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