America's Neglected Veterans: 1.7 Million Who Served Have No Health Coverage

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
International Journal of Health Services (Impact Factor: 0.88). 02/2005; 35(2):313-23. DOI: 10.2190/UPBQ-C3RH-D367-5H9D
Source: PubMed


Many U.S. military veterans lack health insurance and are ineligible for care in Veterans Administration health care facilities. Using two recently released national government surveys--the 2004 Current Population Survey and the 2002 National Health Interview Survey--the authors examined how many veterans are uninsured (lacking health insurance coverage and not receiving care from the VA) and whether uninsured veterans have problems in access to care. In 2003, 1.69 million military veterans neither had health insurance nor received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals or clinics; the number of uninsured veterans increased by 235,159 since 2000. The proportion of nonelderly veterans who were uninsured rose from 9.9 percent in 2000 to 11.9 percent in 2003. An additional 3.90 million members of veterans' households were also uninsured and ineligible for VHA care. Medicare covered virtually all Korean War and World War II veterans, but 681,808 Vietnam-era veterans were uninsured (8.7 percent of the 7.85 million Vietnam-era vets). Among the 8.27 million veterans who served during "other eras" (including the Persian Gulf War), 12.1 percent (999,548) lacked health coverage. A disturbingly high number of veterans reported problems in obtaining needed medical care. By almost any measure, uninsured veterans had as much trouble getting medical care as other uninsured persons. Thus millions of U.S. veterans and their family members are uninsured and face grave difficulties in gaining access to even the most basic medical care.

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    • "" For noncareer veterans , the VHA operates a complicated system of eligibility requirements to stay within its annual capped budget. Although this budget and the number of enrollees have increased considerably over the last decade, 1.7 million veterans were estimated to be without either any other form of insurance or health care from the VHA, and 3.9 million members of veterans' families had no health insurance and were ineligible for VHA care (Woolhandler et al.: 2005). Medicaid also performs badly for this criterion: 13.7 million or 37 percent of nonelderly persons defined as poor had no health insurance in 2002, and 12.3 million or 28 percent of near-poor persons were in the same position (Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured 2004). "
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