Communications from SPW

October 7, 2021

How to Advocate for Veterans’ Issues (and Everything Else!)

Kevin Hull speaking at patient empowerment projectKevin Hull likes to say that his nonprofit has a charter mission in advocacy. He runs the West Side Institute for Science and Education (WISE), based at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago. And he’s all about advocacy – doing it, helping others do it, and teaching people how to do it well. He even believes that being a capable advocate helps one empower their spirit from within, especially when times are tough.

Hull is also a law professor. For the last 12 years, he has taught the art of legislative draftsmanship – that is, writing proposed new laws or, in some cases, agency regulations – at UIC John Marshall Law School. Continue reading “How to Advocate for Veterans’ Issues (and Everything Else!)”

August 30, 2022

Can the Congressional Review Act Be Used for Good?

Icons of Congress and a lightning bolt zapping an agency-issued rule.President Trump has done all he could to turn back and undo much of what a number of his recent predecessors of both parties had put in place. His targets range from the EPA to the ACA. He’s used executive orders, called for legislative actions, and appointed agency heads with views antithetical to an agency’s core purpose. But perhaps most insidious has been the use of regulatory modifications and deletions to undermine and dismantle key federal programs and protections. Continue reading “Can the Congressional Review Act Be Used for Good?”

August 30, 2022

Engaging the Tangled Nature of Veterans’ Benefits

Hands in military uniform taking notes. Photo by Nell King, U.S. Army.All 51 attorneys general had to petition before the president granted student loan relief for veterans with disabilities – and even then, the Department of Education, which administers the program, may not be totally on board with it.

Benefits for those who served have never taken a straightforward path. They have had to be fought for – and then, they had to be navigated. For returning service members with disabilities, the navigation becomes even more complicated. Continue reading “Engaging the Tangled Nature of Veterans’ Benefits”

August 7, 2022

Illinois Says No to Title X Funds, Yes to Fixing Medicaid

Woman carries a pink I Stand with Planned Parenthood sign at May 1, 2017, Chicago march. Photo by Christine Geovanis CC-BY 2.0Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notified clinics that it would begin enforcing a ban on abortion referrals “immediately.” The announcement, directed at facilities that receive Title X funds, was quickly followed by one from Planned Parenthood of Illinois, saying it will turn down Title X funds going forward. “Our doors are open,” said Julie Lynn, the organization’s external affairs manager, at a news conference, “and we’re here for our patients.”

The move was followed up the same week by a statement from Gov. Pritzker that the state would step in to fund most of those clinics itself. Continue reading “Illinois Says No to Title X Funds, Yes to Fixing Medicaid”

August 1, 2022

Are Younger Vets Bowling Alone?

Younger man in uniform confronts two older vets at a gatheringLast month, our communities, large and small, held parades for the 4th of July. It was good to be in that old-fashioned summertime world, kids waving flags and dripping ice cream, and veterans who are now seniors marching proudly with their VFW post. Although, actually, there are fewer of those older vets now – and you don’t see so many younger ones marching.

We have about 20 million veterans in the United States. Since September 11, 2001, some four million service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and on other missions. About 300,000 vets from recent conflicts are among the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 1.6 million members, but Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest percentage. Continue reading “Are Younger Vets Bowling Alone?”

July 11, 2022

Beach Reads, Pods, and Healthcare Costs

An Arm and a Leg show - a podcast about the cost of healthcareIt’s summer at last. Time to read a good book, and catch up on some podcasts. Here’s one we like – it’s about the cost of healthcare. How much does healthcare cost in the U.S.? An Arm and a Leg, started in November by former WBEZ reporter Dan Weissmann, explores that. “Entertaining, empowering, and even useful” – rather than political – it’s about “the way that healthcare runs our lives.”

“The minute I started telling people I was thinking of doing this show,” Dan says in the first episode, “everyone had a story of their own.” They can be pretty riveting. Continue reading “Beach Reads, Pods, and Healthcare Costs”

June 20, 2022

How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask

Women VA staff with posters about why they love their work. One says I'm a veteran helping other veterans.Most female veterans don’t get their health care at the VA. As many as 72%, in fact. Among the many reasons: the VA does not have all the services for women; it doesn’t treat their whole family; it can be uncomfortable to get care in a male-dominated environment; they are tired of VA staff assuming they’re a spouse rather than a service member; it isn’t always conveniently located. The list goes on.

But as the VA’s own data shows, female veterans are more likely to experience military sexual trauma, domestic violence, wage disparity or discrimination, PTSD, substance use disorders, and homelessness than their male counterparts. So having care that is informed by their military status can be crucial.

What can health care systems do to better serve women vets? They can start by identifying them. Continue reading “How To Improve Healthcare for Women Vets? First, You Have to Ask”

June 13, 2022

Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!

Five coworkers of different races, genders, and ages looking at screen togetherOur new online Continuing Education Center is open, and the first course is live. It’s our exciting new interactive Warrior Stories training.

Online training is not just another thing we’re doing – it’s fundamental. We have always tried to hold a number of trainings every year – to share what we know, and empower others. But we’re a small shop. Maybe so are you. And even in our largest military establishments, or in a major medical center, the number of people in a specific area, and the resources available vs. the work to be done, can be dauntingly not enough. Continue reading “Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!”

June 11, 2022

A Medicaid Reform that Passed Unanimously

Moher holding her baby, sitting on floor in front of couchIt’s hard to believe, but true – the omnibus Medicaid reform bill headed to Gov. Pritzker was passed without a single dissenting vote in either of Illinois’ famously disputatious legislative chambers.

It might be because the need for change was so unambiguously clear: the difficulty people had enrolling and in the program, the vast backlog of applications, the likelihood of losing your coverage in the course of the renewal – or “redetermination” – process, and growing frequency of claims denials. It also represents many months of negotiation and compromise by all parties. Continue reading “A Medicaid Reform that Passed Unanimously”

May 2, 2022

Rate Review – What a Difference!

Logo of Illinois Depart of Insurance with Department of Prior Approval labelOn April 11, the Freedom from Aggressive Insurance Increases Review Act passed the Illinois House on a bipartisan 73-41 vote. The bill ( HB 471 ), known as the FAIIR Act, would give the Department of Insurance the authority to approve or deny unreasonable health insurance rates. This kind of meaningful rate review is practiced in 37 states and has been shown to curb outrageous rate hikes.

In terms of health insurance, Illinois is what is known as a “file and use” state, which means that insurance companies must file their intended premium rates, which then go into effect without having to be approved by the Department of Insurance. In “prior approval” states, the insurance commissioner can approve, reject, or reduce rates, often actively negotiating with the insurer. Continue reading “Rate Review – What a Difference!”