Some elected officials and organizations, including the misleadingly-named, Koch brothers-funded front group “Concerned Veterans for America,” have bashed the Department of Veterans Affairs at every opportunity. The problem with these people is that their ultimate goal is not to improve the VA but to get rid of it. How can you improve care for the returning warriors when you repeatedly refuse to fully fund the VA and instead seek to sell it to private, for-profit businesses?
That point was raised again at a Veterans Service Organization roundtable held by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Tim Walz on Oct. 27. The event was attended by a dozen members of Congress, AFGE, and approximately 30 veterans groups.
Will Fischer from the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council, of which AFGE is a member and AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. is chair, echoed what AFGE has been saying all along that there’s dangerous rhetoric being promoted by people who don’t want the VA to be there in the next 25 years. He reminded the group that private care should supplement, not replace, the care that veterans receive from the world-class VA whose customer satisfaction ratings are as good or better than private-sector hospitals. There also needs to be appropriate funding for infrastructure and other assets including doctors and nurses to allow VA to properly serve veterans and make VA rock solid for the next 25 years.
The roundtable is held regularly, but this was the first time that UVC was invited to the table. As UVC represents people who build VA facilities, work in VA facilities, and are treated at VA facilities, its participation is crucial as it brings a unique perspective to the discussion.
Besides the commitment to a strong VA, Congress needs to provide strong support for the very people who take care of our veterans. The Legionnaires disease outbreak cover-up, shortages of doctors, and secret waitlists were made known to the public because of VA workers, including AFGE members, who blew the whistle on these practices that were harmful to veterans.
Employees need to feel safe to report wrongdoing, waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. Yet Congress is doing the opposite by trying to take away these workplace protections in order to weed out a few bad apples. Legislation like Sen. Marco Rubio’s S. 1082 is just an attempt to exploit the VA crisis and Walmartize the VA and eventually the entire federal government.