World War II and Korean War Veterans To Take ‘Free Care’ Case to Supreme Court
A lawsuit that asks the federal government to make good on its promise to provide free, lifetime health care to World War II and Korean War veterans could reach the Supreme Court, the Washington Times reports. It is uncertain, however, whether the Supreme Court will actually review the case. Until the mid-1950s, oral and written guarantees of free lifetime medical care were used to entice recruits to join the armed forces (Murray, Washington Times, 2/3). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in November ruled that the government is not legally obligated to provide free health care to veterans because those promises were not supported by law. Further, the majority of the court said that the law at most allows veterans space-available treatment at military bases, not free health care for life. The veterans' suit seeks to recoup money older veterans spend on health care between 1995, when the Pentagon issued regulations guaranteeing coverage by civilian doctors only for veterans under age 65, and 2001, when legislation was enacted to provide free health care to all elderly veterans with 20 years of service (California Healthline, 11/20/02). According to U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen, repaying those costs would total $15 billion. The Clinton and Bush administrations both have opposed the lawsuit. "We don't believe there's any answer in courts. If there is to be any further relief it would have to come from Congress because that's where the real checks get written," an unnamed veterans organization lobbyist said. But retired Col. George Day, said, "I want Congress to give us a free lifetime medical care bill. I want Congress to refund the premiums we have paid to Medicare B. And from the court I want an order that says the government breached our contract so we can sue them for insurance premiums we have paid" (Washington Times, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.