This week, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka succeeded in pushing through a major veterans' health services bill. According to the committee's press release:
The bill will establish an unprecedented permanent program to train, support, and assist the caregivers of disabled veterans, improve care for veterans in rural areas, reduce veteran homelessness, improve care for women veterans; and, improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain a strong workforce and provide quality assurance at its medical facilities.
This progress is fantastic news for veterans as the bill now goes on to be considered by the House of Representatives.
There is another initiative in congress that also has the potential to do amazing things for America's veterans, and their families: the public option in the health care reform bill.
Rick Reyes, a former Infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps, said that his young daughter used to be covered by his military health care, but now that he is a civilian again, he can't get his VA care extended to cover her. Veterans across the country are struggling to find and pay for private insurance for their loved ones, but premiums have risen so high, many can't afford it.
Unlike Reyes, many veterans don't have VA health care for themselves either. In 2006 there were an estimated 24.4 million veterans in the United States, and 16.9 million of those, a whopping 69% of veterans received no VA health care. With unemployment at is highest levels in decades, a huge number of veterans can't rely on employer provided health care either. Even vets who can afford their own insurance are increasingly denied coverage for 'preexisting conditions, like those they developed in the service of their country.
The bottom line is that many veterans are finding that they and their families are unable to go to the doctor - until they are bad enough to go to the emergency room.
This situation is clearly unacceptable for a nation that claims to honor its men and women in uniform. The public option is the most comprehensive and plausible way to address this shameful state of affairs that congress has considered in decades. People who claim to care about the way we treat veterans, and veterans themselves, have much to gain from a public option for health care.
So if you are a vet or a supporter of our veterans, lend your voice to the effort to pass a robust public option. Visit Public Option Please, and let your members of congress know how you feel. Stay in the loop by becoming a fan of their Facebook group, and spread the word to fellow veterans and their allies.
Veterans have put their lives on the line for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Their families have made huge sacrifices for the same. If anyone has earned the right to see a doctor, they have. Show your support for them, and support a public option.