Tom Perriello: Truth about health reform’s impact on vets

Column by Tom Perriello

One of my greatest privileges in Congress is serving on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and its Health Subcommittee, where I am committed to ensuring quality health coverage for those who have served our country. With rumors and misunderstandings continuing to spread about health insurance reform, I want to clear up any confusion regarding how health reform will affect veterans and military personnel.

H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordability Act, and H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, provide all Americans with quality, affordable health care. Among the many quality options individuals have, the bill recognizes the programs that provide health coverage to members of the military, veterans, and their families.

Multiple veterans’ service organizations—including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and the American Legion—as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki have made it clear that the legislation fully safeguards coverage through TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and the VA health care system. In addition to protections within the main measure, the House also passed H.R. 4887, the TRICARE Affirmation Act, to further clarify that all those serving in the military, military retirees and their families under the age of 65 have health care that meets the standards set by the reform bill.

Although some TRICARE and VA health care programs are not specifically listed in the legislation, all active duty personnel, veterans and their respective families receiving full health coverage are classified as having met the individual responsibility requirements. There is no specific provision that excludes, reduces support, or harms veterans or their families. This new law provides access to health insurance to the hundreds of thousands of veterans that cannot afford health insurance and do not qualify for VA health care.

In addition to these important safeguards for veterans’ health care, I am also proud that the U.S. House passed with overwhelming bipartisan support two bills that I wrote to help veterans through tough economic times.

H.R. 3976, the Helping Heroes Keep Their Homes Act of 2009, will prevent mortgage lenders from foreclosing on a veteran’s home within nine months after the end of military service. If Congress does not act, these protections would expire at the end of the year, but my bill extends the protections for another five years.

H.R. 4667, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010, will increase the rate of compensation for disabled veterans and their survivors and dependents to keep pace with the rising cost-of-living. The disability COLA would become effective December 1, 2010 and will be equal to that provided on an annual basis to Social Security recipients. These increased benefits would apply to more than 3,000,000 veterans and nearly 350,000 survivors.

In these challenging economic times, nobody deserves these protections and benefits more than those who have fought for our country. These are common-sense bills and I’m grateful to see such an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle. I look forward to seeing the President sign them into law soon.


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