Lawmakers Sabotage VA, Then Vote to Privatize It

There are nearly 49,000 vacancies at VA hospitals and facilities nationwide, but the Trump administration and its mouthpieces in Congress are not in a hurry to fill them. In fact, they’re making it a lot harder for the VA to recruit the best and brightest by increasing workloads and continuing to cut pay, retirement, and workplace protections for current and new hires. No wonder they’re not getting any show of interest.

But that’s the point. When the VA is understaffed, the administration and privatizers can cite that as a reason to send even more veterans to the private sector. 

That’s what happened May 16 when politicians led by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe voted to pass another bill that would make permanent the VA privatization program, kicking the door wide open for wholesale privatization of the VA. Make no mistake, these people voted yes to send our wounded warriors to unaccountable, inferior, more expensive, for-profit providers that are not specialized in veterans health care. 

The real mission 

They call it the VA Mission Act, but their only mission is to enrich private hospital executives and campaign donors like the Koch brothers whose main concern is not providing the best care to veterans but making money every way they can. VA’s private-sector care program has been plagued with problems from the start. Earlier this year, AFGE called on Congress to launch an investigation into the two main contractors running the VA private care Choice program after the VA watchdog found that the companies had defrauded taxpayers by nearly $90 million. 

The VA Mission Act would expand the private-sector care program even further, send even more money to private hospital executives, and dismantle the VA. Here’s how: 

  • Authorizing the outsourcing of up to 36 medical service categories, including mental health care and spinal cord injury care. The bill makes it easier for privatizers to cut up vital functions of the VA and auction them off to the private sector. Once a function is gone, it’s gone.
  • Allowing a private corporate-style commission handpicked by the President unfettered power to decide which VA facilities to close, which VA facilities to repair, and which new facilities to build. 
  • Taking away the power of members of Congress and the constituents who elect them to save the VA hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities in their communities.
  • Nowhere in the bill’s over 200 pages is there any mandate to hire more frontline employees to provide care and services to our veterans. 

For years, special interest groups have tried to dismantle the VA so they could make a buck off the backs of veterans, and now they’re closer than ever.

After President Trump fired then-Secretary David Shulkin, Dr. Shulkin wrote about warring factions within the administration attempting to privatize the VA. Now we can see pro-privatizers are winning that war with the VA Mission Act one step closer to becoming law.

Protecting veterans’ health care

We already know that 92 percent of veterans want to see the VA invested in, 80 percent don’t want vouchers, and only 13 percent of private providers are even capable of treating veterans. The VA Mission Act blows past those facts to push veterans out in to the unaccountable private, for-profit system. 

The bill is being sent to the Senate, which is likely to vote on the bill May 22 or May 23.

AFGE is calling our members and concerned citizens of the community to call their senators and tell them to vote ‘NO’ on S. 2372, and hope those in Congress who support veterans will step up before it’s too late.

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