July 9, 2008 – Former U.S. soldiers who were disabled fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and live far from government hospitals and rehabilitation centers pay more for health care than other veterans, a government report found.
To address this “inequity,” Congress should pass legislation waiving the requirement for disabled soldiers to pay premiums to enroll in the federal Medicare program, the report said. Under existing rules, the injured soldiers must pay $1,157 a year for their premiums until they turn 65, according to the report.
Disabled veterans who don’t live near clinics and hospitals operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Defense Department can use Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, or purchase private health insurance. Either way, they pay more, said the report released yesterday by inspectors general of the two departments.
The report is one of several government reviews triggered by a series of articles in the Washington Post describing the poor quality of care for wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. The investigators focused their recommendations on three issues not covered by other reports.
The report also urged the Defense Department to create an office to ensure that injured soldiers have a “seamless transition” as they transfer out of the military health care system and into the system operated by the VA.
In a third recommendation, the inspectors general urged the VA to propose legislation in Congress that would provide grants to help disabled veterans remodel their homes for wheelchair ramps, accessible showers and other needed amenities.