Washington Legislature

The Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren, Associated Press file)

The Washington State Cares Act was passed by the Legislature, without a vote of the people, to provide a state-funded option for long-term care insurance. Many Washingtonians have voiced their concerns over the coverage, cost and restrictions of this state-funded option, but I have found no discussion to date of the alarming and unnecessary burden to disabled veterans.

My discovery began when my wife and I decided to explore qualifying private long-term care insurance as an alternative to paying into a dismal program. But an honest insurance broker stopped me from applying for two reasons: (1) as a disabled veteran, I’m too high risk for insurers, and (2) I’m fully covered under the VA.

For those not familiar, the VA provides in-home or facility care as long as necessary to qualified disabled veterans. That’s a far better deal that the Washingont Cares Act coverage — a measly one-time cap of $36,500 in a 365-day period.

From Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021, Washingtonians can submit their private plan to the Washington Employment Securities Division (ESD) to receive an exemption from the tax. So I submitted a question through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to inquire as to whether I would qualify for an exemption based on my status as a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system. Six weeks later, I received their response:

“It does not appear that veteran’s coverage meets the requirements of long-term care insurance.”

Somehow no-cap coverage (with income adjusted copays) under the VA for disabled veterans does not stand up to a meager $36,500-cap state plan. This means Washington expects veterans to pay 0.58% of gross wages ($2,320 per year for individuals earning $400,000 a year) for a coverage we didn’t ask for and don’t need.

I hope Washingtonians will join me in calling on Gov. Inslee and the Legislature to correct this gross oversight within the ESD and DSHS. Beginning January 2022, the Washington Cares Act will needlessly and unfairly tax our disabled veterans.

Josh Tash of Selah is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served eight years active duty in the Army and is currently a member of the Washington Army National Guard and VFW Post 379. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion, policy, nor position of any agency of the U.S. government.