March 10th, 2009
03:38 PM ET
11 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. Mike from Arlington

    I am a veteran, and I don't see what all the commotion is about. In the first place, no decision has been made. You all make it seem that discussion of issues means that that is how it will be. That may have been true of the last administration, where any questioning of Bush's and Cheney's (and their clones') policies was tantamount to treason, but this administration will listen to all ideas, no matter how problematic they may sound, and make an informed decision on that issue.

    In the second place, there is no way that this President is going to abandon veterans. If it seems that having insurance companies pay for veterans' treatment will allow the VA to serve us veterans better (i.e., particularly, those with no private insurance at all) I don't see why that might not work out, making sure that vets would receive better service that what they have been receiving under the hypocrite Republicans. Actually, thinking about it, it wouldn't take squat to serve us better than what they've been giving us. President Obama is commtted to us veterans, there is no doubt about it.

    I'm sick to death of all the hypocrisy. The right will scream up and down about perception, when the reality is that they have done more in the last eight years to trash veterans benefits than any other period in U.S. history.

    March 10, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Harold Runyon

    Bring back the draft .Then watch the rich so and so's put a stop to this war crap. Put all politicians in the service too . Take care of our service men and women.

    March 10, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  3. lawguyNYC

    Obama wants to expand the US military engagement in Afghanistan while contemplating making wounded combat veterans pay for the costs of medical care for their injuries with private insurance? This is a disgrace! Viewed in a larger context, it is just one more example that the Obama administration with all its rhetoric and support of a Wall Street bailout is in reality (at least thus far) leaving the most vulnerable US citizens out in the cold. Ask yourself, has Obama said even a single word during his campaign or first days in office about immediately ending predatory credit card default rates? lowering or freezing student loan payments? or creating any single large-scale federal initiatives (i.e. a renewed job corps or the equivalent of the Depression Era W.P.A.)? Have you seen him actually tour public housing, federal prisons or VA hospitals? The answer is "No". Average Americans and the least vulnerable ( including wounded vets) will continue to receive little if any direct attention. Thus far, the name of the Obama game appears to remain, "if it does not directly benefit corporate America and in a large way, then it ain't happening".

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

    Listen to the usual republicans chiming in... Ignore the FACT that they suported the complete missuse of our Military for profit while keeping them ill equipt, undermanned and left to fend for themselves when they come home.

    True hypocrites who are now seen for who they are. Future generations will curse the republicans and the theft of America and our Military that occured this decade.

    Failure has a face and that is the Republican party.

    March 10, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. stan

    i am a service connected vietnam veteran. please tell the Obama greedy Admin, to 'get a life' and leave veterans benefits alone! i can see already Obama is a fraud and has no idea how to be the president. i hope he gets kicked out, before his term is finished. Bush was better than this clown!

    March 10, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Outraged

    You've got to be kidding me! Anyone who believes that our healthcare system isn't broken, needs to have their head examined.

    On top of cancer patients going without care, we are now considering having our military persons paying for service related injuries out of pocket?!!!

    Single payer universal healthcare – PLEASE!!!!!!!

    March 10, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Lillie


    March 10, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Dan

    obama-mama March 10th, 2009 3:56 pm ET

    Everybody jumping the gun. Did any of you hear this from the president.
    I don't think so. Obama is using the Secretary to float the idea. Some idea! Too bad I cannot take back my vote. I served for 22 years active duty. I have lots of friends with service connected disabilities and this President is considering making them pay for their service connected injuries? NOW I heard everything! I want my money back that I donated to the Obama campaign and I am throwing away my Obama tshirts and ball caps.

    March 10, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  9. Sowega

    One more example of how i feel played by the Obama campaign. I want my vote back. Not that I'd give it to McCain, but I'd just not bother casting it.

    A lot of the crap that's been talked about in the last few weeks has definitely not been representative of the message of the campaign. I've learned my lesson.

