WASHINGTON — Military and Veterans Affairs officials spent the weekend refuting allegations that the health care reform legislation approved by Congress will harm Tricare programs or Veterans Affairs health benefits, instead promising that servicemembers and veterans will see no change in their coverage.

Before Sunday’s vote approving the massive health care overhaul, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki released a statement saying that none of the proposals would force veterans to purchase new health care or change the way current benefits are delivered.

“Fears that veterans’ health care and Tricare will be undermined by the health reform legislation are unfounded,” he said. “We pledge to continue to provide the men and women in uniform and our veterans the high quality health care they have earned.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates echoed those comments after Sunday’s vote, saying the changes “will not negatively impact the Tricare medical insurance program.”

The new health care provisions require all citizens to obtain health insurance or face a fine. On Saturday, the House passed legislation specifying that Tricare and non-appropriated fund health plans meet all of the requirements for proof of insurance, in response to Republican concerns that military families might face the fine.

White House officials have insisted since last summer that any health reform would not impact veterans or military programs.

Since then, Defense Department and Veterans Affairs officials have spoken out numerous times promising no effect on those programs, but still faced rumors that the final bill would force changes and higher costs for both groups.

In his statement, Gates promised that “the president and I are committed to seeing that our troops, retirees and their families will continue to receive the best quality health care.”

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