Priority 8 Vets Have Incomes Above Threshold
WASHINGTON, DC -- January 24, 2003 -- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), Anthony Principi, has announced that health care enrollment for new Priority Group 8 veterans will be suspended for one year (News Release, January 17, 2003). Priority Group 8 veterans are those veterans with no service-connected disabilities and with incomes above a threshold amount that is based on geographic location.
The decision applies only to Priority Group 8 veterans who did not enroll for VA health care benefits by January 17, 2003, and not to those who are already receiving VA health care. It also does not apply to veterans in other priority categories.
A Plan for Veterans Who Receive Medicare
The VA and the Department of Health and Human Services are working on ways to give elderly Priority Group 8 veterans access to a "VA+Choice Medicare" plan. The plan calls for the VA to participate as a Medicare+Choice provider. Eligible veterans would be able to use their Medicare benefits to obtain care from the VA.
Legislation to Fund VA Health Care
The VA is unable to provide all enrolled veterans with health care services because of the increased number of veterans seeking care, according to Mr. Principi. More than half of all new enrollees have been in Priority Group 8. Also, the demand for VA health care is expected to continue.
The veterans' organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), believes that the solution to the health care problem lies in "proper funding" (VFW Washington Weekly, January 21, 2003). Along with other veterans' groups such as the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, the VFW supports legislation that would provide mandatory funding for all enrolled users of the VA health care system.
Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has introduced the Veterans Health Care Funding Guarantee Act (S.B. 50), which ties veterans' health care funding levels to medical inflation and the number of veterans using the system each year. The VFW believes that the bill would end annual battles over veterans' appropriations and greatly improve access to care for all veterans.