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Who Got the Most Votes in Illinois on February 5th?


Contact: Bruce E. Parry

Chicago—Mandatory Full Funding for VA Healthcare for all veterans, that’s who! Over 1 million voters within 23 Counties in Illinois voted for the referendum that appeared on their ballots to produce an overwhelming victory!  The current unofficial totals show that 1,137,735, or 93.6 percent of voters said, “Yes, we want our government to properly fund healthcare for all veterans!”

The referendum tells the United States Congress that the voters of Illinois want and expect the U.S. to properly fund healthcare for all veterans—particularly ensuring benefits for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is time to carry this powerful message to Congress and for our Congressional representatives to hear this powerful voice. The Coalition of Veterans Organizations (CVO) will ensure that all members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation and the members of both the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees know the voters of Illinois have spoken.

We want to thank LT Governor Quinn for his commitment to veterans and their families and to Congressional leaders who have put forth bills in the spirit of Mandatory Full Funding of VA Healthcare. We appreciate all they have done. CVO will support legislation that calls for opening the VA to all veterans regardless of their branch of service or their family income levels. We will support legislation that eliminates the categorization of veterans which is currently being used to exclude veterans from enrolling in the VA healthcare system. We will not support legislation that forces veterans to pay for VA health care. Veterans seek legislation that will decisively take VA healthcare funding out of the annual legislative debate over discretionary funding and make it mandatory and unequivocal. We seek VA funding based on a formula that includes treating all veterans, includes the real costs of treating veterans, and the annual changes in those costs. We are aware of legislation that moves in this direction; we need legislation that presents the full package of Mandatory Full Funding of VA Healthcare. Veterans have already paid for their healthcare. They paid with their service to the country and they deserve to be cared for without limitations and restrictions.

Most people are not aware that veterans are excluded from the VA health care system based on the type of medical services that they need and their income, not only of themselves but of their spouses (many of whom did not serve).

The VA has “categorized” veterans into eight categories and since 2003 has barred veterans in “Category 8” from enrolling in the VA healthcare system. Those veterans served their Country and they were promised VA healthcare. For decades that promise was upheld but has been robbed from those who earned it. Veterans served without conditions on their service and they—and the voters of Illinois—expect our country to provide promised services without conditions imposed after the fact and regardless of whether they were in the active components, Reserves or National Guard.

·         Today’s new veterans—having served in Iraq and Afghanistan—are similarly being limited to VA healthcare access.  With more than 30 years of health studies on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and having allowed veterans to go untreated after Vietnam, the current administration is still in denial about the residuals of war. In 2001 VA healthcare was limited to only 2 years of “free” healthcare for those serving in this conflict, and although recent legislation has increased that to 5 years, it is still a travesty. Those of us from other wars were promised VA healthcare and it took 10, 20 or even 30 years to seek treatment from the VA. Why? Because the symptoms of our disorders take years to come to a head. Because we were warriors; we were young and defiant. And because emotionally we did not know how to ask for help. Many of those who did ask for help early on were turned away. We want to ensure that when Johnnie and Jane come marching home in 2008 that they will not be turned away in 2013, in 2018 or in 2028 because they did not enroll in time.  Are we telling these veterans—who have born the burden of the current war—that we cannot or will not care for them? We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars without allocating the relatively small amounts necessary to care for our servicemen and women when they return form combat.

It is a shame that veterans are forced to pay for VA healthcare and have co-pays imposed both for visits to the VA and for medication. In many cases veterans are prescribed multiple medications; each prescription has a co-pay, so the co-pays become onerous: so onerous that many veterans cannot afford to use the VA.

We are asking—and the more than one million citizens that voted want—VA healthcare taken out of the annual debate in Congress and debates between Congress and the Administration as to how much money is allocated. The dollar amount allocated in these debates depends on the political atmosphere, the demands of the budget, and the ideologies of those concerned. Mandatory Full Funding means basing the annual budget on the needs of our nation’s veterans. We know how many veterans will be served in any given year. The VA knows how much it costs to treat veterans and the annual inflation in those costs. With proper oversight in place, we need to make VA Healthcare an entitlement; and remove it from the annual budget debates.

Finally, we must pass Mandatory Full Funding to end the disgrace and travesty of homeless and jobless veterans. A Harvard University study recently found that 1.8 million veterans are without healthcare. They found that most of these veterans are in “Category 8.” They have too high an income to “qualify” for VA healthcare and have insufficient income or other circumstances that keep them from accessing of healthcare elsewhere.

The lack of healthcare is a leading cause of homelessness and joblessness. Healthcare problems are the number one reason for bankruptcy. Illness and disability are major reasons that many people cannot work, and that ultimately cannot even get a roof over their heads.

The VA is the largest, and one of the most effective healthcare systems in the country. It has been noted for its computerized system-wide ability to follow and treat veterans and to promote preventative healthcare measures that save lives and money in the long run. It is the most cost effective healthcare system in the country: it is more economical to care for and ensure every veteran has free comprehensive healthcare now, than to wait for veterans to return to the private healthcare system later.

We want to thank the people in the 23 Illinois counties where the Advisory Referendum was on the ballot* for voting “yes.” Over 90 percent of the voters voted to tell Congress that the people of Illinois want Mandatory Full Funding of VA Healthcare for all eligible veterans. We would like to recognize that this victory is the leading edge of a nationwide movement, coordinated by Operation Firing For Effect, to have voters all over the country express their support for Mandatory Full Funding of VA Healthcare. People in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, California, Florida, New Mexico and elsewhere are also sending this message to Congress.

* With Cook County, the other Illinois Counties voting on this referendum are: Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, DeKalb, DeWitt, Edgar, Effingham, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Jo Daviess, LaSalle, Lawrence, Marion, Putnam, Richland, Rock Island, and Whiteside.



Bruce Parry Brings
Veteran Coalition of Chicago
On Board
Chicago's Alderman Sign On to Mandatory Funding
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