By John Castellaw
It is both our duty and our privilege to honor those Tennesseans who fought and won the battles on foreign shores for our great Nation. When they return home to Tennessee, they need a leader who will fight and win battles for them — particularly the battle to ensure health care for our veterans.
Most Americans wrongly believe the Veterans Administration (the VA) takes care of all veterans’ health care. The truth is that many veterans fail to meet VA eligibility or have health needs that the VA does not completely cover. As a result, about 1 in 10 veterans use Medicaid as their primary source of health care, and many more use Medicaid to supplement their VA care. Yet, sadly, some 35,000 Tennessee veterans, without health insurance, are denied the health benefits Medicaid expansion would provide.
We need to change that.
Medicaid expansion should be a “no-brainer.” Only one-half of one percent of Americans serve in our military. As soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines, they protect all our citizens by securing the freedoms and privileges we all enjoy. Those who serve are placing themselves in harm’s way so that each of us can receive the benefits of peace, prosperity, and the liberties we all hold dear.
The South, including Tennessee, provides over a third of that one-half percent who serve in our military. Because so many Tennesseans serve, our state has a special responsibility in caring for our veterans. Today Tennesseans can be found fighting in “every clime and place,” continuing a proud history that includes such names as David Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and dozens of others. Their sacrifice keeps us safe and protects American interests around the world.
As taxpayers, we’re all paying for Medicaid expansion in nearly three dozen other states, and I’m happy that my fellow veterans in those places are benefiting. But Tennessee’s veterans deserve the same access to healthcare. Expanding Medicaid to provide better healthcare is the best way to reward these men and women who have served and, at the same time, ensure our tax money is spent here in Tennessee.
As Tennesseans, we take just pride in winning on the battlefield. One hundred years ago this month, then-Corporal Alvin York won the Medal of Honor and became the most famous combat soldier of World War I. Honoring the successes of our famous as well as our unsung heroes who marched to the sound of the guns has long been a hallmark of the Volunteer State. Here in Tennessee, we need to win the battle for Medicaid expansion for those veterans.
The leader we need in that battle for Medicaid expansion for Tennessee veterans and our fellow citizens is Karl Dean. He has made Medicaid expansion one of his top priorities and, like our veterans, is fighting to win. As governor, Dean will start working with the Tennessee General Assembly to “get it done” immediately after taking office. A vote for Karl Dean will send a powerful message, and the message is this: our veterans and fellow citizens of Tennessee want Medicaid expansion.
LtGen John Castellaw USMC (Retired) lives near Crockett Mills, Tenn., as the 3rd generation on his family farm. He works with several non-partisan national security organizations and advocates for a strong national defense.