It appears the day is getting closer when the half a million veterans who since January 2003 have been told the promise made to them during their periods of military service - lifetime healthcare benefits, albeit not necessarily free - would not be honored, will be once again. In my April 27 column I spoke at length concerning VA Priority Groups and specifically Priority Group 8 (
). Recently, the Senate Veterans committee voted to re-open the VA to Priority Group 8 veterans. To quote Senator Patty Mary from Washington: "This bill restores the promise we make to all veterans when they sign up to serve."
About VA Priority Groups and Priority Group 8
The VA set up priority groups to allow certain groups of veterans to be provided service before others. Once you apply for enrollment, and your eligibility is verified, based on the "specifics" of your eligibility, you are assigned a priority group. The priority groups range from 1-8 with 1 being the highest priority of enrollment.
Veterans with income and/or net worth above both the VA Means Test and Geographic Means Test Thresholds and who are either nonservice-connected or non-compensable 0% service-connected veterans, are most times placed in Priority Group 8.
By the way, while the income level for Priority Group 8 veterans varies by location, for many veterans this threshold is as low as $26,902.
What the Senate Just Did
The Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs has voted to allow Priority Group 8 veterans to, once again, enroll for VA healthcare. Although, it wasn't quite clear sailing. In the hearing, Senator Larry Craig (ID) tried to block this move. From a story in the Marine Corps Times: "By a 10-6 vote, the veterans' committee rejected an attempt by Craig to gut [the legislation]." The legislation, "The Veterans' Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Improvement Act," includes the Murray-sponsored provision that restores care to Priority 8 veterans. To quote Senator Murray, "It says that regardless of how much money you make or when you are held declined, you will be entitled to VA medical care. This legislation will reverse the administration's flawed decision four years ago to close the doors of the VA to Priority 8 veterans. I believe that changing the rules on these veterans after their service is just plain wrong. My bill will ensure that Priority 8 veterans are no longer treated as second class citizens in the eyes of the VA."
More on What Senator Larry Craig Tried to Do - What He Said About It
After Craig's attempt to block the reinstatement of Group 8 veterans failed, he issued a press release. Here are two quotes from his press release, that seem more than a little "off the mark."
Craig said, describing Group 8 vets: "...we now seek to open the doors to veterans who already have private health insurance, no service connected disabilities and higher incomes. I don't understand that." There's a problem with this. First, Craig doesn't know which of us (and many do not) has health insurance, so how he can say what he did escapes me. Second, the fact that Group 8 vets do not have a service-connected disability is not the point. The law states that they are entitled to VA benefits, regardless. And third, the higher income remark makes no sense either, unless Craig's idea of a higher income is, in many cases, $27,000 a year.
Craig also said: "It appears that the majority's answer to long lines at VA medical centers is simply to get more people standing in line. I think this is the wrong focus at the wrong time." This is misleading, as well. The majority's answer is to fully fund the VA so all qualified veterans can get the healthcare they had been promised at the time of their service. While I know of no veteran who enlisted to "enjoy" healthcare benefits after separation from active duty, the fact remains, we were promised them regardless of income or the need for a service connection disability.
We all should be thankful that cooler and apparently more informed heads prevailed in the Senate Veterans Committee.
Next Wednesday July 4th: The 185th Day of the Year
As I also suggested last year, take a moment away from your upcoming BBQs, and consider...
Two Famous Quotes from Famous Americans
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.
" -Thomas Jefferson
I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.
" - Patrick Henry
And About The Declaration of Independence
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
...'nuf said - Happy 4th to us all!
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt