getting re-elected. He would probably have a tough time winning the nomination.

    March 10, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. becca

    What the heck are they thinking?

    Any member of Congress and President who promotes this agenda will have a very difficult time getting re-elected.

    March 10, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Jim

    First of all, our vets deserve the very best from us. They were there for our country and our country owes them big time.

    Secondly, everybody needs to calm down.

    This isn't a proposal.

    It's a proposal of a proposal and it was dealt with in an appropriate fashion by the good Senator.

    Problem solved.

    Now let's get back to worrying about the economy going up in flames. Another little thank you gifted to us by the Republican Party.

    March 10, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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