KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmaker Proposes Trust Fund For Veterans’ Growing Health Costs

"A new study estimates that health costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans could top $900 billion, and [Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.] wants to set up a trust fund to make sure the bill will be paid," The Associated Press reports. The authors of the study, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Linda Bilmes of Harvard University, say that veterans' "injury rates and the cost of treating them have increased far more than expected in the last couple of years." They "estimated the cost of providing vets with lifetime medical costs and disability payments from the Veteran's Administration, as well as Social Security payments for the severely disabled, at between $589 billion and $934 billion, depending on the length and intensity of the Iraq and Afghan wars" (Jelinek, 9/29).

Marine Corps Times: "Bilmes said the new estimates come amid signs that far more of the 1.4 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are seeking help than previously expected. … [Two years ago] Bilmes expected 366,000 to 398,000 Iraq or Afghanistan veterans to apply for disability compensation; 500,000 have already filed claims, she said. She also expected fewer than 400,000 to seek treatment in the VA medical system, 'but close to 600,000 already have been treated.' Treatment costs per veteran also are slightly higher than previously expected, she said" (Maze, 9/29). 

Marine Corps Times, in a second story: Meanwhile, "[a] bill that would require the Veterans Affairs Department to post medical quality assurance records online has drawn opposition from VA, which worries about the confidentiality of patients and whether posting the records would have a 'chilling effect' on the willingness of health care workers to report mistakes." The Transparency for America's Heroes Act's sponsor, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., "said the bill is his response to 'revelations of substandard care' in the past two years that include well-publicized problems with the sterilization of medical equipment," and other less publicized but disturbing issues, too. The measure is supported by a number of groups, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America(Maze, 9/29).

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