(*Note- The VA can be a very confusing bureaucracy. The below blog post is based off of the FAQ flyer produced by the VA, combined with follow up discussions with the VA in Helena, Montana. If you have another take on this discussion- please add your comments below or shoot me an email. *Additional note- one benefit for enrolled veterans is that the mandate to purchase insurance does not apply to you if you are enrolled in the VA.)
When a Democratic controlled Congress passed Obamacare, they added an amendment requiring members of Congress to bear the full brunt of the law, so that they can experience Obamacare just like the rest of us. Now, thanks to the Obama Administration- that is not happening.
Members of the US Senate and US House got their own special exemption. That’s right, members of Congress making over $170,000 a year will be eligible for subsidies. Meanwhile, military veterans are faced with the choice- drop your enrollment in VA care, or no subsidies for you.
For background, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has defended the exemption for members of Congress, while Congressman Steve Daines (R-MT) has spoken out strongly against the exemption for members of Congress.
First, let’s start with the congressional exemption, as Bill Bennett writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Congress’s health-care premiums will not rise, but yours may. Members of Congress will be able to afford to keep their health-insurance plan, but you may be kicked off yours. They will be able to afford to keep their doctors, but you may have to find a new one.
Imagine the horror when these elected officials, who make $174,000 a year, realized that not only must they and their staffers be subject to inferior-quality health exchanges like the millions of ordinary Americans, but they might also have to shell out thousands of dollars for increased premiums if they exceed the subsidy income cutoff.
The White House, under heat from Congress, directed the Office of Personnel Management to carve out special rules so that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program can continue to contribute to the health plans used by Congress and congressional staff.
Now, contrast that with what is happening for veterans. From a recent flyer mailed to veterans by the VA:
— Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) September 25, 2013
But wait, there’s more: pic.twitter.com/E5Y3O8GEQ0
— Aaron Flint (@aaronflint) September 25, 2013
This is truly emblematic of one of the more absurd arguments recently being used by Obamacare backers- the claim that Obamacare is somehow a veterans benefit.
Obamacare backers have claimed Medicaid expansion would be a “veterans benefit,” even though 9 out of 10 beneficiaries of the Medicaid expansion in Montana would be non-veterans.
I also found the above update from the VA quite interesting from this standpoint: if you want to take advantage of the subsidies (many don’t because they feel Obamacare and the $17+ trillion debt is endangering the very country they fought for) you will actually have to drop your enrollment with the VA in order to qualify for subsidized coverage. Veterans would have to do this knowing that, by dropping their enrollment in VA care, they could jeopardize their ability to enroll in VA care ever again. (Notice that reminder in the same FAQ mailed out by the VA)
After reading the flyer, I wanted to make sure I understood it correctly. So I called the VA in Montana. Based on the recommendation of the press officer, I checked with VA Montana’s Todd Dunlap, who is intimately familiar with this choice facing veterans. In a phone call, he said, “there hasn’t been a firm answer as to what the best option is.” He added that for the VA “there’s still a ton of bits and pieces that have to get ironed out” when it comes to Obamacare.
For any of you out there not familiar with the process, veterans can be simultaneously enrolled in VA health care without receiving free health care from the VA. In fact, all veterans are encouraged to enroll in the VA, since the failure to do so early on could lead to the inability to enroll later on. The end result- veterans are forced with the choice of disenrolling from VA care, or losing out on subsidized care outside of the VA.
Going forward, while disabled veterans and wounded warriors have to sit on a shuttle bus for sometimes hours at a time for service-connected care, they can watch as millions of other Americans who didn’t serve their country simply get their free handout.
J. C. Kantorowicz
Thursday, September 26, 2013 8:25 AM
One would think that both Tester and Baucus would be intellegent and compassionate enough to realize the terrible mistake they have made in creating Obamacare. Having contacted both Senators about this problem numerous times I can only assume that they are never told about the overwhelming opposition to this disasterous plan by those who work for them.
I believe Baucus sees the error of his ways……. Tester, well let’s just say he believes he is immune from the responsibility of destroying health care in the US. Tester believes he is untouchable because of his unwavering support of Obama.
When the vote comes in the Senate, both will show support for the further destruction of this once great nation.
Friday, November 29, 2013 3:16 PM
(I’m trying not to politicize this thread; simply stating the situation as it relates to the topic.)
I am currently in the situation mentioned in this thread of comments. I currently have private insurance for myself and my wife (with very good coverage, a primary care physician, etc.), but it is very expensive. I would qualify for subsidized coverage in the Marketplace, except for the fact that I am enrolled in the VA Healthcare system (in priority group 7). My wife does not qualify for VA coverage, not being a veteran. I have never had to use my VA coverage, due to having the private insurance; in addition, the local VA hospital is quite some distance away, and I don’t see myself driving way out there for medical care that I can get practically across the street.
