Uninsured Veterans: A Stain on America’s Flag

Source: Steffie Woolhandler, Physicians for a National Health Program, Testimony Presented to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, June 20, 2007

In 2004, 1.8 million military veterans neither had health insurance nor received ongoing care at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals. Note that the surveys asked veterans if they had health insurance, and if they had veterans or military health care. We counted them as uninsured only if they answered no to both questions. The number of uninsured veterans has increased by 290,000 since 2000. The proportion of non-elderly veterans who were uninsured rose from less then one in ten (9.9%) in 2000 to more than one in eight (12.7%) in 2004.

An additional 3.8 million members of veterans’ households were also uninsured and ineligible for VHA care.

Virtually all Korean War and World War II veterans are over age 65 and hence covered by Medicare. However, 645,628 Vietnam-era veterans were uninsured (8.5% of the 7.56 million Vietnam-era vets). Among the 8.6 million veterans who served during “other eras” including the Persian Gulf War, 12.9% (1,105,891) lacked health coverage.

Almost two-thirds (64.3%) of uninsured veterans were employed and nearly nine out of ten (86.4%) had worked within the past year. Most uninsured veterans, like other uninsured Americans were in working families. Many earned too little to afford health insurance, but too much to qualify for free care under Medicaid or VA means testing.

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