All veterans deserve proper health care

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Tribune editorial board

A new report alleges approximately 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance or access to veteran's hospitals or clinics.

According to the report by a doctors' group that admittedly favors government funded health care, the number of uninsured veterans jumped by 235,000 since 2000. If accurate, that statistic shows the men and women who fought for our country are losing access to health care faster than the rate of the general population.

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Obviously the issue has become a political football of sorts.

The Bush administration disputes those figures; Sen. John Kerry's camp smells political potential.

Regardless of the political implications, the fact that many of our veterans have no proper health care access is a national shame.

While the politicians - and the political machines that are behind each - are arguing over the exact numbers of veterans without proper healthcare, we think they should be working to resolve the issue.

Having one veteran without access to proper health care is one too many. Having thousands, well, that's just unconscionable.

The Veterans Administration, long accused of being a nightmare of red tape for veterans seeking medical and mental help, needs to be overhauled and streamlined.

Access should be quick and immediate.

While we do not favor national federal health care, we do favor a system in which veterans could receive medical care regardless of where that veteran lives. Under our dream system, veterans should be able to visit any doctor or hospital that is convenient for them. How shall we pay for it? Why not start by stripping the current federal healthcare system from congressmen? We suspect most of them could easily afford private insurance on their own, and with rare exception, most of their service to the country is wearing a suit in an air conditioned environment, not in the far-flung jungles of the world.

If you care about the men and women who served to protect our way of life, then we encourage you to contact your congressmen and tell them how you feel.

Veterans deserve better.

They served for us. Now it's time for us to serve them.