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Let Priority Group 8 Veterans Into the VA System: As It Was Always Intended

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On January 24, 2003 the White House announced that Veteran enrollment in VA Health Care Priority Group 8 would be suspended effective January 16, 2003, in order to... reduce the backlog and alleviate a longstanding funding crisis within the VA. Reduce the backlog and alleviate a longstanding funding crisis within the VA? Huh??? But we were promised...! While so many Veterans were then not surprised, there are actions being taken right now that you can help ensure will get "things" back on-track -- read on.

First, About VA Priority Groups And Priority Group 8

The VA set up priority groups to make sure that certain groups of veterans are able to be enrolled before others. Once you apply for enrollment, your eligibility will be verified. Based on your specific eligibility status, you will be assigned a priority group. The priority groups range from 1-8 with 1 being the highest priority for enrollment.

Veterans with income and/or net worth above VA Means Test threshold and the Geographic Means Test Threshold (yet another article for another day - YAAFAD) and who are either nonservice-connected or noncompensable 0% service-connected (YAAFAD) veterans are considered to be Priority Group 8.

By the way, while the income level for Priority 8 veterans varies by location, for some veterans this threshold is as low as $26,902.

According to a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the VA estimates that if the enrollment freeze was lifted, approximately 273,000 Priority Group 8 veterans would have been eligible to receive medical care from VA in FY2006, with an additional 242,000 Priority Group 8 veterans eligible in FY2007. Some estimates of the total number of Priority Group 8 veterans who have been denied access to their promised VA health benefits since the January 2003 enrollment "freeze" have set the number at over 1,000,000 veterans.

And That Means What

Instead of confronting the VA's shortfall head on by asking for the resources necessary to address them, promised health care to a group of veterans of modest means was deliberately cut off.

Today, What Was Done

Senator Patty Murray (WA) introduced the

"Honor Our Commitment to Veterans Act (S.1147),"

which would allow new Priority 8 veterans to once again enroll in the VA healthcare system. This bill is presently cosponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD).

Companion legislation (H.R.463) had been previously introduced in the House by Representative Steve Rothman (NJ-9) and as I write this, is cosponsored by the following 37 Representatives: Alexander, Rodney (LA-5); Allen, Thomas H. (ME-1); Bartlett, Roscoe G. (MD-6); Berman, Howard L. (CA-28);

Bishop, Timothy H. (NY-1)

; Bordallo, Madeleine Z. (GU); Boustany, Charles W., Jr. (LA-7); Brown, Corrine (FL-3); Carney, Christopher P. (PA-10); Cleaver, Emanuel (MO-5); Conyers, John, Jr. (MI-14); Courtney, Joe (CT-2); Davis, Danny K. (IL-7); DeFazio, Peter A. (OR-4); Delahunt, William D. (MA-10); Grijalva, Raul M. (AZ-7); Hare, Phil (IL-17); Hirono, Mazie K. (HI-2); Holt, Rush D. (NJ-12); Kanjorski, Paul E. (PA-11); Kaptur, Marcy (OH-9); Kucinich, Dennis J. (OH-10);

Lowey, Nita M. (NY-18)

; Matsui, Doris O. (CA-5);

McCarthy, Carolyn (NY-4)

; McCollum, Betty (MN-4); McIntyre, Mike (NC-7); Moore, Dennis (KS-3); Murphy, Patrick J. (PA-8); Payne, Donald M. (NJ-10); Schakowsky, Janice D. (IL-9); Schiff, Adam B. (CA-29); Schwartz, Allyson Y. (PA-13); Van Hollen, Chris (MD-8); Waxman, Henry A. (CA-30); Wexler, Robert (FL-19); Woolsey, Lynn C. (CA-6).

Today, What You Can Do

Contact your Senators and your Representative. If they have already cosponsored the bills, thank them. Otherwise, let them know that S.1147 and H.R.463 are bills worthy of their support.

To contact your Representative go to "Write Your Representative" (

), fill in your state and zip code, and follow the instructions.

To contact our Senators, fill out the Web Forms for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (

) and Senator Charles E. Schumer (


And if you should send this to someone not in New York, to contact their Senators they should go to "Senators of the 110th Congress" (

), select their state, and fill in the "Web Form" for both of their Senators.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt