Up to 6,400 veterans and their families potentially eligible, but Scott Walker is keeping them from BadgerCare | WisCommunity

Up to 6,400 veterans and their families potentially eligible, but Scott Walker is keeping them from BadgerCare

When it comes to providing quality services to U.S. military veterans, Scott Walker isn't the solution, he's the problem. Latest example: Walker's refusal to accept 90% to 100% long-term federal Medicaid funding to expand BadgerCare. You might wonder what Medicaid has to do with veterans. Don't they get health care at Veterans Administration hospitals? Well, no, not all of them, and it's not just due to backlogs at those facilities that are currently the subject of renewed national scrutiny.

With a few exceptions, the right to care at VA medical centers is for U.S. military veterans who have served two continuous years or the full period for which they were called to active duty. The result? About 1.3 million veterans who don't fit into the above category remain uninsured nationwide. Worse, according to a 2013 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts using data from the Urban Institute, a total of about 258,600 of those veterans are living below the poverty line in Wisconsin and 19 other states that have refused to expand Medicaid. 

According to the Urban Institute data, Wisconsin's share of this uninsured veterans population is 6,400 -- including the veterans themselves and their families. The data suggests these individuals might qualify for Medicaid-based health coverage, but only if Wisconsin agreed to expand BadgerCare under the health care reform law.

The Pew Trust issued a report noting that like most other Americans, the veterans who don’t have health insurance risk paying a penalty under the Affordable Care Act if they didn't sign up for alternate health coverage. In an effort to overcome the unexpected problem of states like Wisconsin refusing to expanded their Medicaid-based programs, the VA created a separate health coverage track for veterans but for various reasons not all who are eligible were expected to choose that option. Nationwide, the Department of Veterans Affairs expected only 66,000 uninsured veterans to enroll in the VA system to meet the insurance requirement.

Between Sgt. Rock and  a hard place, those Wisconsin veterans left out of BadgerCare eligibility are, foremost, victims of Walker administration policy. The Affordable Care Act offers a means and the money to cover those veterans, but Walker refuses to take on the task because ... Obamacare!

Those uninsured, low-income veterans in Wisconsin are a subset of a greater group, still not fully enumerated, of low-income residents left uncovered because Walker refused to expand Medicaid. Their incomes are so low they typically can't afford private health insurance, even private plans heavily subsidized at the federal health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. Which is where Walker suggested they go when he dumped tens of thousands of them from BadgerCare rolls effective this spring.

Since Walker became govenor, his shabby record involving veterans has continued: from a new law that limits the ability of veterans to file civil lawsuits involving asbestos contamination while they were on duty, to grabbing more power over the state Veterans Affairs Board and politicizing it, to cutting state support for veterans programs. A long list is available at Cognitive Dissonance, link below.

Blogs here at Uppity and across Wisconsin also have documented how Walker politics have dissed veterans in a number of ways, starting when he was Milwaukee County executive. The original John Doe probe into Walker's county administration led to felony charges against two of his appointees. Tim Russell, then Walker's deputy chief of staff, was convicted on felony charges for stealing thousands of dollars intended for wounded veterans and their families. Kevin Kavanaugh, whom Walker appointed to a veterans service commission, meanwhile was convicted on felony charges relating to theft of funds from the Walker-controlled Operation Freedom. Walker's current problems with Doe Deux are a direct outgrowth of those and four other convictions in the original Doe.

Given the Walker-centric threat to veterans health and other needs in Wisconsin, it's no wonder Republicans here -- like their brethren across the country -- are so eager to pin the blame for VA ills on Democrats in Washington. However, it's already abundantly clear that national Republican Party attempts to politicize long-standing problems with VA medical programs are hypocritical. The GOP is, after all, the party that just a few months ago refused to fund the latest Obama administration proposal to deal with the VA's burgeoning case backlog (itself an outgrowth of the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq). Obama wanted to expand VA medical resources but the GOP rejection came six years after the departing Bush administration dumped the already burgeoning mess onto its sucessor.

Too many veterans continue suffering. Sadly, it's been that way for decades. Every so often the country stirs itself, faces the issue and does something about it. That time again has emerged, but only because Republicans who have blocked many recent attempts at VA reform suddenly smell an election-year opportunity. Walker, meanwhile, still touts what he regards as his positive record on behalf of veterans, and that might just be his biggest abuse of them yet.


May 29, 2014 - 8:37pm