Claire Ball for Illinois Comptroller
Libertarians are known for being highly critical of government run social programs, but one thing I, and most libertarians, believe in is taking proper care of our veterans. Over the years, there have been many concerns about the quality and availability of health care through the VA. Reasons given for millions of backlogged services have ranged from bureaucratic red tape, to a shortage of physicians and administrators, to the fight over whether a medical condition is service related.
The Choice Program sought to solve this problem by allowing veterans to go through private facilities for care, as opposed to government run centers, but with strict guidelines – this option was only available for veterans living 40+ miles from a VA clinic or those waiting more than 30 days for an appointment. There were other flaws in the Choice program as well, such as veterans being met with refusal on the part of private physicians, because they were not being paid for their services. This reminds me of the budget impasse Illinois recently ended, with social service providers having to close their doors because they weren’t getting the funds needed from the state. As an accountant, I find that situation to be inexcusable. There are certain things most everyone can agree on that we want our tax dollars to fund, and veteran care is one of them. As such, it should be high in the payment priorities of the state, and the nation. In June, President Trump signed the VA Vision Bill into law in an attempt to improve upon the Choice Program, expanding those choices to all 9.1 million veterans. The National Commander of the VFW has called this new legislation “the right balance,” but only time will tell if it helps our veterans get the care they deserve.
Mandatory Funding and Payment Prioritization
There are many places to slash spending and end government handouts, but Veterans Services should not be one of them. When asked, Libertarians will tell you that Illinois does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, and it’s no different on the national level. As Illinois Comptroller, I would prioritize payments to social services that care for those who truly need it, such as our state’s veterans homes, above special interests and pet projects. Likewise, the federal government should prioritize funding for veteran services. We should never find ourselves in the situation where insufficient, or total lack of payment for services provided by private physicians caused veterans to be turned away. We must do better, and I hope the Vision Bill will help to correct those errors. Expenditures for veteran care should always be among the top of the prioritization list, and I fully support mandatory funding of veteran services.
Many Libertarians, including our own Governor candidate and 20-year Navy veteran Kash Jackson, have rallied under the battle cry to “privatize it!”
While Libertarians believe that the private market does the best possible job of ensuring affordable, high quality care, we also agree that it is undoubtedly Uncle Sam who should foot the bill when it comes to our nation’s veterans. The 2019 VA budget is currently estimated to be $198.6 billion and even if half of that number were used for administrative costs, it still leaves over $10,000 per veteran that could be put into an insurance pool, perhaps similar to Tricare, from which medical and dental care could be purchased through private providers. This would put some control back into the hands of our veterans by allowing them to go through other providers.
Service related health needs could continue to be covered at 100%, and this would eliminate the situation we have now, where many veterans have been forced to either go without care or to purchase private insurance on top of their VA benefits. A special prescription card could be issued to veterans in order to retain the low price the VA currently pays for prescription drugs.
This is one, of many, ideas that could increase the quality of care our veterans receive. These conversations may be difficult, especially as we understand that many in the veteran’s community are adamantly against privatizing the VA; however, it’s a conversation worth having. Our veterans put everything on the line to ensure our freedoms, and we should be willing to do everything possible to ensure the best, most affordable care possible once they come home.
Dental care, which I initially thought was a standard part of the healthcare package for our veterans, is limited to only a small portion of veterans, those with specific needs and backgrounds such as pow’s or those who are 100% disabled. Dental care is important for every person as, according to the Mayo Clinic, oral health is linked to endocarditis and cardiovascular disease, as well as conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Beyond that, research has shown that veterans are at a higher risk for heart disease. Oral care is important, not only for good quality of life, but to help reduce costs related to heart disease or Alzheimer’s.
In order to truly care for our veterans, access to proper dental care is not only the humane and ethical thing to do, but it’s important in regards to overall health. Sponsored by New Hampshire Representative Shea-Porter, H.R. 4556 would ensure proper dental care for all 9.1 million veterans. And while I wasn’t able to find cost estimates for this writing, you can bet I will be watching this bill closely.
CVO is 501(c)(3) organization, so we do not endorse candidates. Our request for candidate inputs will be put on our website, so that veterans can educate themselves on the candidates.