Throughout the course of the 2008 campaign we heard a relentless woof-woof from the Obama campaign of how they were going to take care of veterans and how John McCain, an actual disabled veteran, was going to screw veterans.
When McCain proposed allowing veterans to seek treatment outside the VA medical system by using vouchers, a blessing if there ever was one, he was pilloried by the Obama camp and the sycophantic group of faux veterans organizations that seemed to spring up like mushrooms after a rainstorm to support Obama.
Back in 2005 Obama professed to be incensed over the fact that troops in hospitals were being billed for their meals (even though those charges exactly equalled the tax free basic allowance for subsistence/separate rations allowance the soldiers were drawing).
He was serious, I tell you serious, about taking care of veterans. He was appalled, just appalled, at the insensitivity of the military departments and the VA. He appointed retired general and reputedly heroic truth teller Eric Shinseki to be his secretary of veterans affairs. General Shinseki was going to make it right:
“No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need,”
Now in the midst of a $1 Trillion orgy of spending the truth becomes apparent. When it comes to veterans health care this Administration may be the most hostile to veterans since the Bonus Army was routed from DC.
Historically, service connected injuries have been treated under the famous Pottery Barn rule. You break it, you buy it. When you process onto active duty you get a physical. You get periodic physicals while on active duty. When you retire or separate from the service you get a physical. Unless otherwise documented by an investigation, it is assumed that the difference between your ending condition and starting condition, with certain allowances for fair wear and tear, are service connected. Now your service connected disability may not rise to the level of being compensable, but if it does you are entitled to medical care through the VA medical system until you are healed or for the rest of your life… which ever comes first.
In an unprecedented act, the Obama adminstration has plans to change all this:
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.
Now the Administration is trying to whistle and tap dance its way out of this mess by saying the insurance burden would only be shifted to those policies which can be second payers on claims.
Consider the broad implications of this.
Under the current system an employer might be said to have a financial incentive to hire a disabled veteran. In addition to getting a solid citizen as an employee, and a couple of blocks checked off on any equal opporunity survey, he can lay off the cost of health care for that employee on the VA. Essentially, he can reduce his overhead pool by some amount because the compensable veteran is already insured.
If the changes considered by the Obama Administration go into effect this would change radically. An employer hiring a veteran would have to consider whether or not the veteran had a disability which required ongoing care or therapy as this would, in most states, result in the cost of the company’s health policy going up. With a big company that has bargaining power this really isn’t much of an issue. With a small business it is a huge consideration.
Contrary to what TPM’s Elena Schor says (I don’t link to TPM), this is not a “movement to the right” by Obama. One has to assume they are calling it a move to the right because it is obviously going to cause a firestorm among veterans groups and members of congress who want their votes. If it is anything other than stiffing wounded veterans for grins it is a calculated move towards establishing the employer’s health insurance as a piggy bank for all medical expenses.
Make no mistake. This is not the privatizing of veterans medical care that Obama criticized McCain over, a policy which would have increased the access of injured veterans to medical care. This is an absolute abrogation of a century or so of policy.