As expected, the Commission on Care, released a final report on July 6 that calls for shutting down some VA medical centers and sending more veterans to for-profit providers for their care. The Commission, a group that was created by Congress to recommend ways of improving veterans’ health care, included four high-level private hospital executives who would profit from privatization and not a single mainstream veterans service organization.
"If the Commission’s mission, as they state in their report, was to “provide eligible veterans prompt access to quality health care,” they have achieved the opposite," said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. "The only result of these recommendations would be to fragment the most integrated health care approach in the nation, lower quality across the board by sending veterans to for-profit private providers, line the pockets of private hospital corporations, and hand over control of veterans’ healthcare to an out-of-touch, corporate-style board."
“I’m a disabled veteran so this is where I come for all of my needs – emergency room, neurology, my primary care,” Daniel Hines, who was picketing outside the Salam VA Medical Center near Roanoke, Virginia, told WFXR. “This is my VA medical center. I’ve received treatment here since 2007. I know my doctors and nurses very well and they know me.”
David Traver, a veteran from Anchorage, Alaska, says there’s a reassuring consistency that comes from receiving care at VA hospitals that would be lost if he had to shop for care in the private sector.
“I don’t want to be sent to one person one month and then a different person the next. Where’s the continuity of care? As a veteran I had the same provider from 1995 until just a year and a half ago. You can’t beat that,” Traver told KTBY while picketing outside the Alaska VA Healthcare System. “That provider knew everything about me. That’s what the veterans want, that’s what I want as a veteran.”
Indeed, 87% of veterans believe their health care should come from the federal government and not private hospitals, according to a 2015 survey of 1,700 veterans conducted for the Disabled American Veterans.
Unfortunately, the Commission on Care didn’t adequately consider what veterans want when debating its proposals. Instead, it took many of its cues from the Koch Brothers and a sham “veterans group" that has been pushing costly privatization that would lower – not improve – the quality of care veterans receive.
The most egregious recommendation in the report would dismantle veteran-centric care through the vast expansion of costly, for-profit provider care. The VA provides veterans the best health care in the country – something even the biased Commission admitted in their final report – yet they want to push veterans out the door to lower quality, for-profit providers who will inevitably offer inferior care.
As it stands now, only 13% of mental health providers in the private sector are properly prepared to treat our veterans. Veterans will not be helped by having inferior care at higher costs. It is far better for veterans and taxpayers to invest in the only system tailored to veterans that is already proven to be better and has already made vast improvements.
Today, veterans can walk into any VA hospital and receive seamless access to the integrated primary medical, behavioral, and specialty care provided by a system that specializes in treating the unique and complex needs of veterans.
This care also includes support systems offered at the VA through financial, educational, housing, and employment support. Destroying this system in favor of fragmented, for-profit private providers creates dangerous gaps in treatment and missed opportunities to heal veterans suffering from many complex, interrelated conditions and problems.
Veterans have overwhelmingly said they want to get their healthcare at the VA. It is the only system equipped to offer the veteran-centric healing they earned through their sacrifice. That’s why large and well-respected veterans service organizations like the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans oppose further privatization of the system.
Researchers and medical school professors recently came together to voice their concerns over all the loose talk about closing VA hospitals.
AFGE urges President Obama to reject the recommendations in this horrendously anti-veteran document.