Health Insurance Reform Will Not Harm Military or Veterans’ Health Care

Posted on by Karina

We have an obligation to care for and honor America's servicemen and women, their families, and our veterans for their bravery and sacrifice. Some health insurance reform opponents continue to spread myths, including saying that reform will undermine the health care that veterans and military families have now. The health reform legislation the House is considering today fulfills Democrats' commitment to ensure choice for veterans, service members, and their families. Here are the facts about health reform and veterans and military families:

TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and Veterans' Health Care all meet the requirements of the health reform legislation that calls for every American to be insured with at least a minimum quality of coverage. Enrollees in these programs can rest assured that this reform has no negative impacts for them.

Indeed, the legislation being considered today actually explicitly states that the TRICARE for Life is not affected by the individual responsibility requirement.

While TRICARE also meets the individual responsibility requirement, this was not explicitly stated in the legislation. Out of an abundance of caution, the House yesterday passed the TRICARE Affirmation Act to further clarify that all those serving in the military and their families, and military retirees and their families under age 65, have health care that meets the minimum benefit standard in the reform bill.

The Vietnam Veterans of America issued a press release applauding yesterday’s passage of the TRICARE Affirmation Act and encourages the rejection of “fear-mongering”:

“We thank and applaud passage of H.R. 4887 yesterday in the House of Representative, by a vote of 403-0. Passage of this bill ensures that health care programs for veterans, active duty military, retired military, and their families/survivors will not be affected negatively by the pending health care reform legislation.” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

“It is unfortunate that some continue to raise what is now is even more clearly a false alarm that is apparently meant to frighten veterans and their families in order to prompt them to oppose the pending legislation. While there is legitimate debate as to whether or not the pending health care measures should become law, VVA does not appreciate spreading rumors that are not accurate by any political partisan from any point of the political spectrum” continued Rowan.

“Last summer there was a similar incident, also involving partisans in the health care reform debate,that VVA soundly condemned. We said then: “It is our hope that sane minds reject fear-mongering, and that veterans recognize these scare tactics for what they are,” Rowan said.

Rowan concluded by saying: “VVA has always worked hard for justice for veterans of all generations, and their families. We have always, and will continue to, work with public officials representing all political parties and points of view. Issues affecting veterans and their families are not, should not, and must not become partisan footballs to bat around. VVA decries any effort, by anyone, that would do just that.”

The Obama Administration has also been very clear that the health care programs for both the military and our veterans will not be undermined or compromised in any way by this health care reform legislation. Earlier in the week Tammy Duckworth, the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, addressed concerns:

As Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a constant concern for me is having our Veterans dragged into partisan politics. Unfortunately the debate over health reform has seen that happen far too many times, and at the VA we often have to correct misinformation and assure Veterans that the care they rely on will not be taken away from them.

One of the concerns we are hearing the most now is whether health reform will affect the care Veterans receive under the VA system.

Let me be unambiguous: The healthcare that Veterans receive through the VA system, including dependents of certain veterans enrolled in the CHAMPVA program, will be safe and sound under health reform. The Secretary of Veterans Affairs would continue to maintain sole authority over the system and for enhancing the quality and access for all eligible Veterans.

Matt Flavin, who completed deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq and serves as Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, blogged on today:

As a proud VFW member, I want to underscore that the health reform legislation being voted on today will not adversely impact our nation's veterans. In fact, during his time in office, President Obama has provided an historic increase in benefits for our veterans and has upheld every pledge to protect the benefits our veterans have earned in service to our nation. He will continue to stand firm in his commitment to veterans.

This afternoon, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki issued a statement further clarifying:

As Secretary of Veterans Affairs, I accepted the solemn responsibility to uphold our sacred trust with our nation's Veterans. Fears that Veterans health care and TRICARE will be undermined by the health reform legislation are unfounded. I am confident that the legislation being voted on today will provide the protections afforded our nation's Veterans and the health care they have earned through their service. The President and I stand firm in our commitment to those who serve and have served in our armed forces. We pledge to continue to provide the men and women in uniform and our Veterans the high quality health care they have earned.

President Obama has strongly supported Veterans and their needs, specifically health care needs, on every major issue for these past 14 months — advance appropriations, new GI Bill implementation, new Agent Orange presumptions for three additional diseases, new Gulf War Illness presumptions for nine additional diseases, and a 16% budget increase in 2010 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that is the largest in over 30 years, and which has been followed by a 2011 VA budget request that increases that record budget by an additional 7.6%.

To give our Veterans further assurance that health reform legislation will not affect their health care systems, the Chairmen of five House committees, including Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner and Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, have just issued a joint letter reaffirming that the health reform legislation as written would protect those receiving care through all TRICARE and Department of Veterans Affairs programs.

Here is the letter Secretary Shinseki references:

March 21, 2010

The Honorable Louise Slaughter
Committee on Rules
H-312 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairwoman Slaughter:

The House Democratic leadership asked our committees to review HR 3590 and HR 4872 to assess the impact of the bills on the health care provided by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our reviews of HR 3590 and HR 4872 lead us to believe that the intent of the bills was never to undermine or change the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs operation of their health care programs or interfere with the care that our service members receive under TRICARE. However, we commit to look into this issue further to ensure that no unintended consequences may arise and to take any legislative action that may be necessary.

HR 3590, as drafted, does not specifically mention that TRICARE coverage meets the individual responsibility requirement, but such coverage would satisfy the requirements of this bill. To affirm that this is the case, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed HR 4887, the TRICARE Affirmation Act, which provides assurances to the American people that care provided to those in the military and their families, as well as military retirees under age 65 and their families, would indeed meet the requirement for coverage.

The members of our nation's military sacrifice much to defend us all. We commit to these dedicated service members and their families as well as our veterans that we will protect the quality healthcare they receive.


Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Committee on Armed Services

Committee on Education and Labor

Committee on Ways and Means

Committee on Energy and Commerce

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