After reading quite a bit of info, it would seem that my best bet would be to drop my VA health coverage and signup both myself and my wife together in the Marketplace and reduce my costs by about 2/3s. Dropping the VA health coverage would simply be losing something that I’ve never used and would immediately qualify us for a significantly reduced premiums/copays/etc, compared to what we’re paying now.
I always thought that I could keep my private insurance, and simply use the VA healthcare system in a way similar to a medi-gap policy. That does not seem to be the case. I was shocked to find out the my veterans status would ever preclude me from obtaining medical coverage. The local VA system does not accept my private primary care physicians’ prescription orders, nor does it accept the bloodwork lab results that my private doctor has ordered. (I was told by the local VA that their physicians would not order prescriptions unless the labwork was ordered by a VA physician.)
There does not seem to be any value in staying with the VA healthcare system. Am I missing some facts that would lead me to stay with the VA healthcare system? (FYI – I served in the military during the 1975 – 1983 period, and have no service-connected disabilities.)
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 3:06 PM
You guys were on top of this long before me. I wish I had see this before. I have found out by my own experience how much more complicated this issue is and how disgraceful of discrimination for partially disabled vets. Read fully as some retired vets are alright while others get the shaft.
Update: 1/5/2014 Dear readers below you will see that one Titan II Combat Crew Commander got involved. He helped me by getting Lynne H., Deputy Chief Business Officer, Member Services from VA to verify my facts below. The ex-Titan II Commander forwarded my email below to his Senator in Vermont which then got action from the VA. The VA’s hands are tied as it is law and Lynne H. recommended we need to get Senators, Congresspersons, the veteran organizations like the DAV involved to change the Affordable Health Care Act (Obama Care). My phone notes (verified by her in a follow-up email) from conversations from 1/3/2014. Lynne has the task of trying to formulate/implement a new procedure that the VA Clinics and Hospitals in every state will have to see service connected disabled veterans without being enrolled in the VA system. Then every VA doctor can only treat your service connected medical problem without getting involved in any other medical issues you have. Lynne’s mission is, in my eyes impossible. This is going to be a huge undertaking and Lynne has a mountain to climb to implement something this complicated.
I put Lynne’s position at the VA as proof of the VA’s knowledge of this debacle. Lynne H. asked me not to display her phone number as she was afraid of receiving overwhelming calls (I x’d the last four digits). Please respect her wishes not to overwhelm her with calls. She has a huge job ahead of her and requested your help to get the law changed instead of pestering her about something she can not change. She was hoping to change the VA website to reflect the problem in about a month. If you talk to your local VA enrolment person and give them her number so they can contact her to verify what is happening that would be alright.
Thank you for the good communication on this issue.
I would like to summarize our conversation. My suggestions as we talked about would be ( I may have added some):
1. On the Affordable health care website where the software asks if you are using the VA health system.
a. If you are enrolled in the VA care system you may not be eligible for the subsidy. See the VA website for more information (when updated with more specific information).
b. The VA health system is not health insurance and should not be considered as such.
2. The VA Pamphlet (with a disabled vet on the front) named the “Affordable Health Care act and you” should also state the VA system is not health insurance and should not be considered as such. Each of the veteran examples should restate this.
3. Add a couple of partially disabled veteran examples which explain the pro’s and con’s of purchasing health insurance through the Affordable Health Care marketplace for a veteran with a family. Don’t make him go to other websites to figure this out. A simple example like mine. Then state he will be seen at any VA clinic for his service connected medical issues.
4. Disclaimer on the VA pamphlet: You may avoid the Affordable Health Care penalty however, you could be putting yourself monetarily at risk for certain medical issues you may encounter in life that the VA can not assist you with or cover you in their care system. Veterans who are on Tricare, ChampVA, Medicare, and Medicaid need not concern themselves with this issue.
1. Each State VA system will be informed of their responsibility to treat service connected veterans for their specific medical issues without being enrolled in the VA.
2. Veterans will not face the IRS prosecution by requiring the veteran to pay back their subsidy for health insurance purchased on the Affordable Health Care website and being seen by the VA for Military service connected medial issues. The VA needs someone from the IRS to confirm this in writing on the VA website.
I still believe that the Affordable Health Care law needs to be amended. All service connected veterans not eligible for Tricare, ChampVA, Medicare, and Medicaid should not be penalized for being a veteran in the VA system and purchasing health insurance on the Affordable Health Care Act. All the other situations can have both and their deductibles are far less then the health insurance deductibles through the Affordable Health Care Market place.
From the Presidents speeches in front of the disabled veterans (DAV) I can not believe he or the Vice president meant this to be a consequence of his affordable health act. He stated he was expanding coverage for veterans in several speeches. The DAV has even said they believe it was not meant to dis-enroll service connected veterans from the VA.
That said, who can we contact other than Senators and Congress persons to spearhead this issue for us?
This is my the letter that was forwarded to Lynne H. at the VA Atlanta enrolment office by another person and she called me directly about my concerns. The above letter, (transcribed by me) was the outcome of that telephone conversation.
