Obama Calls For Veterans' Health Care Expansion

President Obama Monday included health care in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars' national convention Monday, The Arizona Republic reports.

"'Since there's been so much misinformation out there about health-insurance reform, let me say this: One thing that reform won't change is veterans' health care,' Obama told the crowd of a few thousand mostly older veterans and family members. 'No one is going to take away your benefits — that is the plain and simple truth. We're expanding access to your health care, not reducing it.'"

"He said his administration and Congress are 'dramatically increasing funding for veterans' health care' and characterized post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury as 'the defining injuries of today's wars.' He said his budget includes billions of dollars more for treatment and mental-health screenings to reach troops on the frontlines and to provide mobile and rural clinics to reach veterans back home. 'We will fulfill our responsibility to our wounded warriors,' Obama said" (Nowicki, Gonzalez and Alltucker, 8/18).

The Christian Science Monitor: "To recast the VA, Obama has hired Eric Shinseki, a former Army general fired under President Bush in the lead up to the war in Iraq. He is also bringing more resources to the agency: the current budget proposal for the VA contains the largest increase in funding in 30 years. The intent is to reduce waiting times for veterans seeking help, expand coverage, and hire more case managers to process claims" (Lubold, 8/17).

"Some say that the Department of Veteran Affairs medical care is actually an excellent example of how the government is leading on health care quality and cost,"  Minnesota Public Radio reports: "(VA doctor) Greg Felice said it's actually how all of America's citizens should be treated by the health care system. He admits that the VA is not perfect, but said its care is very, very good. With all of the debate swirling in Congress about the merits of a public health insurance option, he wants Americans to know that there are some things that the government does well. … Felice said the VA is a model that lawmakers should consider emulating as they try to overhaul the nation's health care system" (Benson, 8/18).

The Congressional Budget Office also says the overhaul should learn from the VA, Government Health IT reports. "The VA has strengthened its efforts to track performance measures, expand the use of health information technology, manage chronic diseases, coordinate care by different providers and use evidence-based medical practices, the CBO said in the report published Aug. 13" (Mosquera, 8/17).

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