Mailbag: VA Healthcare Same as Civilian?

On Monday, I had an exchange with a disabled veteran about healthcare from the Veterans Affairs. The discussion was about whether VA healthcare is the same as civilian healthcare. It took place on the Facebook group “Disabled Veterans – Chapter 31 Voc Rehab.”

Background: I met with the Department of Veterans Affairs last march about Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation. Part of that policy discussion centered on health insurance for disabled veterans in college.

During my meeting with Director Fanning, head of Voc Rehab, she agreed that it was time for VA to consider mandatory insurance as a regular fee VA will now pay.

I wrote an article about it: Vocational Rehab to Pay Health Insurance Fees for Veterans. This policy change will cost Voc Rehab around $30 million per year if all eligible disabled veterans take advantage of it.

I wanted to include this message exchange because it highlights a few points I missed in the earlier article. Private health care can help you prove your disability claim.

Back to the Facebook group, one veteran wrote in:

“But the “Health Insurance” is only basic medical not real health insurance. It is what my daughters had when they went to college. They offered no more than the VA did. What is the benefit to us?”

My response was as follows:

“Are you serious? Here is the difference: you get to CHOOSE your doctor with insurance and they will likely have quality training and speak English clearly. The VA uses many low cost foreign doctors who are training into the US system, and the number of malpractice instances committed by poor VA healthcare are sky rocketing for that reason and because hiring standards are low.

I just wrote an article where 1 doctor killed 5 veterans from December to March 2012. He was no longer qualified to work as a doctor outside of the VA system.

Actual insurance coverage depends on the college’s selection. At the University of Minnesota, where I attend law school, they provide: ‘100% coverage for doctors’ office visits for illnesses or injuries; 100% coverage for routine preventive care such as eye exams, cancer screenings, and prenatal care; 100% coverage for casts and crutches; $10 copays for mental health clinic visits; and many other low costs for high-quality services.’

Many vets get stuck with emergency room bills, when treated at non VA hospitals for emergencies, that the VA won’t pay because VA has an impossible time paying 3rd party health providers. So, lots of vets were being sent to collections while in college.

In addition, by requiring vets to waive health insurance the way VA was doing was actually borderline fraudulent. THAT is the big difference.

A major advantage for veterans is that they can see NON VA DOCTORS. These doctors can help you document your disability claim in a way VA doctors will not. And, if they screw up your health care, you can sue them for medical malpractice.

Plus, it allows veterans to purchase dental insurance at a discounted rate. If you still want to go to the VA, for some crazy reason, feel free, and the health care will still be free after you wait forever for the appointment.

Coverage depends on the college. Some colleges provide better health insurance than others. The University of Minnesota uses Blue Cross Blue Shield. The insurance option sounds pretty damn good to me. Oh, and you don’t need to wait 4 months for a doctor’s appointment or 8 hours for an ER visit. I hope this answers any questions.



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