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

    I am a 100% disabled vet, with schizophrenia and PTSD, and now I am legally blind due to nervous system complications. Don't I deserve medical care for these service-connected problems? Before things got so bad and I could work and had medical insurance through my employer, the VA billed my insurer for the cost of any treatments. I think that is reasonable. But what about people like me who couldn't get heath insurance for pre-existing conditions, even if I could afford it? The Obama Administration wants a free national health care program for all Americans, but they specifically want disabled veterans to buy health insurance? I thought I was crazy.....

    March 10, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  11. sugandha

    I do know for a fact that in some developing countries, the veterans have free medical care.
    It is sad to hear and learn that in a the Super Power America, the veterans have to face such terrible news and live in poverty.

    March 10, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Craig

    I'm a vet with a service-related injury. I barely make enough money to pay my utilities and rent each month. Now they want me to pay for something the Army couldn't correct properly? Obama needs to publicly reject this. This is completely dumb. Even the mention of it is dumb. Well thats what we get for letting democrats run this country.

    March 10, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Marge

    Well well well...congress is showing they have guts. I would say the other but they have some women in congress. I think it is outrageous, that they would even think of such a thing. These men and women were sent to war without their permission and NOW THEY ARE BEING EXPECTED TO PAY FOR THEIR INJURIES THEMSELVES.

    I have a better idea. Take away ALL HEALTH BENEFITS FROM the members of the cabinets and the president and his family and turn them over to a private insurer....makes more sense.

    March 10, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Uncle Jimbo

    NUTS ! ! These guys are absolutly NUTS to even think of a a plan like that.

    March 10, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  15. Jackie in Dallas

    the Real Steve,

    I'm sure you are gloating and feeling smug. Now, while you are still euphoric about the situation, do a Google on how your most venerated Republican veteran voted, DURING THE BUSH ADMINSTRATION, on VA benefits. Yep, McCain voted against improving veteran benefits, on upgrading VA hospitals, on extending VA benefits to families, SEVEN times.

    As a Vietnam era veteran myself, and the daughter of a career military man, I can tell you right now that American veterans have been paying out of pocket for a lot of their own health care for years. Why? Because VA hospitals, the only facilities where you can get major medical care, are only located in major population centers. There are clinics located in smaller areas, but statistics say that less than 40% of veterans live within a 4-hour drive of care. In addition, Wikipedia says this: "VA’s budget has been pushed to the limit in recent years by the War on Terrorism. In December 2004, it was widely reported that VA’s funding crisis had become so severe that it could no longer provide disability ratings to veterans in a timely fashion. This is a problem because until veterans are fully transitioned from the active-duty TRICARE healthcare system to VA, they are on their own with regard to many healthcare costs."

    This is ALREADY in effect, and went into effect during President Bush's Administration. No matter how high-sounding the Republican Party has been, regardless of how hawkish they are about getting us into conflicts, they have been terrible at paying our active duty forces, supporting the families of active duty, giving our active duty personnel proper gear for conflict zones (why do you think that there have been major fund raising campaigns to send FLAK jackets to our troops in Iraq...they aren't furnished any such thing), funding medical and psychiatric care for returning vets, and VA benefits for discharged or retired disabled vets. Oh, yeah, they love paying for fancy planes and ships and satellites, and other toys manufactured by their buddies in the defense technology industry, but they don't give a hoot about the people dying and being maimed.

    You're only happy because you think you caught out a "liberal" being wrong, when all he said was we should wait for details and a formal statement before judging. Well, Steve, I'm not a liberal, I'm a moderate. I do my civic duty like pay taxes, vote, do my jury duty. I served my country for 4 years active duty, and my family has served for 6 generations in the military. My father suffered 60% service related disability, and ended up paying for his own medical care most of the time because we didn't live close enough to a VA hospital. Ironically, it came out of his disability retirement pay, which barely covered it, so he still had to work up until he could not any longer.

    The government, no matter which party is in power, owes it to our active duty, retired, and disabled military members to honor their service by providing proper equipment, medical care and support for military families. This is one area where partisan politics should be discarded unilaterally, and conscience should reign. There is no such thing as "honored dead" if you don't honor the living who also sacrificed.

