Monday of this week I went to the Veterans facility in Chillicothe to have my VA provided hearing aids adjusted. I only recently discovered I was eligible for VA benefits and decided to apply to get some decent devices to help me hear what my wife is saying about me.
Once my application for VA medical benefits was approved I was amazed at the services made available to vets, just about everything except dental. This week I finally got around to asking about VA eligibility requirements. I had always assumed eligibility was dependent on time in service or service related disabilities. Not so, however. Until 2003 any veteran was eligible for health benefits for life. Since then eligibility has been based on income unless there are extenuating circumstances.
I don’t know what the total budget is for VA medical services but it must be enormous. Since it is military related, however, I’m not surprised it isn’t being targeted by the conservative budget hawks. Anything military seems to have a “go in peace” stamp of approval among conservative Republicans.
Beyond the cost of providing care for veterans is the added cost of caring for military retirees and active duty personnel. They receive coverage from a program called Tricare and the cost of Tricare is simply exploding. Those covered by Tricare receive free care and their dependents pay a premium far smaller than that paid by civilians. Given that service personnel can retire after twenty-years of service, with many working years ahead of them, the longevity cost of Tricare is even magnified.
I don’t have an answer for dealing with rising cost but I know that treating military matters as sacred cows should not be the policy we go forward with. Maybe we need to reconsider providing so many veterans with lifetime benefits. Possibly we should look at deferring coverage for retirees until later in their lives and/or requiring them to pay a premium for themselves and a higher premium for their dependents. We may want to consider making veterans care dependent on service connected conditions and combat injuries and not just offering it carte blanche.
For more details and statistics take a look at the graphics found at the Huffington Post. Click HERE.