Soldiers’ War Injuries = Pre-existing?

This story from NPR caught my eye this morning. Even those who think I go a bit off the deep end when it comes to casting dispersions on insurance and other payor programs that should be paying for our healthcare and don’t… this will make you think twice.

The story concerns American soldiers who have fought in Iraq and have been injured, in this case, by bombs or rockets. They return to the States with long term effects from those injuries ranging from headaches to bleeding ears to insomnia, symptoms which never existed before they left and clearly result from their war injuries. Heck, some of them have been awarded purple hearts for those injuries.

If I understand the story correctly, if the soldiers are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTSD) then the VA will continue to care for them. This is important because most of them don’t stay in the service past their original enlistment, so the PTSD diagnosis establishes that they have suffered from the effects of war. That ensures their care once they leave the service for the injuries suffered during service to our country.

That’s fair. And that’s the point being made by the injured veterans who testified before the US Congress yesterday. But, according to Paul Towns, who runs an organization called Veterans for Common Sense, there may be tens of thousands of soldiers who aren’t receiving that fair care they deserve.

Unfortunately, those tens of thousands are being denied care because, instead of being diagnosed with PTSD, the VA “discovers” that they had a “pre-existing personality disorder” after they return. Never mind that these soldiers passed all their physical and mental tests and exams before they entered the service. Never mind that they didn’t get blinding headaches, bleeding ears or suffer from insomnia before they went to Iraq.

Are you kidding me?

This seems like a travesty to me. That these soldiers fought on our behalf, to help America retain its freedom… and we would deny these men and women who stood on the front lines the healthcare they deserve?

And this is the government doing the denying – not a private health insurance company. That means it is our tax dollars that would need to be spent to take care of these soldiers. I, for one, think that it is a small price to pay to take care of these soldiers who have put their lives on the line to protect me.

Even aside from dishonoring these men and women in this way — for the government to be so underhanded, for the government to strip the possibility of care from these soldiers, establishes a precedent for other payor entities to do the same. Afterall, if a private insuror did the same thing and was sued, all their lawyers would have to do is point out that the US government denied care first!

It’s wrong. I’ll be interested to see what the outcomes of the congressional hearings are. If you have the opportunity to contact your congressional representatives, please do:

Contact information for US Congress Members

Covering the healthcare costs for injured American soldiers is only fair.

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Trisha Torrey
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