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Jon Soltz Headshot

Ted Cruz Threatens Troops, Veterans, and Their Families

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For all the bluster from Senator Ted Cruz about the false reasons to fear Obamacare, the irony is that veterans should fear him and his Tea Party cohorts in the House of Representatives. After all, they're on a course to block troops and veterans from the health care they're owed.

First, let's examine Obamacare and its effect on veterans. In short, it's a good deal, especially for families of veterans.

Among veterans, there are three ways they could get health care. First, many retired service members, and their families, qualify for TRICARE, the military's health care program. It allows them to get care at any doctor or facility in the TRICARE network. Second, there is care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, for all veterans for five years after their deployment (any service connected issues are cared for by the VA past that). Veterans still can get VA care if they make under a certain amount. However, VA care doesn't extend to a veteran's family. Third, there's the private insurance system.

For those who have TRICARE, or get VA care, they're considered covered under Obamacare's individual mandate. But, there are over 1 million veterans who have no coverage, and nearly as many veteran families. Many veterans make too much to qualify for VA care, or TRICARE and VA facilities are just too far away for that to be a reasonable choice. For their families, they're uninsured for the any of the many reasons any other American isn't insured -- prohibitive cost being the most likely reason.

It's for them -- the uncovered veterans and their families -- that Obamacare offers a lifeline. For the first time, possibly in their lives, they'll be able to afford coverage through the eminently affordable Health Insurance Marketplace, which Obamacare sets up.

For Guard and Reserve, in particular, who don't have service connected issues, Obamacare is huge. If they haven't deployed, they're not covered by care at the VA, and only sometimes have access to TRICARE. They mostly depend on employer coverage. For many of them, they'll get it under Obamacare. And if their employer has an exemption, the Guardsman or Reservist will be able to get insurance in the marketplace, for them and their family, with subsidies.

And so, Obamacare is, as Joe Biden called it, a "B.F.D." for veterans and their families.

That brings us back to Ted Cruz, and his Tea Party allies in the House. They're now trying to block veterans and their families from getting affordable health insurance.

And if they don't get their way? They'll shut down the government.

That would be an unmitigated disaster, in terms of health care for those troops and veterans who actually do have it right now through the Department of Defense or VA. We can look at past government shutdowns to know what will happen. In the shutdown of 1995, the Department of Defense ordered medical facilities to cease routine appointments, and even in some cases delayed surgeries for troops and veterans. About 250,000 civilian workers went home, many of whom worked at medical centers at military installations. While VA Centers will remain open and continue to provide services, medical claims could be delayed, as civilian workers are sent home, and the Board of Appeals for claims will issue no decisions during a shutdown.

In short, the two options being offered up by Ted Cruz and the Tea Party -- defunding Obamacare or shutting down the government -- only serves to hurt the health of troops and veterans, and their families.

In a week where they also moved to kick 170,000 veterans off food stamps, I can't say I'm surprised.