VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (PAI) – Add Donald Trump to the lengthening list of Republicans who want to privatize the Veterans Affairs Department’s hospitals, the union representing those 230,000 hospital workers says.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget that Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the retiring Republican chairman of the House Committee that handles veterans issues, advocates the same goal – and that news reports indicate if Trump wins the White House, he’d make Miller VA secretary.
And that a 15-member VA advisory commission, pushed by executives with links to the anti-worker anti-union Koch brothers, recommended privatization, too, in a report on July 5.
AFGE’ comments were prompted by Trump’s July 10 speech in Virginia Beach, Va., home to a large veterans’ community near a major naval base and shipyard. It was his second speech in that Virginia area about the VA. The first was last October. The difference this time is Trump is the prospective GOP presidential nominee, and Miller may be his VA Secretary.
AFGE President J. David Cox is no fan of Miller’s privatization plan, HR5620, but he reserved his top ire for Trump.
“Donald Trump wants to throw veterans to the wolves” by giving them vouchers to go seek private care, said Cox, a retired VA psychiatric nurse in the agency’s Greensboro, N.C., hospital. “Private health care for veterans would be an expensive disaster, and no one should be fooled into believing otherwise.
“The VA system provides the best possible health care to veterans at the lowest possible cost. Veterans know this and that’s why they overwhelmingly want to keep the care they have. Trump’s claims that privatization would improve care and cut costs are dead wrong. He is writing a blank check to huge hospital corporations to profit off the suffering of veterans.”
“Trump needs to learn that VA health care is a serious issue, not something he can embrace one day and dismantle the next. One has to wonder if he has any idea of the consequences of depriving veterans of the integrated care system on which they rely or any idea of the enormity of the loss to the nation’s health care education that closing the VA would entail. The irresponsibility of supporting the dismantling of the VA system is staggering,”
That’s not what Trump sees. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics, whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center,” he said. He promised to fire non-performers and make sure “veterans are in the front, not back, of the line” for care.
That’s not the case, now, he claimed – despite current evidence even in the advisory panel’s report. Two years ago, a lack-of- care scandal led to a congressional overhaul of the VA, hiring of more doctors, replacement of the VA secretary, and permission for many vets to use private, but VA-approved health care facilities, with agency reimbursement afterwards.
Miller unveiled his VA health system plan the day before he introduced Trump at Virginia Beach. AFGE will lobby hard against it. So will veterans’ groups.
“Profit-hungry special interests and their web of associates in Congress are making a desperate attempt to twist the facts, trash the VA, and take advantage of our veterans for personal financial and political gains,” the union said of Miller’s bill. It called HR5620 retaliatory against workers and whistleblowers and “the latest attempt to break VA doctors, nurses, and other providers…Demoralizing the existing workforce would put the VA in a worse shape, which could lead to more problems. The crippled VA would be just another excuse for Miller and special interests like the Koch brothers to shut down the VA,” the union said.