A lawmaker’s proposal that war veterans should be automatically enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Department health system has divided veterans groups over concerns that the legislation would strain an already burdened system and estrange those who did not serve in combat.
Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., said he sponsored HR 1460 to ease the transition of injured personnel to the VA health system and reduce the paperwork associated with processing out of the military.
Some advocacy groups, including the American Legion and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, strongly favor the bill. But others, including the Military Officers Association of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, oppose it as written.
“It could prove polarizing and send the message to non-deployed veterans that they do not qualify for VA health care,” said Shane Barker, VFW senior legislative associate.
“Automatic enrollment of only combat theater veterans will likely be perceived as a negative decision by noncombat veterans, causing them to view it as a form of health care rationing and the government’s attempt to diminish their contributions of service to their country,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Rene Campos of MOAA.
Adrian Atizado, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans, said automatic enrollment could “squeeze out” an older generation of veterans who have yet to enroll but will need care later in life.
And it could cause a logjam for obtaining services after enrollment, he added.