Tag Archives: Health and Disability Advocates

Connecting veterans with health care, services

While many of us assume veterans have access to health care through the Veterans Administration, it’s often not the case.

“Most people assume the VA is health insurance,” Joe Franzese of Illinois Warriors to Warriors tells The Gate. “It’s not. You might have access to some health services, depending on how, when and where you served.”  Even for veterans who are eligible, care is not necessarily available, timely, or free.

An analysis by Health and Disability Advocates shows that many veterans are uninsured, with rates as high as 30 percent in communities like Austin on the West Side.   Overall the group estimates that 40,000 Illinois veterans are uninsured.

About a third of the state’s veterans have incomes low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to an AP report on the HDA study.  The state legislature approved an expansion of Medicaid under the ACA in May.

HDA runs the Illinois Warrior to Warrior program, in which veteran volunteers help other veterans connect with health services and get help with issues ranging from employment to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma.

Franzese is “like my personal angel,” says one veteran, who tells the Gate of his struggles to get services for physical and emotional issues that led to several suicide attempts.  Now he’s in a veterans support group, and Franzese is helping him look for work.

“It’s a complete 360,” he says. “I’m happy now. My home life is better. It gets me out of my own bubble, just picking up the pieces.”


For more:  Listen to Franzese and HDA executive director Barbara Otto discuss veterans’ health care on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift

Health care reform in Garfield Park

Henry Edwards (Photo: Jay Dunn)

Henry Edwards has had asthma since he was eight.  So even when the Garfield Park resident had a union job that offered health insurance, his asthma was considered a pre-existing condition, and his medication wasn’t covered.   And it’s expensive. “It’s a big bite out of my paycheck,” he says.

Edwards tells his story in a new video (with photos by Jay Dunn) that’s part of a series of neighborhood stories on the Illinois Health Matters website.  The series will tell the stories of individuals and small businesses navigating the health system, as well as the work of community groups and local chambers of commerce informing underserved groups about their options under health care reform.

Illinois Health Matters, produced by Health and Disability Advocates on behalf of a group of health policy and community-based organizations, is a comprehensive online resource on health care reform in Illinois.

Residents and small business owners in many underserved neighborhoods don’t have access to practical information about the choices and opportunities health care reform will present, said Stephani Becker, senior policy analyst at HDA.

“The Affordable Care Act and the new health insurance exchange will give Illinois consumers more control, quality choices, and better protections when purchasing insurance,” said Barbara Otto, CEO of HDA, in a release. “That’s why it’s so important for us to put forward this resource to help individuals and small businesses better understand how health reform will impact them.”

The site includes resource pages for individuals and families and for small businesses.  Neighborhood Stories also features a report on Ruby’s Restaurant in Garfield Park and a rundown of challenges facing small businesses on the South and West Side, including an overview of dependable sources of information.

Next month Illinois Health Matters will look at what local policymakers are doing to implement health care reform in Illinois.