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On Memorial Day, Seeing How Veterans Fall Through the Cracks

By admin | June 16, 2012

According to US Census estimates in 2011, there are 1.1 Hispanic military veterans. A figure that indicates how the lack of medical coverage impacts all veterans. A Memorial Day editorial titled “U.S. Falls Short on Debt to Military Vets” in Fort Wayne’s (Indiana) The Journal Gazette elaborates on the severity of the problem:

Here is something worth remembering as we celebrate Memorial Day: The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that every 80 minutes a veteran takes his or her own life. The problem is so serious that although only 1 percent of Americans have served in the military, former service members represent 20 percent of suicides in the United States. And the news is filled with stories about how the VA is struggling to get the funding it needs to address the problem.But that is only the tip of the iceberg. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that almost 2 million veterans are uninsured, along with almost 4 million of their family members, and a Harvard study estimated that more than 2,200 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of insurance. You may have thought that veterans can automatically be treated at a veterans’ hospital, but this is not the case. Veterans who have a service-connected injury can get care, but uninsured veterans face a “means test” based on their income. The test determines their priority level for care and how much they have to pay. And if the system doesn’t have enough money, it can stop enrolling veterans if they fail the means test – as happened from 2003 to 2009.

But even if the VA were able to fully cover every veteran, it would still leave a lot of veterans without care because they do not live near a VA hospital. And even if they live near a hospital, they still may need to drive far away to get services that aren’t available locally; for instance, there are veterans in Fort Wayne who have to go to Indianapolis for treatment. There are laws that make it illegal for an insurance company to force patients to drive an excessive distance to stay in their network, yet we think nothing of making veterans drive long distances simply to get the care to which they are entitled.

Rick Unger, a writer at Forbes Magazine, points out that we make a deal with our veterans: They put their lives on the line when we send them off to fight our wars, and in return we promise to take care of them when they come back. Although the men and women in uniform deliver on their promise on a daily basis, we very much do not.

View the entire editorial on The Journal Gazette website.

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