RALEIGH (April 26, 2019) – In North Carolina, an estimated 30,000 veterans are uninsured and approximately 12,000 of them are in the coverage gap due to the General Assembly’s decision to opt-out of expanding Medicaid. Contrary to popular belief, many veterans do not qualify for VA care and upon their return from combat or transitioning from the military, accessing care is critical for them and their families.

Keeping our Promise to Military Veterans and their Families, a new storybook from the NC Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project, features the stories of veterans and their family members who have had to grapple with the burdens associated with being uninsured while facing alarmingly high rates of suicide and overdose.

Among young veterans in particular, suicide is all too common. The rate of suicide among veterans aged 18 to 34 is six times higher than that in the civilian populations.

Dr. Orlando Dowdy, a pastor, therapist, and veteran is disturbed to see the suicide rate at such epidemic levels.

“On behavioral health, accessing this resource should not be stigmatizing or difficult,” Dr. Dowdy said. “Let’s close the coverage gap and expand access to the services they need, making sure we don’t have veterans falling through the cracks.”

Terry Nowiski, also featured in the storybook, remembers what a hard time her son Aaron had when he returned from combat overseas. He found escape through drugs and tragically overdosed. She now works with others who are suffering from opioid addictions and sees far too many of them unable to get help due to lack of health coverage.

“The opioid epidemic, it is not going away on its own, so let’s give people a way to afford the treatment that they need to beat this thing,” she said.

Read more veteran stories in our storybook to learn about the reality of living in the health coverage gap in North Carolina.

Some of the people featured in the story are available to talk with the media. Contact Rebecca Cerese for more information.