Breaking the 'Sacred Trust'

Apparently President Obama did not get the message that was delivered loud and clear last week by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill in hearings on the Administration’s proposed Veterans Administration budget.  Rumors had been flying that the Obama Administration was considering a harebrained scheme to charge wounded warriors for the treatment of injuries received in battle.  Asked about the scurrilous rumors by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), the left’s favorite general, Eric Shinseki, now Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, confirmed that the plan was “under consideration.

“A final decision hasn’t been made yet,” said Shinseki, as if that made it alright.

In fact, the plan is more than “under consideration,” it is included in President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget as an increase in revenue for the VA.  In other words, the Administration is relying on the plan, not just thinking about it.  Besides being a shameful breaking of faith with military men and women who have sacrificed greatly for their country, the plan stands in direct contrast to President Obama’s rhetoric from the campaign trail.

Candidate Obama promised veterans that he would, “restore our sacred trust with our veterans.”  As part of that promise, candidate Obama talked about the VA’s budget.  From his campaign website:

Veterans Budget Shortfalls: In 2005, a multi-billion dollar VA funding shortfall required Congress to step in and bail out the system. […]

Fully Fund VA Medical Care: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will fully fund the VA so it has all the resources it needs to serve the veterans who need it, when they need it. Obama and Biden will establish a world-class VA Planning Division to avoid future budget shortfalls.

Barack Obama promised to fully fund the VA.  He just didn’t tell veterans that the money would be coming out of their pockets.

The plan Obama has included in his budget would increase “third-party” collections at VA hospitals.  Translated, that means insurance payments.  The Administration hopes to raise $540 million for the VA by charging wounded soldiers’ private insurance plans for treatment of their service-related injuries.  Currently, veterans’ insurance is only billed for treatments of non-service-related medical conditions, such as when a vet goes to the VA for the flu.  This would potentially expose wounded soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan to co-pays and deductibles for treatment of injuries they received on the battlefield.

The Administration is so committed to this disgraceful plan that it presented it to representatives of the nation’s largest veterans organizations at the White House yesterday.  The groups had co-signed a letter to the Administration earlier this month protesting the idea.  So the president invited them to a meeting to tell them, “I won.”  The commander of the American Legion, David Rehbein, left the meeting visibly angered by what he heard inside.

“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan.  He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.

This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle’ given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans!

I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted,” said Commander Rehbein, “is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue.”

Before this Administration, it was inconceivable that an American government would even consider forcing wounded veterans to contribute to the cost of their treatment, let alone stand behind the idea.  That this scheme could make it into an official budget proposal shows that the Obama Administration knows no bounds of honor and decency.