Veterans, members of Congress, and health care experts recently gathered on Capitol Hill to discuss the future of the VA, the ongoing threat of privatization at the VA, and the dangers of forcing veterans into the private, for-profit health care system.
Led by AFGE National Secretary Treasurer Joseph P. Flynn, the AFGE-hosted summit – VA Privatization: The True Cost to Veterans – featured speakers and panelists who spoke about the great work done at the VA, the crucial need to fill the 49,000 vacancies nationwide, and the true cost of funneling more funds into the private, for-profit sector.
Panelists included Assistant National Legislative Director for Disabled American Veterans Adrian Atizado, Research Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Jackie Maffucci, Ph.D, award-winning author Suzanne Gordon , mental health primary care provider Dr. Thomas Kirchberg, AFGE Local 3930 President, health care provider and veteran Kathleen Pachomski, and AFGE Council of Prison Locals President and veteran Eric Young.
Here's a look at the five top moments from the summit:
1. NST Flynn called out special interest groups for profiting off veterans
"Veterans want the VA, and veterans need the VA. Yet, despite the growing number of veterans, veterans service organizations, and health care professionals who say the VA is the best and only provider of care for the brave men and women who have served this country, special interest groups continue to make headway on turning of a profit off those who have borne the battle. It’s a travesty and it must stop!” - AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Joseph P. Flynn
2. Rep. Mark Takano denounced VA privatization
“Studies show us – and veterans tell us – that maintaining a strong and sustainable VA is the most effective strategy for meeting the unique needs of America’s veterans. Instead of sending veterans to for-profit providers who are not trained or equipped to treat their specific conditions, we must expand the VA’s capacity by investing in the people, programs, and facilities that are essential to providing veterans the care and support they deserve.” - U.S. Representative Mark Takano
3. Award-winning author says VA is the best place for veterans
“I’ve interviewed hundreds of veterans and their family members during my years of reporting on the Veterans Health Administration. Those conversations, in addition to numerous independent studies and reports, has convinced me that the VHA is the best place for veterans to receive coordinated comprehensive care. More than that, it’s the best health care system in the United States whose unparalleled level of care benefits all Americans.” - Award-winning Author and Journalist Suzanne Gordon
4. Rep. Anthony Brown supports veterans care with VA Staffing and Vacancies Transparency Act of 2017
“I strongly oppose any effort to privatize or dismantle the VA system. We must continue our efforts to fundamentally reform veterans’ health care to ensure access to timely and high-quality care - especially by improving healthcare for women, tackling persistent health disparities with service members of color, and ending the veteran suicide epidemic. We can take steps today to strengthen the VA including by expanding care in the community, increasing clinic hours and filling more than 50,000 vacancies - more than 90% of which are for doctors, nurses, mental health counselors and other clinical professionals.” - U.S. Representative Anthony Brown
5. Attendees used Twitter to amplify the message to fully fund and staff the VA.