McClatchy DC ^ | March 18, 2009 | David Goldstein
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 5:40:01 AM by 2ndDivisionVet
The Obama administration on Wednesday abandoned a controversial plan to make veterans use private insurance to pay for costly treatments of combat-related injuries.
Stung by the angry reaction to the proposal, the administration made the decision after a meeting between officials from 11 veterans advocacy groups and top White House officials.
"Our voices were heard," said Norbert Ryan, the president of the Military Officers Association of America. "They made the right decision on this."
The plan would've reversed a longstanding policy of providing government health coverage for all service-related injuries. Few details emerged beyond its reported savings of $540 million, however.
Most veterans use private insurance only for health problems unrelated to their military service.
"This is a moral issue for us," said Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
What was most puzzling to experienced activists and others was that the White House floated the idea in the first place. Several said that the administration came off as politically tone deaf to the importance of the issue.
"They've grabbed hold of the 'third rail' and they shouldn't have done this," said Rick Weidman, director of government relations for Vietnam Veterans of America. "If they had asked anyone informally, we would have informed them, 'Are you kidding? All hell will break loose.'"
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the intent of the plan had been to "maximize the resources available for veterans."
He said, however, that President Barack Obama, who met with the veterans groups on Monday in their first trip to the White House, recognized their concern that it could "under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families' ability to access health care."
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TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: agenda; bho2009; bho44; gatheringofeagles; obama; pelosi; socializedmedicine; veterans