NU Online News Service, Oct. 21, 2004, 11:25 a.m. EST

1.7 million American veterans had no health insurance in 2003, according to a study by Harvard Medical School.[@@]

The report was sponsored jointly by Physicians for a National Health Program and Public Citizen, Washington.

Almost 682,000 Vietnam-era veterans and almost 1 million who served during other wars, including the Persian Gulf War, lacked coverage, according to the report.

Researchers classified veterans as uninsured if they neither had health insurance nor received continuing care at Veterans Health Administration facilities.

Many uninsured veterans were barred from VHA care because of a 2003 executive order from the Bush administration that halted enrollment of most middle income veterans, the report says. Others were on VHA waiting lists, could not afford copayments for VHA specialty care or did not have VHA facilities in their communities.

The number of uninsured veterans has increased by 235,000 since 2000, when 10% of non-elderly veterans were uninsured, according to the report. That ratios rose to 11% in 2003.