posted March 18, 2009 03:27 PM
Veterans rip Obama plan to charge wounded heroes
'He says he is looking to generate $540 million by this method'
Posted: March 17, 2009
9:50 pm Eastern
The president is being "unreasonable" in his expectations that wounded soldiers will have to have treatments for service-related injuries covered by their own private health insurance, according to leaders of the American Legion.
"It became apparent during our discussion today that the president intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said David K. Rehbein, Legion commander.
"He says he is looking to generate $540 million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it," he said.
The American Legion is the nation's largest veterans organization, and raised its concerns after Obama talked about plans to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries.
The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs in such cases.
Rehbein was angered by a meeting with Obama.
"This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate 'to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies," he said.
American Legion spokesman Craig Roberts also discussed the issue on RadioAmerica.org and the audio has been posted here:
"I say again that the American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!" Rehbein said.
Others from veterans organizations meeting with the president included White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget.
Veterans organization leaders earlier had written to Obama to raise their concerns.
"There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran's personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable," the letter said.
Rehbein reiterated points made last week in testimony to both House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees. It was stated then that the American Legion believes that the reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the United States government sends members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies.
The proposed requirement for these companies to reimburse the VA would not only be unfair, said the Legion, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families.
For example, depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran's condition alone, leaving the rest of the family without benefits.
The Legion also said many health insurance companies require deductibles to be paid before any benefits are covered and further, private insurance premiums could be elevated to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families, especially if the veterans are self-employed or employed in small businesses unable to negotiate more favorable across-the-board insurance policy pricing.
Some employers, especially small businesses, also would be reluctant to hire veterans with such disabilities, the organizations said.
"I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted," said Rehbein, "is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540 million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the president's financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future.
"I only hope the administration will really listen to us then. This matter has far more serious ramifications than the president is imagining," Rehbein said.