VA to open care to about 250,000 new vets

If you are a military veteran who has thought about signing up for veterans health care but couldn’t, and if you don’t mind socialized medicine, then you just might be eligible now for VA care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs suspended opening up health care to so-called “rich” veterans in 2003 because of budget constraints. These are the vets who do not have disabling illnesses or injuries that are related to military service but whose income is above a set threshold. The income levels are geographically-based and an enrollment calculator for benefits can be found here. Don’t let the word “rich” fool you. It’s certainly not a $100,000-$200,000 level.

Dr. Blase Carabello, acting director of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, said the rule allowing the addition of about 250,000 additional veterans for health care should take effect June 30 “if the regulatory process proceeds smoothly.” That is always a big “if” when dealing with the VA or most any other federal branch.

Congress opened the VA health system in 1996 to veterans other than those with service-related disabilities or the indigent. Poor funding and an explosion of veterans seeking health care closed the system to new enrollees under the Bush administration in 2003. Those, such as yours truly, who were already enrolled were grandfathered.

It is true I bitch about the VA health care system sometimes. It is certainly not a perfect system and it isn’t the best model for a socialized health care. But to be fair, it does pretty well  in most places with the funding it receives. Each VA regional system is a little different from the other, although they have indicated that they want to fix that. If you are dead-set on one type of medication, you aren’t always going to get it in one VA system but might in another. Some systems, hospitals and outpatient clinics are exceptional. Some are dreadful.

But when the VA is all that you’ve got then, well, it’s all you got. Like just about any service of any kind in the United States, if things aren’t working well for you then you need to raise 10 kinds of hell and you might just get your feelings across. The same goes for dealing with the VA.