Veterans’ well-being, not CEO pockets, should always be the priority of the VA’s suicide prevention program. But the health care industry and their allies in the Trump administration and Congress are pushing a bill that would turn public funding for veterans’ mental health care into private hospital CEOs’ slush fund – with no oversight or accountability.
H.R. 3495, whose deceptive name “Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act” should be changed to “Destroy the Well-Being of Veterans Act,” would harm veterans who are suicidal or have mental health issues by sending these veterans to for-profit providers that are not guaranteed to care for and meet the unique needs of veterans.
Under the bill, these for-profit providers would be able to bypass the VA completely and use grant dollars to provide mental health care without any VA care coordination. They would not be required to show they are capable of treating veterans. Indeed, most private mental health care providers are not equipped to meet the unique needs of veterans.
According to a RAND study, “The exploratory report, based on a survey of mental health providers nationally, found few community-based providers met criteria for military cultural competency or used evidence-based approaches to treat problems commonly seen among veterans.”
Under the bill, for-profit mental health providers are also not required to make sure the majority of the money they receive will go to veterans’ health care and not CEO salaries and other indirect costs. The maximum grant amount is also left totally up to the discretion of the VA Secretary, who has reportedly lobbied hard to pass this legislation.
“The potential CEO slush fund is contrary to the requirements of federal contracts which have strict caps on costs,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “Veterans’ well-being, not CEO pockets, should always be the priority of VA suicide prevention services.”
Thanks to the strong support from pro-veteran, pro-good government members of Congress, AFGE was able to block the bill as written from moving forward during a House Veterans' Affair Committee hearing. Instead, an amended version of the bill that ensures that veterans get expert care from the VA or other approved providers that was introduced by Committee Chairman. Mark Takano, D-Calif., was approved by the committee. We thank Chairman Takano and others of the committee for fighting for veterans' true well-being and putting a stop to an irresponsible program.
It’s the goal of the Koch brothers, health care industry, and their allies in Congress to privatize most veterans’ health care and eventually turn the VA into a mere insurance-like voucher program.
AFGE urges members of Congress to fight this outrageous greed and protect the mission of the VA.
“The VA’s mission is to provide care for veterans, so over the years it has developed into a world-class institution with teams of researchers who have pioneered advanced treatments tailored to fit the unique needs of veterans. Private, for-profit hospitals, on the other hand, are not designed with veterans in mind, do not have a holistic approach to veterans’ care, and simply can’t handle veterans’ unique needs,” said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley.