Today is our 2,190th day in Iraq. As you are aware, March 19 marks the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. It is "Evacuation Day
" here in Boston.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4259
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4120
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3798
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3401
Since Obama Inauguration (1/20/09): 30
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 666
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 444
Journalists - Iraq: 139
Contractor Deaths - Iraq: 1264
We find this morning's cost of war
passing through: $ 605, 501, 900, 000 .00
Turning to our friends at IAVA....do you "tweet"? IAVA director Paul Rieckhoff does, and if you followed him yesterday, he had quite a whirlwind day.
Paul started the day on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress about some proposed changes to the way the VA handles treatment of some veterans. It was in opposition; as the VA wants to bill a veteran's insurance for certain care, instead of providing the care for free. Paul signed a letter
to President Obama that was penned by several Veteran's Service Organizations, expressing their disagreement with the policy.
Dear President Obama:
On behalf of the millions of veterans represented by the veterans and military service organizations that have joined our effort, we write to express our serious concerns about a policy proposal that has been discussed this week in conjunction with the release of your first budget. We have been told that your Administration may be considering a proposal that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system to bill a veteran’s insurance for the care and treatment of a disability or injury that was determined to have been incurred in or the result of the veteran’s honorable military service to our country. Such a consideration is wholly unacceptable and a total abrogation of our government’s moral and legal responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.
As you know, the mission of the VA is “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” Similarly, the VA emphasizes that it will “provide veterans the world-class benefits and services they have earned—and to do so by adhering to the highest standards of compassion, commitment, excellence, professionalism, integrity, accountability, and stewardship.” Unfortunately, the proposal to bill veterans for the care of their service-connected disabilities ignores the most important aspect of this vision—that their care has been earned.
This proposal ignores the solemn obligation that this country has to care for those men and women who have served this country with distinction and were left with the wounds and scars of that service. The blood spilled in service for this nation is the premium that service-connected veterans have paid for their earned care.
We understand and accept that the VA bills third-party insurers of veterans who are treated for non-service connected conditions. However, we cannot and would not agree to any proposal that would expand this concept any further. There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran’s personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable. If in fact your Administration is considering this proposal, we would like to meet with you, as well as VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget (OMB ) Director Peter Orzag, to discuss this further.
We strongly urge your Administration to drop consideration of any proposal to bill third-party insurers for veterans’ service-connected conditions. We appreciate your continued emphasis on caring for the men and women who have served in defense of this country, as evidenced by the significant increase provided for VA programs in your FY 2010 budget submission. You can reaffirm this commitment by not allowing such a proposal to be carried forward. We stand ready to work with you, Secretary Shinseki, OMB Director Orzag, and others in your Administration to ensure that appropriate care and benefits are provided to those who have earned and deserve it.
Yesterday afternoon, the meeting asked for in the letter was received, and Paul and the other signatories were led into the Roosevelt Room to meet with President Obama to raise their concerns. No details are forthcoming, but IAVA did issue a dry press release.
NEW YORK - Today, on the 20th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff met with President Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House for the first meeting between the new Administration and the heads of key Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).
The President reached out to leaders of the veterans’ community to address the controversial issue of third party billing for service-connected injuries in response to a joint letter sent to the Administration by leading veterans’ groups, including IAVA, opposing this policy.
“I was honored to meet with President Obama at the White House today. IAVA applauds the record increase in veterans’ health care funding in the President’s budget, and his focus on timely implementation of the new GI Bill. However, we are disappointed to hear that the Administration is still considering a third party billing option,” said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff. “Veterans of all generations agree that this proposal is bad for the country and bad for veterans. If the President and the OMB want to cut costs, they can start at AIG, not the VA.”
In February, IAVA joined other major veterans’ organizations in opposing any type of third party billing scheme for service-connected injuries. If enacted, this policy could result in increased health insurance costs for disabled veterans and their employers.
“The cost of the wars should not be shifted onto the backs of veterans and small business owners, many of which are service-disabled veterans themselves. We look forward to working with the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, who has made military families one of her top priorities, to ensure that veterans are not denied the benefits they have unequivocally earned. This is a critical time for veterans, and we’re eager to get to work,” Rieckhoff added.
Paul capped the day by catching the Acela to New York City in time to appear with the good Dr. Maddow....continuing a tradition that goes all the way back to "Unfiltered" that is indeed the inspiration for this little blog.