Over the last few weeks we've told you about efforts to privatize Veterans Affairs health care. Now, AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr. has written a column on Daily Kos, a popular news and opinion blog, titled "Inside the Koch Brothers' Plot to Sell Out Veterans’ Health Care."
Here are some key quotes and facts:
Capitol Hill politicians, backed by the billionaire Koch Brothers, are coming perilously close to weaseling out of that promise by selling veterans to private, for-profit VA providers.
These lawmakers have put together a 'Commission on Care' to provide recommendations on how to "fix" the agency.
Who sits on the Commission?
- 15 political appointees
- 4 high-level private hospital executives (that will likely profit from privatization)
- 1 Employee of the Koch-funded group Concerned Veterans for America
- 0 Veteran Service Organization representatives (like the American Legion or Disabled American Veterans)
From President Cox's blog: "...the Commission has been rigged against veterans from the start, and the results could be devastating for millions of veterans and their families."
Not everyone is getting on the promise-breaking bandwagon, but...
Commission members who disagree with privatization have been subject to unprecedented bullying by pro-privatization lawmakers like House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, who berated a committee member in a recent letter for an anti-privatization article a colleague wrote for Washington Monthly.
How far along are they in the process?
- In March, pro-privatization members developed, in secret, the “strawman document”
- It proposes shuttering VA medical centers and instead giving veterans a coupon to shop for their care at private, for-profit health care providers
- The proposal would divert billions of public dollars to for-profit health insurance companies
- It would make veterans struggle with an even more confusing insurance system
- Veterans would be tossed to providers who lack experience treating their unique needs
- The official full report is expected to be released in June
Can't the VA just hire more staff?
They have, but not enough:
- Before 2014, as millions of new veterans returned home from overseas, too few caregivers were hired to meet the demand
- After months of work by veterans’ groups and AFGE, Congress finally agreed to fund the VA and fill the care gap
- Since then, the VA has added 13,940 additional health care staffers, completed more than 97% of appointments within 30 days, and increased night and weekend clinical hours for veterans by 5.7 percent.
Could This Get Worse? (Spoiler Alert: Of course)
- Chairman Miller and Senator Marco Rubio are now targeting the very employees who first exposed problems at the VA.
- Their bills – H.R. 1994 and S. 1082 respectively – would make the entire VA workforce at-will employees who would have no meaningful protection from reprisals for blowing the whistle.
- Bad managers would be given carte blanche to fire honest employees who just want to do right by the veterans they serve.
How Do Veterans Feel about VA Care?
From President Cox's blog: "You’d think with veterans, their service organizations, and VA caregivers agreeing that the VA must stay, we would be working toward making it better, not tearing it down."
What can I do to help?
Remind everyone of the promise we've made to veterans, as said so eloquently by a fairly well-known president. Honest Abe, drop the mic: