WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka ( D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, announced the Committee's passage today of a key provision of S. 1233, the Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Enhancement Act of 2007, that would allow Priority 8 veterans back into the VA health care system.
"The prohibition on Priority 8 veterans severely affects veterans in states like Hawaii, where the cost of living is one of this country's highest. On average, a veteran making only $36,400 a year in Hawaii has been cut out of the VA system. This is an especially unjust policy when our Nation is at war." said Akaka.
"It has long been the position of my Democratic colleagues and I that veterans should have access to VA health care services. According to VA's own estimates, as many as 1.5 million veterans have been denied care since enrollment was closed in 2003. We have fought hard to see that these veterans who have served their country honorably get the care they deserve," Akaka stated.
The legislation would not modify the enrollment management provisions contained in the 1996 law that opened the VA system up to all veterans, but would merely permit the enrollment of Priority 8 veterans during Fiscal Year 2008 by rescinding the VA regulation that originally banned them.
"In fact, many of these veterans will bring their own private insurance with them, and will continue to pay copayments for their care. They can essentially contribute to the VA health care system as a whole," Chairman Akaka added.
S. 1233 will now move to the full Senate for consideration.
Priority 8 veterans are middle-income veterans with no service-connected disabilities. For VA's state-by-state geographical means test thresholds that determine Priority 8 status, go to: