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. NoBigSurprise

    Someone has to pay for the deficits he is running up, why not the Veteran?.....let's see, how does it work now? Go to war, lose an arm
    or leg or an eye, sustain a life-altering head-injury or PTSD, find yourself unable to get a job, then find out that the Govt will give you, the Vet, your monthly disability check, then tell you that out of that you have to pay for medical insurance. I can't wait to see his "Universal Health Care" proposal!

    March 10, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Cathy Brandes

    How about everyone calm down – the VA Secretary was floating the idea – not the President. Find out the entire story before you all go off half cocked

    March 10, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  3. Let's make those war vets pay......

    Obama is right--just because they protected us from terrorism and lost their limbs doing so--we should still make them pay for their own injuries with their own private insurance.. Go Bama.

    March 10, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. Steve (the real one)

    What most of you seem to forget althought this is a consideration, if we stay silent, it will soon become an action!

    March 10, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. usualone

    This bad (and old) idea has come up in previous administrations; and fortunately got no where on those occasions. It is not just this administration's suggestion.

    March 10, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. Big Ed

    Now I understand this is being considered, which means no decision has been made, so there is no reason for anyone to go nutty.

    Personally, from what I read, I probably would not agree with it. If a soldier is injured in the line of duty, I think we as a country have a moral obligation to that soldier to pay for his treatment.

    "W" certainly did not plan on how to treat all the wounded soldiers coming back from "King George's War". Like all the other junk, he just left it for someone else to deal with.

    March 10, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  7. Karen S Crow

    One problem ... most private insurers have exclusions against paying for injuries related to military service. The VA and the US govt. can bill away ... they'll just get a standard denial letter stating that the cause of the injury is excluded under the terms and conditions of the policy.

    And I do NOT see any insurer making ANY sort of exception. All the VA will accomplish is racking up needless expenses pursuing payments that just won't happen.

    March 10, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Kate in SW Fla

    This was probably just a part of a brain storming session. As anyone who has ever participated in problem solving groups can tell you, every idea is floated, then discussed, then eliminated if not workable. This knee jerk reaction hate speech is destroying our democracy. I know that President Bush got a lot of unfair criticism also, but we are in a CRISIS and need all hands on deck. There will be plenty of time for politicking when things settle down some.

    March 10, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  9. RJ

    Sounds like it's part of A bigger plan to combine A national health care system and the VA. They should have explained it to the people instead of hiding it.

    March 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Margie

    Mustang Allie you need to slow that Mustang down.

    March 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. Not impressed

    As a vet of the Iraq war, I am curious how the previous administration's "treatment of our men and women in uniform was even worse." Did President Bush make us pay for our health care (or even consider it), did he give us the lowest pay increase in several years, did he cut the budget that provides us with our necessary equipment??? Which one of those things did he do to make him such a bad advocate for Vets?

    President Obama used vet benefits in his campaign as a sticking point. I just wonder when he is going to follow through on ANY of his promises.

    ALL troops ouf of Iraq in how much time–great for a campaign, but not realistic, even President Obama himself knows that (now). Then when he changes his plan to better reflect a WORKABLE withdrawl and Sen McCain steps up and shows support of the NEW plan–Sen McCain all of a sudden is the one that is flip-flopping..... I will never understand you political fanatics. Either so far right or so far left that you have no recollection of what the middle actually looks like anymore.

    March 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. Tony

    These Airman, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines risked their lives for us and you want to reward them with pay for your care??????

    I think this goes to show just how much NOBAMA does not care about our military.

    March 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. Steph

    Republicans are liars and the only way they have to scare the public is making things up and saying just whatever they think will change the public opinion about President Obama eventhough is not true. Republicans are insane for power and they will destroy this country.

    March 10, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  14. alvino

    Does this have anything to do with the fact that our military veterans are getting less than adequate care at our government facilities?

    March 10, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. Arnold Trezza

    I agree with all the comments relative to our men and women who do honor to themselves as they serve and protect us and their country. Their care should always be first rate, and at our expense.

    But I have to point out that USMA graduates put their people first....recall their motto " Duty, Honor, Country" ....and the rule of leadership, "mission, men, me". Respectfully, I can't let that negative comment about being a USMA graduate go by....I know too many great people from there to just let it slide; I'm not a graduate, either.

    Honestly, its hard to know what they were thinking, but its our responsibility to point out that its wrong.

    March 10, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  16. Jim

    To all who say this is just talk. When something is just talk, it usually comes down to a vote. This should not even be considered. I'm not a disabled vet, but I am a vet. People who spend time in the military do so at the risk of their lives. There should never be even a comment made to charge for service disabled medical care. It is kinda like your on the job workmen's compensation, the only difference being these were incurred in defense of the country.

    Every senator and congressman should be saying NO, in a loud voice.

    As for McCain voting against improvements, you need to make sure you check to see what was attached to them.

    March 10, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. RedWhiteandBooHoo

    I wonder if Patty Murray is reconsidering her blind support of
    the current Administration now that she is seeing their true
    colors!......Hang in there yourself and don't get
    sucked into the quagmire emenating from the White House.

    March 10, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Chas in Iowa

    What's new here folks?
    My father waited for fifty years to get coverage for service related injuries. Until then he had to fend for himself.
    Are far as I'm concerned they aren't changing the policy, they're just making it public now.

    March 10, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Jose Fernandez

    I agree with Sen Murray. It will be a cold day in hell that I should start paying after serving 23 years on active duty. Am opposed end of conversation.

    March 10, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. geek42

    The issue of asking for private insurance at the va, also at regular military hospitals has been happening since Clinton was in office. I was 20yrs old and was able to recieve medical services from the military hospital and at that time they were asking for private insurance. Military child dependants can recieve health benefits upto their 25th birthday if they are attending college, otherwise its 21 years of age. This is how he is going to treat our vets then he has no business being our president. thanks for all who voted for him..

    March 10, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. Richard Williams

    Those who have borne the scars of battle deserve the best this country can give! They did it for Love of Country and it is an insult to treat them as as just another patient. Shame on those who dishonor them.

    March 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. TETVET

    Being realistic, I happen to have private insurance and a combat service connected disability. I think that it is the responsibility of my private insurer to pay for any medical service that I receive. I'm only unsure that this would be the beginning of some sort of privitazation of the VA's responsibility to all veterans. How exactly would it work? Would my premiums increase? Would it lead to higher expenses for my employer?

    March 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. David

    This proposal if enacted would kill off the volunteer military. Bring back the draft socialists and make everyone serve this country somehow! Being in the military is a hard lifestyle already. Do we want to ask the troops to buy their own gear, weapons and bullets too.

    March 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. sickofitall

    Obama is in over his head.

    March 10, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  25. Albert

    Us Veterans should be use to this. It happens everytime you put a retired General or Admiral in charge of anything that deals with Veterans affairs. They forget those the troops who served under them.
    It's always the same with each of them we have ours and that's all that counts screw you.
    Same old story they all are politicians at heart or they would have never made it to a flag rank,

    Albert Conover, NC.

    March 10, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
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