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Many Veterans Are Without A Health Insurance Plan

Armen Hareyan's picture

Two stories have been dominating the news prior to Veteran's Day this year: the tragic Fort Hood attacks, and the continued battle over healthcare reform. These important issues are more interrelated than it appears at first glance. Thirteen people, many of them soldiers, died at Ft. Hood; many others were injured. While Americans are mourning the victims, we must also take care of the members of our military that are still living. Unfortunately, quite a few soldiers who were honorably discharged are now suffering due to their ability to buy a health insurance plan.

Doesn't the Veteran's Administration provide health insurance and medical to veterans? That is largely the case. However, many veterans uninjured in combat are--surprisingly--considered ineligible for VA insurance. The post-military income levels deemed too high to receive benefits are surprisingly low; a veteran with no dependents can only take advantage of the government's health insurance plan if he or she earns under $29,400 per year, while one with four dependents can earn around $41,300 before losing eligibility for VA benefits. Such incomes aren't quite poverty level, but are the domain of working-class Americans (including civillians) unable to afford private insurance if their employer doesn't offer it. Troops returning from Iraq and Afganistan are also struggling with unemployment, and are a disproproportionate percentage of the nation's homeless. Many are working low-paying jobs that push them just above Medicaid and VA elibility. This makes it even harder for them to become insured.

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Uninsured veterans also face unique challenges when buying health insurance plans. Although they may not have been physically injured in combat, serving in a war zone can affect their mental health. One-in-five of the veterans of our current wars has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Some health insurers could consider PTSD a pre-existing condition and refuse to cover a returning veteran. Treatment sufferers PTSD can be expensive, making it out of reach for uninsured vets. If sufferers are not properly cared for, they have the potential to act out in ways that hurt themselves or others. Quality health care would prevent a large portion of that.

Studies have shown that, controlling for other factors, being uninsured leads to a 40% increased risk of death. According to the Harvard Medical School, nearly one-and-a-half million veterans went without health insurance during 2008. Out of those uninsured veterans, who were too young to be eligible for Medicare, 2,266 are said to have died as a result of medical conditions that could have been prevented. The Walter Reed scandal nonwithstanding, Veteran's Administration hospitals have received high praise for the quality of their care...if veterans are able to access it.

Regardless of one's feelings on healthcare reform for the civillian population, don't the soldiers that risk their lives to protect us deserve better? As we remember the veterans who have fallen in battle, we should also resolve to take care of the ones who made it home.

Written by Yamileth Medina
VitalOne Health Plans Direct, LLC.