(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees, (AFGE), which represents 180,000 employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), today said that the Congressional VA funding process and the Bush Administration’s mantra of privatization continues to threaten the mission of the agency.
“The VA has been the crown jewel of the American health care system, subjecting it to the political game playing of the discretionary funding process and chipping away at the system through privatization undermines its quality and threatens the agency at a time when our veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are in need of the specialized care of the VA,” said John Gage, AFGE national president.
The lack of predictability and methodology in the VA’s discretionary funding process endangers the impressive accomplishments of the world-class health care system, and diminishes its ability to meet the growing demands arising from two wars and an aging patient population. The current funding process threatens the VA’s ability to recruit and retain top personnel, address meaningful succession planning, or engage in strategic long range planning for additional aspects of health care delivery.
In addition to the misguided practice of outsourcing health care to contractors such as TRICARE, the VA also continues to contract out the medical support functions that offer struggling veterans an opportunity to reclaim their economic security. When the VA outsources housekeeping, laundry services and grounds keeping, the employees affected are overwhelmingly women, minorities, and veterans. When these jobs that have historically served as valuable stepping stones for disabled veterans are lost; employees and their families lose health care benefits, a living wage and the opportunity to support fellow veterans.
“The right of veterans to receive the specialized care of the VA cannot be fulfilled in private ‘for-profit’ facilities,” Gage added. “The reason the VA is so successful at meeting the specialized health care needs of veterans is because the system is not motivated by profit. Merging the two systems divides already strained resources and constricts the ability of VA health care workers to treat the burgeoning veterans’ population.”