A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would increase the age limit for veterans' children to get health coverage under the Veterans Affairs' Department's Civilian Health and Medical Program, known as CHAMPVA, bringing it in line with the Affordable Care Act.
Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced legislation Feb. 14 that would allow CHAMPVA beneficiaries to keep coverage until age 26. Currently, beneficiaries lose coverage at age 18 unless they are enrolled as full-time students. Then, they become ineligible at age 23.
The bill would create program parity with age requirements of the Affordable Care Act, which now allows adult children to remain on their parents' health insurance until age 26.
"As more and more service members return home from Afghanistan, CHAMPVA will continue playing a vital role in caring for veterans' loved ones," Murray said in a release. "In our ongoing commitment to keep the faith with our nation's heroes, this bill ensures CHAMPVA recipients, without regard to their type of coverage, student status, or marital status, are eligible for health care coverage under their parent's plan in the same way as their peers."
The bill is similar to a law passed in January 2011 that increased coverage for adult children of Tricare beneficiaries, bringing it on par with the Affordable Care Act.
Under the Tricare program, adult children pay monthly premiums in addition to the enrollment fee required of the family.
CHAMPVA is a health insurance program for eligible dependents and survivors of veterans considered permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service.
It carries an annual deductible of $50 per person, up to a maximum of $100 per family, and beneficiaries are required to pay a cost-share.
VA estimated in 2010 that about 18,000 young adults on CHAMPVA would benefit from the legislation. That figure could rise to as high as 24,000 by 2020, according to VA.
The bill has widespread support from veterans' advocacy groups. Retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, called it a "technical adjustment" needed to provide one group the same coverage as others the same age.
Paralyzed Veterans of America President Bill Lawson said it was critical legislation for children of severely disabled veterans.
"It is simply unacceptable that the only children who do not have the benefit of extended health care coverage are those children of the men and women who have sacrificed the greatest," Lawson said.
Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, introduced similar legislation in the House in January. Last year, the provision was included in the House version of the defense authorization bill, but it was dropped from the final compromise version of the bill.