We have more vets every day, and, when this endless war finally peters to a close, we'll have even more ex-troops, and many of them will be uninsured. A new study, which will appear in December's American Journal for Public Health, finds that nearly 2 million veterans (12.7 percent of non-elderly vets) were uninsured and ineligible for VA care in 2004, up 290,000 since 2000. An additional 3.8 million members of their households were also uninsured and ineligible for Veterans Affairs services.
-Of the 1.768 million uninsured, only a third were Vietnam-era, the rest were veterans who served during "other eras" (including the Iraq and Gulf Wars).
-Uninsured veterans had as much trouble getting medical care as other uninsured Americans. 26.5% of uninsured veterans failed to get needed care due to costs; 31.2% had delayed care due to costs; 49.1% had not seen a doctor within the past year; and two-thirds failed to receive preventive care.
-Nearly two-thirds of uninsured veterans were employed.
And those who are uninsured are often turned away from VA care. Many face waiting lists, unaffordable co-payments for specialty care, or the lack of VA facilities in their communities. And while Bush has pledged to change the "antiquated system," largely in response to the cockroach dust-up at Walter Reed in February, remember that it was his administration that approved an early 2003 order that halted enrollment of most middle-income veterans.
This news, not surprising. But seriously, Bush really needs to cease playing the troop card ad nauseum. Earlier today even he used the "wounded warrior" defense to chastise Congress for a combined spending bill. And still, year after year, Bush's budgets make it more difficult for vets to receive care.
Bush is consistent in his speeches, supporting our troops, rooting out terror, yada yada, and one familiar, oft-repeated refrain is assuring our troops we will "give them everything they need to succeed." I guess he means everything they need to succeed in uniform, after that all bets are off.