I am not in the habit of questioning the president’s motive but this is in need of some kind of amendment for Obama Care from the president. I have to believe he does not realize what is actually in the Affordable Health Care Act as his staff has not advised him well.
If you call your elected officials or the VA you will most likely be told you do not know what you are talking about as all have been mislead by the VA/media and told nothing has been done to affect your VA benefits and the Obama Care enactment. You are safe they will say. If you are happy with the VA alone, yes you are fine under certain circumstances.
Call the Atlanta VA which is in charge of all enrolment and disenrollment (404-828-5257) and ask for Barbra Roberts or her supervisor. They know the real truth as they are the ones getting the disenrollment requests from vets stumbling onto this mess.
If you have constructive criticism after reading the comments below I would be more than happy to respond to you.
OBAMA CARE TURNS ITS BACK ON DISABLED VETERANS BASIC CARE THROUGH THE VA
Obama Care or the Affordable Health Care Act makes partially disabled veterans (for that matter all veterans not retired from the military) choose between health care for their family and receiving a subsidy or VA health coverage(not insurance) for their military service connected disabilities. This dilemma may sound simple but it is far from simple. The VA and OBAMA Care were both well aware of this problem before now. Media outlets just spewed the Secretary of VA and President Obama’s verbal quotes like the as the famous “You can keep your existing health insurance policy if you want”. PRESIDENT OBAMA AND WIFE did it again only this time they did it to the Disabled Veterans of the United States during several speeches one to the DVA and the other time to AMSUS – The Society of the Federal Health Professionals . If you want the actual speech quotes they are at this link on my website: HERE IS THE PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADYS SPEACH TO THE DAV FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE NON-BELIEVERS TELLING THEM HE HAS THEIR BACK AND BENIFITS ARE BEING EXPANED- NOTHING ABOUT HAVING TO DIS-ENROLL FROM THE VA AND BUY HIGH DEDUCTABLE HEALTH POLICIES TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY. Video link : http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-vi … -veterans-
https://sites.google.com/site/titan2vet … obama-care
If you want real health insurance coverage (VA is not health insurance recognized by the VA itself at the following link) https://sites.google.com/site/titan2vet … -be-fooled
For your family and yourself on the Obama market place website you do not find out until you are a third of the way through applying that you must check a box that you are in the VA system. When you get to the end of the application you notice your premium for coverage (in my case) $1260.00/mo for two people. Holly crap! The coverage is for a high $3,000.00/yr per person deductible with out of pocket not to exceed $6,000.00. This policy is also an 80 percent/20 percent payment schedule up to the $6,000.00/per person. I think you get the point that this is not cheap health insurance.
Here is the problem that you have to figure out on your own as the stupid software writers of the Obama website don’t explain by checking the VA box you just forfeited your subsidy. I am sure many disabled and non-disabled veterans have not figured this out and have just left the website thinking this is outrageous pricing for such a high deductible policy.
In order to get the subsidy you must not check the box stating you are in the VA. When you get to the end of the program it will find that you are in the VA and state you must dis-enroll from the VA in order for you receive the subsidy. https://sites.google.com/site/titan2vet … re-subsidy
This document has to be uploaded to the website in order to finish your application. Do not delay this process or the IRS will be knocking at your door next year. Your income had better not change next year and put you over the income bracket for your number of dependents or the IRS will be back to get the subsidy. Seek your tax accountants’ advice. In my case I get a subsidy of $570.00/ month off the $1260.00/month health insurance. This is still a high price for a high deductible policy and me paying out of pocket costs up to $6,000.00 per year per person.
Why would you create such a pain for partially disabled veterans to deal with? This now gets the VA and government off the hook for their responsibility to care for your service connected disabilities and puts it squarely on your shoulders. As you have this high deductible Obama health insurance that will take care of an annual physical and catastrophic medical problem for your wife and you (in my case) it does NOT pay for your daily medication and physician visits for your disability from military service. All these expenses count to your $3,000.00 deductible for which you pay up front.
The VA has the responsibility to treat the partially disabled service connected veteran by law for service connected disabilities. I have been told by VA officials in Wisconsin that I will not be seen or get my medications if I am not in the VA system for my service connected disabilities. Although, Atlanta VA enrolment headquarters says you do not have to be enrolled but says to check with your local VA. If I do get seen for my service connected medical problems without being enrolled in the VA system will the IRS now come and get my subsidy back?
Call your senator’s and congresspersons about this disgraceful policy of the government to turn their back on disabled veterans through the OBAMA CARE ACT.
I have contacted in Wisconsin: Congressman Reed Ribble at 920-471-1950. He has said the only way to fix this problem it is to amend the law.
Get involved and help as this is going to affect many disabled veterans and their families unfairly. Retired Vets, 100% disabled Vets, Vets on Medicare and vets with employer insurance are not affected but just about everyone else is. Email your representatives. Take five minutes to help.
Thanks for your ear.