    March 10, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. RVNVET

    As a disabled Vietnam Vet, an employee of the VA Health Care System, the father of an Iraq war Vet, and someone who did
    vote to seat this Administration, I am not surprised by this
    concept being floated at all. Ironcally enough, on my work
    e-mail this AM was a questionaire that the Office of the
    VA Secretary wanted us to complete regarding what we
    employees thought of the VA as it currently operates.

    March 10, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  17. Barry USA Retired

    I am not going to say much on this. Ok, my first lie! LOL I have several wounds and service related injuries. I was an 18 Z which is a Special Forces Sergeant. Besides the fact that it is totally disgusting to even address this issue the more concerning thing is that NO liberal has seen fit to respond. When there are alot of posts on an article it is because it is normally in defense of the new president. When there is controversey on an issue there are not a lot of posts. I earned my health care. An illegal immigrant has not. Someone NOT seeking a job is not. I welcome them here. Get citizenship and you can have PRIVLEGES. Times are hard now, no doubt. But they weren't hard 5-10 years ago. I could get a job when I retired! And there is BK's and MacDonanalds which are always hiring. There is the services to join, or the peace corp or churches to volunteer in. I do think all kids should have health care. People, grow up OK. And for those of you that do not know or pretend you don't know as a retiree I do have to pay for health care. I pay a one time fee every year and have co-pays and pay for meds. I do think it is very cheap in comparisn to other insurance policies but we do pay. And the dental plan really sucks so don't go there. I challenge anyone to try to defend this. And IF you do not, then do not try to spin only the content of articles the the left agrees with. Proper debate is what this country is about. Intelligent debate is what we should do.

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

    So, is this a rumor?
    Did President Obama actually say this? If not, then I don't believe it.
    I only believe what comes from his mouth and NEVER listen to the pundits.

    March 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Joanna

    I just want to know the name of the bone head that came up with this idea. I seriously can't picture Obama thinking this would fly......

    March 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  20. Matt


    Typical USMA Grad, huh? That's the way to be stereotypical. I'm a USMA Grad and I wouldn't dare introduce this piece of crap to be voted on. I think it's completely wrong and leads us to a place we don't want to go.

    Could you imagine a soldier being asked to go on a dangerous mission? He could then reply, "Well, sir, what happens if I get shot or hurt? How will I pay for my health coverage?" Huge slippery slope there.....

    March 10, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Steve (the real one)

    obama-mama March 10th, 2009 3:56 pm ET
    Everybody jumping the gun. Did any of you hear this from the president.
    WAKE UP!! This is from the mouth of the man Obama selected to run the VA. A man who is authorized to speak for the president in this area! Are you questioning everything SOS Clinton has said while overseas because you are waiting to hear it out of the mouth of the president? Please transform out of your hypnotic, robotic state!

    March 10, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. meh

    "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."

    Guys, come on. President Obama is a nice guy. He wouldn't purposefully shaft the vets. I'm sure there is a rhyme and reason to this. Stop being so knee-jerk!

    John A. Nicholson> Sorry, but my vote wasn't an error. Thanks.

    March 10, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. Mustang Allie

    He worries more about his Muslim terrorist buddies in Gitmo than he does about our military. After all, he made them his first priority!

    March 10, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  24. LevelHeaded, KS

    Everybody calm down. We're not talking about billing the veterans. We're talking about billing the multi-million dollar insurance companies for an addional portion of the care they are already paying for.

    March 10, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. Jon in CA

    Actually – THIS is the way Obama plans to pay for his Universal Healthcare!!

    Create such a horrible medical plan for soldiers... none re-enlist and recruiting grinds to a halt.

    Reduce the military budget due to lack of soldiers... pay for Universal Healthcare covering illegal immigrants too!

    Screw the military – reward soon-to-be-amnesty Illegals.

    March 10, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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