By Miriam Raftery March 18, 2009 (Washington D.C.)--East County Magazine contacted Congressman Bob Filner's office after receiving an e-mail from the American Legion which stated that President Obama intended to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for treatment of military veterans who suffered service-related injuries or disabilities. Filner (D-San Diego), is Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. (Photo: Filner discusses trauma injury treatment capabilities at Balad Air Force Theater hospital) Filner promptly responded with an e-mail that read: "Billing our Heroes: It's DOA!" He added that the the Administration's proposal will not be taken up by the Veterans Affairs Committee. "Our budget cannot be balanced on the backs (or legs, or kidneys, or hearts) of our nation's combat-wounded heroes," Filner said. "We believe we can achieve the Administration's budget request (the first in history to actually exceed the recommendation of the veterans' Independent Budget) in other ways."
The President's plan to recover an estimated $540 million by charging private insurance companies for wounded veterans' care was opposed by the American Legion. Commander David K. Rehbein of the American Legion had stated that he was "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with the President on Monday, prior to Filner announcing that he would block the plan in committee. A letter to the President co-signed by Rehbein and heads of ten other veterans organizations stated, "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."