Illegal aliens have a better lobby than U.S. military veterans

By D.A. King, Athens Banner Herald, November 13, 2007

"The character of a nation can be measured by the way that nation treats its veterans." - Author unknown.

Another Veterans Day has come and gone, and the far-too-sparsely attended parades and ceremonies are over until next year. As a former Marine and someone who studies illegal immigration and the fact that the president of the United States has refused to secure American borders more than six years after the horror of 9/11, Veterans Day always brings to mind the puzzling system of priorities we have as a nation.

One example: Since 2003, the Veterans Administration has had a medical care eligibility means test for American military veterans. The American Journal of Public Health reported last month that more than one million vets have no insurance or access to VA medical care.

But, because of a federal mandate, American taxpayers - including veterans - routinely pay for no-cost medical care for people who reside in the United States illegally.

At age 55, like most vets my age I can clearly remember the promise of "free medical care for the rest of your life" from my government as a 17-year-old recruit.

As it has on the promise to secure American borders, the Bush administration has gone back on the promise to many vets.

On Jan. 17, 2003, the Veterans Administration changed its enrollment guidelines and began to ask detailed questions of the U.S. military veterans who apply for their promised medical benefits after that date. Questions like, "What was your income last year?", "How many dependents do you have?" and "Is your need for treatment related to your past military service?"

Vets who earn more than about $34,000 a year without a military-related medical problem are put into "Category 8g" ... and denied the promised free routine health care.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, emergency medical care for those formerly in the service of their nation in Category 8g is granted "on a humanitarian emergency basis and (they) are charged the applicable tortuously liable billing rate for services provided."

The illegal aliens who are demanding immunity from the equal application of American border, immigration and employment laws have no problem qualifying for free medical treatment.

No means test, no questions asked. No bills.

In 1986, the year the federal government rewarded about three million illegal aliens with a "one-time" amnesty, it also passed into law the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which guarantees no-cost medical treatment in American emergency rooms to anyone, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. Or both.

The fact that the 1986 amnesty was a miserable failure at its promised goal - stopping illegal immigration and illegal employment - is undeniable. EMTALA, however, is enforced and works quite well. Millions of illegal aliens receive taxpayer-funded health care - emergency or not - in America's emergency rooms at the lowest possible charge: Zero.

There are about 25 million living vets in today's America. Most who study illegal immigration understand that we have at least the same number of illegal aliens, notwithstanding the ridiculous estimates from the federal government.

As someone who has thought a lot about the "why" in this sad but true conflict in priorities, the answer is shamefully clear.

The illegal aliens and their employers have a far more well-funded and effective lobby in Congress than the American veterans.

We should all be asking a lot of questions here. This cannot be who we are as a nation. Can it?

D.A. King is a former U.S. Marine and president of the Dustin Inman Society, a Marietta-based nonprofit coalition dedicated to educating the public on the consequences of illegal immigration. In 2004, he applied for VA medical benefits and was assigned to Category 8g.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 111307

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