Following a letter signed by Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and a bipartisan group of his House colleagues, the Obama Administration announced it would not move forward with a controversial proposal that would have required veterans to use private insurance to pay for treatment of service-related injuries. After receiving the letter, White House officials met with leaders of the national Veterans' Service Organizations and made the announcement this afternoon.
"I am proud to work with President Obama whenever I can, but I will always stand up for our veterans and military personnel first," said Congressman Himes. "President Obama has built a strong record of supporting our veterans, and I was surprised to hear that his administration was considering passing off the responsibility of caring for our veterans to private insurance companies."
The letter to President Obama is currently featured on the Speaker's blog, The Gavel [http://www.speaker.gov/blog/?p=1733].
Even Daily Show host Jon Stewart addressed the issue on Tuesday evening in the opening segment of the program [http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=220571&title=that-cant-be-right-veterans]
The text of the letter, along with the bipartisan list of cosigners, is below.
March 17, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We first want to take this opportunity to thank you for the clear commitment your administration's budget outline makes to our nation's veterans. The proposed 10 percent increase in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for next fiscal year is truly historic. We believe the 2010 budget will ensure the VA never again faces the chronic under-funding that prevented countless veterans from receiving the health benefits they have earned.
While we strongly support your plans to increase funding for the VA by $25 billion over the next five years, it is with equal conviction that we oppose the proposal to bill veterans' private health insurance plans for care and treatment of service-connected injuries or disabilities.
We do not give our veterans health care - they earn it - and it would be unacceptable for the VA to ask our veterans to pay for the treatment of injuries received while serving our nation in uniform. That responsibility belongs to the VA, and it would be wrong to outsource the responsibility of covering the care of those veterans to private insurance companies.
Additionally, this proposal could harm our veterans and their families in unintended, yet very serious ways, jeopardizing their families' health care and even negatively affecting veterans' employment opportunities. Billing a veteran's private health insurance for the treatment of service-connected injuries could lead to increased health care premiums, and could potentially discourage employers from hiring veterans.
We know you are committed to expanding employment opportunities for veterans. Already this year, your administration and Congress have worked to create countless jobs for veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this proposal would undermine our efforts.
We urge you to take this proposal off the table, and let us instead focus on ensuring that our veterans receive the full care and benefits they have earned. The moral obligation our nation has to our veterans demands nothing less. We are happy to discuss these issues with you further as we move toward a final budget for the VA.
We would like to thank you again for your commitment to improving care for the men and women who have borne the battle, and who have sacrificed their health and well-being in serving their country. Thank you for your service to our nation.