How the Election Could Affect Veteran Health Care

In the United States, we put a lot of money and effort into maintaining a strong military. During their service, the men and women who serve our country generally have access to excellent medical care. However, once service members come home and become veterans, they often do not have access to the same level of care.

Because of ongoing deficiencies in veteran healthcare, the topic is almost always revisited during each election cycle, with candidates proposing different options for improving care for veterans. With this upcoming election, in particular, health insurance for United States veterans is a hot button topic.

A Des Moines Register article highlights Bernie Sanders’ respect and honor for American veterans. At the same time, it questions his plan to bolster staffing at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs branches.

Sanders isn’t the only candidate with opinions on veteran healthcare, however. Here’s what might change for veterans in the new decade after the 2020 election.

Big Data Says More Workers Won’t Help

Today, we have access to more data than ever. While Sanders’ plan is well-intentioned, it doesn’t hold up to studies that have been conducted in the area of improving healthcare access. According to the data, simply adding more employees to the VA won’t significantly improve the current system.

Instead of simply hiring more workers, the data indicates that other systemic changes are needed. Candidates must be willing to think creatively in order to help veterans get access to the care they so desperately need.

Gearing up for the Big Showdown

Not all veterans are eligible for healthcare through the VA, and many depend on Medicaid. Some even have pre-existing conditions from their years of service that can jeopardize their access to insurance and proper care. In 2020, these veterans will have a huge question hanging over their heads: “will I lose my health insurance?”

President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would likely result in the loss of health insurance coverage for over 400,000 veterans, hitting areas where he has the strongest support the hardest. If Trump should win reelection, healthcare for hundreds of thousands of veterans will be in jeopardy, despite the President’s pledge to support former service members.

As we head into the election year, this issue will likely come to the forefront, with Trump’s opponents gearing up for the big showdown and attempting to prove that their plans will benefit veterans instead of harming them.

Of Course, Every Candidate Has a Plan

Almost every candidate wants to expand veteran healthcare access—after all, just about everyone agrees that we should support the men and women who risk their lives for the United States. However, there’s no consensus on what that would look like—everyone has a different opinion and every candidate has a plan.

Although these plans vary in complexity and comprehensiveness, they’re all aimed at reforming veteran care and expanding access, especially to veterans who have been given less-than-honorable discharges unfairly. Data tools could also be helpful in creating a sustainable new strategy for veteran care, as they are already being used within the VA to improve care for the 4.74 million veterans getting disability compensation.

A Look on the Bright Side

It isn’t all bad news for vets, though. In the past, many veterans have struggled to get the care they need due to access issues. There are only so many VA healthcare facilities throughout the country, and some areas are underserved based on their location.

Under previous rules, veterans could choose private healthcare as an alternative to seeing VA doctors only if they lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Earlier this year, that restriction was relaxed, allowing veterans who live more than a 30-minute drive from these facilities to seek alternate care from a private provider. Other provisions aim to reduce wait times for appointments and expand access to walk-in clinics.

While the plan is not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction. As the country moves toward a contentious election, it’s important to remember that although we still have a long way to go, most people want to support veterans in getting high-quality healthcare. We just have to figure out the best methods for doing so.

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