- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

The Obama administration dropped a proposal to require some disabled veterans to pay for medical treatments through their private insurance companies, heeding a chorus of outrage from veterans groups and Capitol Hill that the idea was immoral, unconscionable and un-American.

The decision to drop the proposal was announced Wednesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, at a meeting with veterans groups at the Capitol.

“Based on the respect that President Obama has for our nation’s veterans and the principled concerns expressed by veterans’ leaders, the president has made the decision that the combat-wounded veterans should not be billed through their insurance policies for combat-related injuries,” Mrs. Pelosi told the veterans-group representatives, who greeted the news with a standing ovation.

The veterans groups, who only a day-earlier were livid with the administration, praised the president Wednesday, saying they appreciated his willing to listen and respond to their concerns.

“The president was very open and candid when he met with veterans groups earlier this week, and we are pleased that he has heard our concerns and taken them to heart,” said the Disabled American Veterans Executive Director David W. Gorman. “Our message to the president was simple and direct: that our government must not abandon its moral responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.”

The proposal, which the administration says was never a certainty, called for generating millions of dollars in savings by tapping veterans’ private insurance for service-related injuries and ailments that for decades the government has been obligated to pay. On Monday, the president and his aides discussed the plan with veterans groups, who said the president told them it would generate $540 million.

Opponents of the plan said they were concerned it would cause insurers to increase premium rates to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families. They also worried that some employers, especially small businesses, would be reluctant to hire veterans with service-connected disabilities due to the negative impact their employment might have on obtaining and financing company health care benefits.

But after a public outcry over the proposal erupted that included Democrats and Republicans members of Congress, the administration decided it was politically untenable to press forward with the plan.