WASHINGTON – In response to today’s vote by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on H.R. 5674, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:
“H.R. 5674 is a privatization bill, make no mistake about that. This legislation kicks the door wide open to VA privatization, no matter what its supporters claim. Whoever becomes VA Secretary will have all the power necessary to undermine the comprehensive, integrated care and services now provided in-house to veterans.
“There is no possibility that the totality of care that veterans receive today inside the VA will be replicated once they are thrown out into the private market.
“Nowhere in this 200-page bill does Congress address the serious issues confronting the VA – inadequate funding and staffing to meet the growing demand for care at VA hospitals and clinics. Instead the focus is on sending money and veterans outside to costly and unaccountable private care and walk-in clinics that lack the ability to treat veterans’ complex needs.
“The bill also includes a plan for dismantling VA’s infrastructure by means of a BRAC-style closure commission. This VA closure Commission will be able to spend precious healthcare dollars as it compiles a list of facilities to shut down and also replaces the Congress’ role in fighting for new facilities and repairs. And Congress and the public will have virtually no say about whether to implement the recommendations of the Commission.
“This expensive BRAC process will have an open pipeline to divert precious VA health care dollars desperately needed to hire staff and fix crumbling buildings.
“The BRAC-style process should have no place in veterans’ health care. Once a VA medical center or clinic is dismantled through the Commission process, veterans who have lost that vital and preferred source of care will have only one “choice” and that is privatized, fragmented care that is both costly and unaccountable.
“Our veterans risked their lives to serve our country, and under H.R. 5674, America is thanking them by telling them receive their healthcare at strip shopping center urgent care facilities. Veterans deserve better than this, and it is absolutely clear that we will come to regret forcing our heroes into such substandard care.
“We strongly urge veterans and concerned citizens to call their Congressional Representatives and tell them to vote ‘NO’ on H.R. 5674 to ensure the VA is protected from privatization and able to serve veterans for years to come.”