VETERANS HEALTH CARE: Groups Sound Alarm Over Cuts
Four influential veterans groups -- the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and AmVets -- are calling on the president and Congress to "meet their responsibility" by providing "sufficient appropriations to offset health-care inflation" and making "much-needed improvements" in veterans programs. The Providence Journal-Bulletin reports that the four groups are "warning that 'chronic underfunding and staff shortages' at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs could result in 'a catastrophe' for veterans seeking health care." The groups specifically contend that a new policy allowing the VA to seek third-party reimbursements "clearly [is] not adequate to offset the effect of (health care) inflation." Budget cuts at the VA were also cited, with the groups asserting that ongoing personnel cuts "threaten the benefits-delivery system." In addition, the four groups voiced frustration about Clinton's willingness to expand "health programs for nonveterans," such as Medicare, "while holding back on the benefits for veterans and military retirees."
In related news, the Journal-Bulletin reports that House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Bob Stump (R-AZ) and Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) "announced an agreement that could clear the way for veterans to use their Medicare benefits to receive care at VA medical centers." The two lawmakers said "they would endorse a three-year test of the proposal at selected VA medical centers." Under the pilot program, VA medical facilities would become "accessible to two categories of veterans who don't qualify for treatment by the VA: those who may need health care but do not have service-connected disabilities, and those whose incomes exceed federal guidelines" (McCarthy, 1/27).