House panel basses bill aiding severely disabled veterans

Plan would prohibit the collection of co-payments from catastrophically disabled veterans.

The House Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee Thursday approved by voice vote a measure that would protect the most severely disabled veterans from making insurance co-payments.

Noting 25,000 "catastrophically disabled" veterans would be affected, bill sponsor, Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-La., said oftentimes the most disabled veterans are "some of the poorest of the poor."

The bill would prohibit the collection of co-payments for hospital or nursing home care from catastrophically disabled veterans and even those with disabilities that are not service-connected.

Cazayoux said the category "catastrophically disabled" would cover veterans who are paralyzed and have other neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease.

"At a time when the veteran is in need of specialized assistance to regain some independence and quality of life, the financial burden of medical bills should be lifted," said Paralyzed Veterans of America Legislative Director Carl Blake at a June 26 Health Subcommittee hearing.

Blake also said other factors, such as essential medicines and equipment that is needed for disabled veterans, placed an increased financial strain on the more severely disabled veterans.