Missouri, feds differ on signing up veterans

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Missouri's treatment of our veterans is once again in the news. While the federal government is trying to slow recruitment of veterans into the department's already overwhelmed health-care system, Missouri is taking the opposite approach.

Gov. Bob Holden has announced that a new, toll-free state hotline has been created to improve veterans' access to all benefits, including health care.

The governor's announcement comes as Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi in Washington reiterated his commitment to stop recruiting veterans for the department's health-care system. Although the department remains open to any veteran, Principi said it would be misleading to actively recruit new patients into a system that already has thousands who are waiting months for clinic appointments.

Missouri ranks 36th out of the 50 states in the percentage of veterans receiving benefits to which they are entitled. About 550,000 military veterans live in the state. More than 40,000 Missouri veterans receive compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

State government has been down this road before. After passage of a new children's health-care initiative about four years ago, takers were slow to sign up. The state embarked on an ambitious advertising and recruitment program, seeking to qualify new beneficiaries.

And we wonder why Missouri, like other states, is facing financial woes.

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