Many veterans who fought to protect and defend our country are still fighting to get the support they need from the federal government. Fortunately, help may be on the way for veterans living with hepatitis C, one of the greatest threats facing former servicemen and women.
Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee followed the lead of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and approved a budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that included an additional $200 million to fund critical hepatitis C treatments for a total of more than $1.5 billion for hepatitis C over the next two years. The measure is now on its way to the full Senate for a final vote. This means that Kirk’s pathway to securing these needed treatments for the veterans community may come in contact with federal budget cap debates and be blocked as the next federal fiscal year approaches. It will make a big difference if veterans of all generations contact their members of Congress to insist that veterans’ healthcare priorities must be left untouched during spending debates. Veterans have sacrificed enough — especially those living with hepatitis C — than to have to stand by while Congress fights about the numbers.
While hepatitis C has reached epidemic levels nationwide, the veterans community has a hepatitis C infection rate that is nearly double the national average. For veterans, this deadly, blood-borne disease is a leading cause of liver failure, catastrophic liver damage and liver cancer. It impacts veterans disproportionately due to a variety of factors, including battlefield blood exposure, emergency transfusions and mandatory vaccinations in the era before hepatitis C testing became common.