Congress this week is expected to approve new funding legislation designed to get veterans off Veterans Affairs healthcare waiting lists and into care.
While that moves forward, some patient advocates, hospital leaders and politicians are pointing to another, more controversial way to help a small portion of the veteran population that doesn't qualify for VA health benefits—namely, expansion of Medicaid in current non-expansion states.
While it's assumed that serving in the U.S. armed forces automatically makes a person eligible for veteran health benefits, that's not necessarily the case. A former serviceman may not be eligible if he or she doesn't meet certain criteria related to length of service time, how they were discharged, income or nature of disabilities.
In all, of the 12.5 million U.S. non-elderly U.S. veterans, approximately 1.3 million non-elderly veterans found themselves without coverage because of not qualifying for benefits as of May 2012, according to the Urban Institute. Of those, 258,600 are living below the poverty line in states refusing to expand Medicaid, according to a 2013 estimate by The Pew Charitable Trusts.