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. janey

    what a low-life Obama is turning out to be–biting the hand that protects him–maybe the secret service should pay for their own guns.

    March 10, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  2. Ryan

    You people are idiots. You have no idea about the details of the plan IF it ever makes it past an idea. Maybe the government was going to provide FREE private insurance to the veterans, did you ever think of that.

    You simply don't know the details of a supposed plan that may have been discussed at one point, yet you are spouting off like you know everything about it. You are just looking for something to be disgruntled about.

    March 10, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  3. JP from Arlington

    I guess this is the "Change we can believe". Can't say he didn't warn us, but the people wanted change and now they are seeing what he ment.

    March 10, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  4. Ted

    Every time I see people fighting against "Socialist programs" in the US, I always say: "Why don't you fight against public schools? Fire? Police? Public parks? Public libraries? Public city infrastructure? Anything paid for by public tax money?"

    These are all Socialist things. Paid for by your money, and they're all things you rely on every day.

    Plus, a lot of these things were originally set up by Benjamin Franklin. So you can call him one of the most Socialist Americans for doing it.

    But people don't. They always try to justify these things and make excuses. And I really don't care.

    Anyways, I always thought that veterans deserve their health care benefits be paid for by the government who they volunteered for, putting themselves into harm's way. I just don't really think this way, or this time, is the best time to do it (personally though, I think it should have been done much earlier).

    March 10, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. jim hall

    As a former vetern without any service or other wise connected disabilities this is just totaly wrong to make veterns to have to provide for their own major health care an particularly wrong if the have serve in a war zone an have service connected disablities or amputees or any other major physicialy disablity or handycaping injuries thank you

    March 10, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Fred

    Always the cowards that won't fight for their country making the bad decisions that affect those that do.

    March 10, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. sharon mclean

    I think the president is during an excellent job for what he had to work I rate him one hundred percent. Bush sit in there for eight years didnt

    March 10, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. JSU-TIGER99

    It is funny how people always talk about the good job that our servicesmen/women do a great job keeping us safe, but it is also funny when they come back home they do not have health insurance they are the ones that need to get if for free, they put their lives on the line for a country that can not pay for health insurance for them. But yet we say how proud we are of them give me a break.

    March 10, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. boats

    as a disabled veteran ,and working at a VA facility, I see first hand all the freebies veterans receive, whether they are service-connected or not, whether they are retired veterans, or individuals that never made it out of boot camp. As a working taxpaying disabled veteran, I am tired of my money, going to the less serving individuals. I don't recall being told when i joined the NAVY, that the tax payers were responsible for my health care!!!! Services should be rendered for disabled veterans, at no cost, for the service related injuries only.

    March 10, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Bobbi


    March 10, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. Kimberly in Arizona

    Well, it seems to me that the VA does NOT take care of the vets, so they wont be losing anything. I agree 100% they should be paying for these men and women, but they are NOT. So Obama is going to make private health care more affordable, THUS allowing the soldiers the ability to pay for it them selves. Oh and Mike, NOT ONE PERSON that votes for this will be out of a job, I meann every repuke on the hill voted against soldier pay raises, better health care, and armor, and you losers keep voting them back in. Atleast Obama is not screwing them like bush and you repukes did. What a joke! You have ZERO problem sending them to an illigal war for oil and your cheap gas, but wrap yourself up in a flag when Obama and others suggest their insurance cover hospitalization...JOKES!!!!

    March 10, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. U.S. Citizen

    Hopefully, Kate in SW was correct that it was just part of a brain-storming session. If this is the case, CNN should be more complete in its reporting.

    In any event, it is a terrible idea. The government should pay if its truly a necessary and just war. If, like many of our wars, including Iraq, It's bad enough that we send our kids off to fight illegal wars for corporate benefit. If anything, the corporations that profited should pay.

    March 10, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  13. TCM

    It's plain to see; Obama has little regard for the military folks, or our allies...his agenda is to gain power and great some sort of globalization; he wants to be a global organizer, when he can't even decide what dog to get his kids, what school to put them in...can't even finish the job in Chicago where he left the true community organizer with the housing project issue...remember CNN? Carefully overlooked that, huh?

    March 10, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. GEORGE

    Ever heard of co-pay for private insurance claims? Hopefully, this plan looked at that and the vets don't get hit with the co-pay.

    As a retired Navy man (in-country Vietnam vet) I always find it sad that the Administrations (R & D alike) find some way to disallow vet benefits, care, or accept responsibility for their veterans (case in point – Agent Orange, IED, PTSD, mustard gas, atomic bomb testing,etc, etc). We did our duty, and the government turns its back on us time and time again.
    We live with our disabilities, injuries, and exposures to toxic elements everyday. All we ever asked for was to be treated like human beings who answered their country's call when needed. But what happens is you wait for us all to die and then say something should have been done. Lots of talk. No action.

    I ask everyone to consider "What if is your son or daughter or wife, or husband, or father, or mother, or uncle or aunt or cousin, etc?" Lots of people wave the flag, consider themselves patriots, and post "Support Our Troops" signs. But, in the end when the men and women you "support" come home you turn your backs on them in their times of need.

    The medals we earned tarnish, the uniforms don't fit us anymore, the memories of our buddies fade a little, and we walk a little slower. People snicker at the old guy in the faded uniforms selling poppies, or working at the local VFW fish fry, or marching in that 4th of July parade. We were young once. When our country called, we answered, now we are calling and we can only hope the country answers us. We shed blood for our country. Is it asking too much to be treated for our injuries in a proper manner?

    George T. Hamilton
    LCDR, retired

    March 10, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Noneya

    That's awesome! Why don't you sacrifice your life so that so that people like Obama and his family can be safe and spoiled here at home? And then when you come back with your *** blown off – you can pay for it yourself!!! Are you kidding me?

    Obama truly sucks. Absolutely disgusting.

    March 10, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly"


    Do you people not understand that this is a big to-do about something that may not even have been what the administration decided to propose? That it was an option layed on the table in an effort to consider all avenues before making a decision? This is political circus at its best.

    March 10, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. cobra

    There is not excuse in the world not to give the veterans all the medical attention they need. The government has done things in the past to the soldiers that has ruined their health and not just in the last action, it went on long before the Gulf War. For those that want to take any part away from them they should have to be put in the army and sent into the bush to deal with the fear and terror. We owe it to the men that went to fight and if needed to give up their life and/or health.

    March 10, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. JL

    Dept. of VA to Vietnam vets: Sorry, we can't help you unless you can prove your problems were caused by us. Unfortunately, we destroyed your records so you can't have them. Too bad. Live on the streets.
    Dept. of VA to Desert Storm vets: Nothing is wrong with you. Pay for your own medical problems and children with defects.
    Dept. of VA to Iraq and Afghanistan vets: Sorry, you're not only on your own, but you owe us money. I hope you have insurance.

    It's the same game, but the rules change every time us vets start to tryint to change them. Unfortunately, as much as people say they support veterans, it has been my experience that it is mostly lip service.

    Don't believe me? How many of you non-veterans have been to a veterans home to deliver blankets or directly helped a vet? My guess is not many.

    It's not just the government that is all lip service when it comes to veterans efforts.

    March 10, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Wayne Messer

    Just when you thought the government couldn't go any lower.

    People of America fight for your country and if your health plan covers you. You may be entitled to be looked at providing of course you can meet your deductable.

    Please let me know who introduces this bill and who votes for it so I can actively campaign to get them voted out of office.

    If you do not meet your deductable are you automatically discharged!!!!!

    March 10, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  20. Steve

    How many more criminals and tax evaders will Obama try to add to his cabinet?

    March 10, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Steve L New Jersey

    As a retired Air Force member, the last place i would go for medical help is a VA hospital when I have private insurance As long as I am working. I would always use my private insurance first before sticking the tax payers with the bill. But, service connected disabilities needed to be fully covered by the Government as a matter of responsibity related to direct employment at the time of injury or illness. I for one appreciate the efforts of our new president over the last the eight years.

    March 10, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. Tooie

    RVNVET, I'm there with you. I'm not the least bit surprised that this idea has been thrown out there. I work at a VBA regional office. The amount of veteran's claiming benefits right now is staggering. Education, home loans, and healthcare alike. But they are claiming benefits that they are rightly entitled to, regardless of how long they served or how seriously they were injured in service. The VA is severely understaffed. We are simply not equipped to deal with the influx of so many soldiers being discharged at this time. The quality of healthcare provided by the VA is decreasing at an alarming rate. The budget issued to us every year will NEVER be big enough to accommodate all the soldiers who are now being discharged and we promised benefits to, soldiers who we have been recruiting for the past 5 years to fight in the Middle East. We wanted servicemen and women to fight this war. Well we got them, and now we don't have the means to support them as promised when they are discharged. I don't think veterans should have to pay for healthcare relating to their service related injuries. Ever. But I am glad to see that different ideas are being brought to the table other than just increasing the budget every year and ignoring the underlying problems. VA has to determine a way to get better QUALITY healthcare to veterans, while also dealing with quantity.

    March 10, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  23. R.D. Martin

    Everybody just relax and take a deep breath. No one is considering asking veterans to pay out of pocket for treatment of service-connected illness/injuries. The proposal being floated pertains to vets who happen to have private insurance benefits, perhaps from their own or a spouse's employment. The idea is to have their private insurance become the payor of first resort, with the VA then picking up the balance, i.e., the VA would serve as a secondary insurance. This is not some exotic concept; millions of people have coverage from more than one insurance.

    So please, give the "Obama is abusing the vets" rhetoric a rest!

    March 10, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. Will Clemins

    Right, "dead on arrival" like I hope so many of Obama's marxist ideas will be tagged too. Pelosi/Reid better smarten up–don't they recall somewhere in the distant past the USA was a democratic and free society, free of most government controls? We Americans love it the way it was before the dems screwed it all up trying to buy perpetual votes of the "poor, sick, disabled, downtrodden, helpless, etc".

    March 10, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Jeff

    "Obama truly sucks. Absolutely disgusting." 10-1 you haven't even glanced at the DoD budget. For the first time in years, VA benefits are being increased, pay levels are being increased, in other words, what Bush took away from his military, Obama is giving back and more. I've got the 10 year tables and military spending is being increased. Either read what is in print or keep yer yap zipped.

    March 10, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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